This COVID year has seemed long and never-ending, and yet it hasn’t actually been a full year. Many of us say we’re tired of this and just want to get back to “normal.”  Yes we’ve been unable to do many of the things we usually do, and yes we’ve been unable to physically visit with the friends and family we usually do, and yes our lives have been changed.  But it has also given us the chance for many positive things.  IF we have looked with an open and accepting mind and attitude.  This year has given us the opportunity to try different and new things and experience things we might not have otherwise.  This may be a long list (20 items for the year 2020) but hang with me and think about these things I mention and then think of the things I have overlooked that you have done or experienced.  It has certainly not been a wasteful year.  And those of us that are alive and well can be thankful that we are here.

  1. Have you reached out to someone just to see if they’re okay? If there’s anything they need?  Do they need a package of toilet paper that you see is available at the store at this one very moment?
  2. Have you grasped this opportunity to be at home with your kids and taught your son how to ride a bike? And then joined him on numerous bike rides and seen his confidence grow with each one?
  3. Have you had friends or family make a mask for you? Someone that has taken their time to sew something so essential to all of us – someone that certainly cares for you and for your health?
  4. Have you been there when your young child falls and gets hurt, comes running to you for your hug and love? Normally you might have been at work, but with a shutdown your job has been remote so you’re at home with your child.
  5. Have you gone for a walk in your neighborhood or area? Maybe you’ve walked the same path you’ve taken before and maybe you’ve watched as the trees leafed out in the spring, threw their leafy shade over your path in the summer, turned a brilliant orange, yellow, or red in the fall, and then rattled through the air as they fell to the ground around your feet.
  6. Have you explored a new path? Perhaps you looked down a sidewalk, trail, or road and wondered “what’s down this way?”  Why not try it and see something new.
  7. Have you taken the time to read a book? Maybe it’s one you’ve always meant to read but never have.  Maybe it’s one that you like the cover and decided to jump in and see what it’s all about.  Or maybe it’s one that a friend has shared with you, and gotten you hooked on a series, and you’ve consumed the entire series by summer’s end.
  8. Have you made a meal for a friend or loved one and delivered it for them to enjoy? Maybe they were unable to cook or maybe they just needed some cheering up.  Maybe it was food that they normally wouldn’t make or maybe it was a pizza they picked up at a neighborhood restaurant.
  9. Have you binge-watched an old TV show that you didn’t see when it was first on? Or maybe you finally took the time to watch a movie that’s been on your list for longer than you remember?
  10. Have you learned a new technology? This seems to be the year of Zoom meetings and get-togethers.  Imagine what this year would have been like without the internet, cell phones, cable TV, streaming services and all those “techie” things we now take for granted in our everyday lives.  How amazing that so many young children are becoming adept at technology, especially with remote learning; they’re leaps and bounds beyond some of us.
  11. Have you tried something new in the kitchen? Maybe it’s a recipe that you’ve always looked at and thought was way too much trouble.  Maybe it’s that one dish you remember your grandmother always made and was so delicious.  Maybe it’s cupcakes and the fancy way to frost them so they look like they’ve come from the bakery…and they turn out better than you thought they would for a first attempt.
  12. Have you thanked the people closest to you for taking care of themselves and keeping healthy? They have showed you they care for you and your health by being careful themselves.
  13. Have you met a friend at an outside park to catch up and enjoy their company? Was it a sunny day and you could sit outside, or maybe it was a rainy and blustery day but you made the best of it by sitting under a shelter on opposite ends of a picnic table to keep your social distance from one another?
  14. Have you laid down in the grass (or on the dock) and looked up at that big blue sky overhead and watched the white billowing clouds float by? Maybe you saw the cloud shaped like a horse, riding on the wind.  Maybe you saw the fish-shaped cloud riding the waves.  Or maybe you found a cloud shaped like a bear, but remembered it’s only a cloud, and you’re safe where you are.
  15. Have you stepped out into that first snowy day and raised your head, opened your mouth, and caught those first big snowflakes on your tongue, just like you did when you were a child?
  16. Have you put up your Christmas/holiday lights early this year? The long and dark nights of winter have crept up on us again and sometimes seem to stretch into the distance for many months.  Maybe those lights are meant to cheer up your neighbors during their dark nights.  And maybe those lights are meant to cheer up yourself.
  17. Have you chosen to step away from the news and media, even for a short period of time? There’s a wonderful world of peace and quiet around and within each of us.  Sometimes it takes some real prodding to go there.  Sometimes we learn things about ourselves – the things that matter most to us, and the people that make our lives so much richer.
  18. Have you thanked a Veteran this year for their service to our country? And similar, have you thanked a health-care worker, a firefighter, an EMT, a law enforcement officer, a day-care worker, a scientist, a researcher, or a teacher for their work that has been so crucial this year?
  19. Have you stopped for a minute and taken a deep breath and smelled the air that surrounds you, listened for any sounds that are nearby, and with your eyes really looked at all the beauty that is within your sight?
  20. Have you made plans for things you want to do when all our restrictions are lifted and we’re “back to normal?” I hope that they include some of the new things we’ve taken the opportunity to experience this year – the new things that we now know are so crucial to our intersecting lives with the rest of our neighbors and humanity.

 

With gratitude, Linda

Although the day had been warm and windy, as evening was slipping away the wind was settling down.  I launched my kayak and paddled to the opposite shore where I could watch the sun set on another summer’s day.  By nestling the kayak back into the lily pads I could sit calmly and in place to enjoy the sun’s slow slide below the trees and the western horizon.

In the distance I could hear the sound of children splashing and swimming in the lake, and nearer was the call between the two resident loons.  The clouds were slowly drifting in from the northwest but the lake’s surface was smooth and mirror-like.  The sunlight swept across the blue lake and reflected off the lily pads.  It was the perfect end to this summer’s day.

The storm brought wind, rain, and hail and it seemed to stop as quickly as it started.  This had been the third or fourth storm to roll through in as many days.  But as the dark clouds moved further east and the skies began to clear, there was a brilliant rainbow that arced across the sky and was reflected in the still lake surface below.  This was our “reward” for getting through the storms, and with all the uncertainties that are in our day-to-day lives this was truly the brighter side.

Winter has been fickle this year – snow, more snow, thawing, ice, rain, sleet.  What will greet us in the morning is entirely up to Mother Nature.  But on a recent morning it was cold enough for frost to outline the trees and leaves, and cold enough for the snow to still be lovely and white.  The intense pink and magenta sunrise was fleeting and quickly gave way to fog and low clouds.  The wind was still and the air was silent as I stood by this creek, reflecting the trees and overcast sky as the water meandered through the outlet.

Wishing all of you experiences of joy and wonder in the upcoming new year!

We have transitioned from fall to winter quickly.  The colors are gone, the air is cold, and the landscape is very neutral.  How quickly I’m missing the yellows, golds, reds, and deep burgundies that we experienced just a few short weeks ago!  The waters are already beginning to ice up and we have seen snow although it has not stayed.  Yet.  I needed one more post with brilliant colors before I could put fall behind me.

Fall is here in all its glory!  The yellows, golds, oranges, and reds, all aglow against a dark stormy sky but lit up by a short-lived stream of sunlight, and reflected in the quiet and still waters of the lake.  This is the beauty we look forward to every year in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The day was cloudy and gray and the wind had been blowing.  Twilight was approaching and yet the sun broke through the clouds for a brief five minutes.  It lit up the far shore of the lake and the trees became golden, all reflected in the stillness and calm of the lake.  The shadows of the treetops to the west started to darken this eastern shoreline and would eventually envelop the entire view.  But for a brief period it was a magical and golden view.

It had been a windy and cloudy day, but as the evening wore on the wind began to die down.  We were fishing as the air became still.  Eagles were flying overhead and the crappies were biting.  The dark clouds were still above but the sun moved below them lighting up the opposite shore.  The leaves were full on some of the trees and yet others had only begun to leaf out, filtering the sunlight as it came through the trees.  The low light and the calmness created a beautiful reflection of the end of a spring (finally!) day.

It was another bitterly cold day in the Twin Cities.  Suffering from cabin fever from our long drawn-out winter, we were looking for a diversion and headed to the Weisman Art Museum on the campus of the University of Minnesota.  The visit was wonderful –  a chance to forget about the weather and get absorbed in the art inside.  The building itself was designed by Frank Gehry and features his Deconstructivist style architecture.  The outside panels are a treat for photographers as they reflect the surroundings.   With the cold sunshine there were amazing abstracts, lines, designs, and colors.

It was a bitter cold day and evening but the sun had been shining and the blue sky had beckoned people outside.  I was at Lake Como and there were walkers and runners following the path around the lake, there was one lone ice fisherman, and there were people who had laced up their skates and were gliding across the ice where the surface was smooth.  It was a glorious time, and the sunset glowed in the ice surface and in the clouds above.  For a few moments it was beautiful, and not quite as cold as we thought.