It was early morning when I launched my kayak into the lake. The smell of fireworks from the previous night’s celebrations hung heavy in the air. There was no wind, no movement; the fog had developed overnight and was now suspended low over the lake.
This is my favorite time of day – the after dawn quiet when the world slowly awakens, before the rush and hurry of another 24 hours. I paddled as quietly as I could, rustling up some ducks that were gliding through the lily pads. Someone had recently been sitting on this dock, throwing their fishing line into the lake, and hoping for a bite. The rod was left leaning against the bench but at the ready for the return of the angler. Perhaps that person was waiting for the fog to lift.
We’re slowly lurching our way from winter to spring, yet the transition is never smooth or straight. Our expectations (and our dispositions) soar when the sun comes out and starts to thaw the ice. The temperature rises to an unseasonable 60 degrees and everyone is smiling. The next day the thermometer drops back to winter, all that was liquid refreezes, and we know deep down that the “final” transition has not arrived. There’s snow in the forecast again tomorrow. This open water will likely freeze but hopefully the ice layer will be thin and ready to thaw once again when the sun returns and the melt begins anew.
Not only has fall officially started per the calendar, but we are starting to see the change of seasons all around us. I woke up to a cool but bright morning at the lake, with steam rising up off the surface. A couple of extra layers of clothing were needed as I launched my kayak into the water. The morning was quiet except for some wood ducks that I flushed in a small bay and the Canada geese that flew past me, honking as they made their way up the shoreline. The trees have just begun to change, and the reds and golds were beautiful, especially against the blue sky and blue lake. It was a perfect start to my day, and to the season of fall
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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.