Me and Jim, outside, standing in front of an American flag

Me and Jim on the 4th

Skipped June here. Nothing was much going on. The trees filled up with leaves. I saw Jim a bunch of times and enjoyed just picking up where we left off; it made the past year’s worth of uncertainty and stress compress into something much smaller in my memory. I took down the squirrel ladder because it became, for one scary night, a bear ladder and let me tell you that story in person, it’s a good one. But really the last month for me has been a combination of some shifts in my world of work and some shifts in how I’ve been doing things since the Pandamnit Times began.

For starters, since seeing Jim is now a safe possibility, I’ve stopped working at MetaFilter on Sundays and Mondays. This was a great thing to get to be able to do during a dreary year and it was good to be back among the team there. At the same time, the same old problems are the same old problems and I was eager to get my weekends back. So I’m now just there answering questions and being my usual superfan self. At the same time, I’ve picked up some library shifts in Chelsea while they work on hiring a replacement. It’s a one-room public library, serving a community of about 1200 people and you’re the only person working when you work. It’s fun, interesting, busy, and a little frustrating all at the same time. I’ve been liking getting to do library work again.

I started working there only a week or two after the library re-opened to the public (they had window service only during COVID) so we went from masks-required to no-masks-required within about a week. Since kids come in to the library, my personal policy is I wear a mask if any patrons are wearing them. Orange County has low COVID rates even among Vermont counties (second-lowest rate in the state), so I am comfortable with this as a plan. And I went inside to a restaurant for the first time since March 2020. I might do it again. I went to an outdoor cookout. I hugged people indiscriminately. I stayed out past dark. I watched the town parade in the rain–in my bathrobe since I had spaced the actual parade starting time, it runs right by my house!–and performed a very brief wedding on the actual 4th of July.

Jim’s at home playing disc golf this weekend and I am here mulling over what to do with my first two-day Saturday-Sunday weekend since February 2020. I remember how it used to be, kind of, but also feel the possibilities of being able to do things a little differently.

bird return

red breasted nuthatch sitting on a suet cage with suet in it

It’s been a weird downside to this pandamnit time that my house–usually set up well for feeding and observing birds–had seen a huge drop off of bird visitors for no reason I was totally sure of. Could have been the ladder leaning up against the side of the house, leading to more squirrel activity (I could watch squirrels climb ladders all day). Could have been a nearby predator. Could have been that my feeders were ganky. Or maybe it was more neighbors being home and setting up their own feeders. Who knows? But this winter there just wasn’t a lot of bird activity here, though definitely lots elsewhere. So little that I didn’t even participate in Feederwatch this year because it was too depressing. But as the buds on the trees have turned into leaves, and I got some new feeders and cleaned the old ones, there’s been a little bit more feathered activity going on outside. I counted seven species one day–red breasted nuthatch (pictured), white breasted nuthatch, hairy woodpecker, downy woodpecker, chickadee, tufted titmouse, mourning doves–a high water mark for 2021. I’m fortunate to live above the bears, so I can keep the feeders out even as they come out of the woods and terrorize the local garbage cans.

Jim and I are both counting down the days til we’re fully vaccinated, they’re in the single digits. I don’t expect my life will change terribly much when I’ve hit that date except my life will have a lot more Jim in it. And I’ll start there.

I sleep well in March

A color photo of a metal disc which is on top of fire hydrants so you can find them in the snow. It's painted a shiny red and is contrasted against the blue of the sky
I’ve never understood it, but I sleep well in March. Something about winter being over, the weather still being cold, the days getting longer, my allergies not quite kicking in just yet. This March, a weird March, is no different. Even though I’ve still got a pretty elaborate sleep hygiene ritual, it reliably works this month and I haven’t had an “up til 4 am” sleep fail in a while.

This may be partly because my teeth have mostly stopped hurting, my gallbladder hasn’t been heard from, and I’ve walked 62 miles this month. Just circles around and around the neighborhood mostly. Sometimes with friends and sometimes just me and my thoughts and my camera. This picture is one of those things that live on the top of fire hydrants so you can find them in the snow. And the snow only really exists in little shadow areas right now, so I went out for a walk in my sneakers today, the first time since… I don’t know when. Which is good because my hiking boots are starting to really show the wear. I haven’t been treating them any differently, but I’ve been wearing them a LOT more and, surprise surprise, that matters!

Today was the “Hey 50+ year old people, get your vaccination appointment!” day. So I did. Fortunately, bad web interfaces don’t faze me much but oy! I made a mini-tweet thread about it this morning (yep, I got up early) and I don’t have much more to say except I’m sad for all of us that this is the path to safety and it’s worse than it needs to be. My year hasn’t been terrible, it could have been much better. Many peoples’ were worse. Mine has mostly been literally and figuratively walking around in little circles, getting some sunshine, and waiting for brighter and better days.

cheerful not happy

photo of a wallk of snow with the sun peeking out from behind it with some wispy clouds being lit by the sun.

Really trying to at least get an update a month in here, but the news is still basically “No real news.” Kate got vaccinated. Ronni got her first shot. I’ve been going on walks every day that I’m not at home working all day (so out and about maybe six days a week, not bad). Sleep’s been okay. Teeth have been less okay. Gallbladder has been okay so far and I’ve been pretty happy to be able to postpone surgery until a time that is more convenient. My Scrabble game is okay. Jim’s been doing well. I’ve found a bunch of new YouTube stuff–Taskmaster and No More Jockeys–to give me some teevee to watch when I’ve got some extra time in the day. I found my sweaters that I somehow thought I’d gotten rid of. I’ll worry about my memory after there’s some herd immunity.

I read elsewhere about someone discussing how they’ve been coping with all of this. Someone told them they seemed happy all the time. They responded that while they were far from happy–happiness can be elusive during times of great upheaval and restriction and trouble–they were able to mostly be cheerful, put on a decent face when interacting with other people. I’ve been working on the same thing. Obviously I’ve got folks in my life to whom I can just say “This aspect of this whole thing sucks!” However, in a general sense, my public face is mostly not the “This sucks!” face. Now that I’ve thought about the differences between happy and cheerful, and how they can each appear externally, I feel better about saying “Not bad, and you?” to people who ask me how I’m doing, without feeling like I am lying or faking it.

I’ve got nothing but time to think about this stuff when I’m not purposefully hurling myself into time-consuming hobbies like creating a navigation box for State Libraries or Stadium Organists on Wikipedia. Looking forward to warmer weather when it’s easier to walk in the woods and hug some trees, and later months when it’s easier to walk to other houses, hug some friends.

wraps ups II

image of the same plant as in the post from a year ago, looking a little more raggedy but still doing okay

This wrap up is a lot different from last years, but this plant is still chugging along, kind of, as am I. Here are my year-end lists in total.

  • libraries visited – shorter than usual
  • books read – not as long as you’d think
  • places stayed – bit of a bummer here, I don’t think I’ve spent a year only sleeping in one place… in my entire life. When I dream, I dream about going places.
  • other events — i.e. timeline of big events in 2020 that I remembered, longer than you’d think!

2021 has come in nice and snowy and Vermont remains a place I am very pleased to have landed in the late 90s. I’ve got a lot of winter hobbies that can basically double as COVID hobbies–cooking, Wikipedia, keeping all these plants alive, writing letters–and about as much work as I want. Wishing the same for everyone else: may you have hobbies you like and enough time to do them, may you have as much work as you want, may you sleep at night and dream of better days.

my year in cities and towns, 2020

picture of my bed taken from the foot of it, featuring a comfy looking comforter and some groovy looking pillowcases.

Well this post is pretty simple this year. I stayed at my dad’s house on December 30th last year, woke up and drove to Randolph and have not slept anywhere besides my own bed since then. I haven’t gotten on an airplane since late 2019. I’ve only left the state four times and that was just to go hiking or walking with Jim. Am not thrilled about most of this, but mostly resigned to continuing to try to do the right thing and see what I can do to help other people’s 2021 not be as much of a shit show as 2020 was for so many.

Past years: 2019 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 2007, 2006, 2005.