It’s Been a Quiet Year
Anyone who ever listened to A Prairie Home Companion remembers that Garrison Keillor always began his monologue with the words, “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my hometown.” What came after was always a story about the every-day doings of small-town folk in America’s heartland. To look at The Big Picture of “the town that time forgot”, not much happened. Ever.
Kind of like 2020. I have found myself musing, “It’s been a quiet year in Coldwater, my home town” more times than I care to count. Indeed, we all have felt the halt of our “regular” lives keenly.
An entire year has passed since “they” declared Covid 19 to be a world-wide pandemic. A year since we’ve just gone about living without thinking about masks, hand sanitizer, staying away from one another. A year since we’ve impulsively hugged people on the street simply because we haven’t seen them in a week and we’re glad to meet their eyes. A year of uncertainty, anticipation, dashed hopes, disappointments, losses, and an abundance of something we all wish we had more of… time.
For this girl who makes her living by getting in the car and driving, or on an airplane to fly from here to there and there to here to play my songs for folks, lead workshops and retreats, and direct writing camps, everything ground to a halt. My car didn’t move for weeks at a time. I was grounded, and by that learned some things about myself.
Perhaps to say that I “learned” things is a stretch. But certain truths carved themselves more deeply into my psyche. For example, the truth that I like being still and quiet became not only clear to me, but felt like grace. Oh yes, I love all the things I do and am anxious to get back to them, but it felt better than I expected to simply be in one place for a long stretch; to sleep in the same bed for months on end…to not feel a need to look around in the morning to get my bearings before putting my feet on the floor. That was good. For nearly nine months I went to bed knowing exactly where I would be the next day and the day after that and the day after that. What’s more, I was not, even one time, bored.
I sewed. I knitted. I bought a bicycle and relearned the streets of the town where I grew up. I gardened, sat by backyard bonfires on the weekends, laughed with my sister, read a stack of books, and looked forward.
I was reminded that having enough really is enough. Much of my “usual” life is made up of the “more”, which, when removed, leaves me still alive and, blessedly whole.
And yet, I won’t pretend to have been unaffected. I struggled. I’ve never believed in writer’s block, but this was as close as I have come to becoming a believer. I didn’t have the heart to put my thoughts down. Oh, sure. In the first days I wrote great long lists of Things I Can Accomplish. I made a few attempts, but found my mind wandering, my pen still. Who wanted to read my lamentations, after all? I wrote very little, and of it, none will see the light of day. Acquaintances sent chipper notes, pointing out “how much there is to write about.” I disagreed. Maybe I was just lazy.
I didn’t pick up my guitar much, either. Nor sing. Though it seemed like a great time to dig in and hone my skills, again, I didn’t have the heart for it. “I bet you’re writing a lot of songs!” crowed one acquaintance who I passed on the street one day as I was out for a walk. No. Actually, just one; a particularly dismal one that I worked on for several weeks before abandoning it immediately after singing it through the first time. That happens sometimes. A thing that seems like a good idea turns out to be “just an idea.”
I suppose I was depressed, though I managed to function fairly well. I think a lot of us were. Some still are. I grieve the losses of the past year, recognizing that personally, mine were few and small compared to many others. I learned new ways to count my blessings.
I “learned” that I am more patient than I knew. My partner is Canadian, and as I was in Michigan doing the things I do when the pandemic hit, the border between the US and Canada seemed to widen. Every month when the announcement came that the border would stay closed for another 30 days, my heart broke a little more. I cried a lot. (Gardening and bike riding are good for bruised hearts.) But I resisted the urge to be snippy at people whose biggest gripe was that they “couldn’t go anywhere”. I know that we all suffered…and continue to suffer…in unique ways. I had much to be thankful about, and still do. In time, after jumping through a series of fiery hoops, the border cracked open just a hair for people like me, who have spouses/partners in Canada and I was able to be with him for a couple of weeks…after a two-week quarantine, of course. Those were easy weeks. I was counting days “until” instead of “since”.
Through the months of pause, I missed my boys, 200 miles away. I worried about them, even though they’re grown men with good sense. But I often thought of soldiers away at war, sometimes for a year or more. I thought of people who, a century or more ago, bade their families good-bye, climbed into covered wagons, or boarded steamships, and looked back until the faces most dear to them disappeared from their eyes forever. I was, and am, aware of the families who have lost loved ones to Covid 19. The separation was hard, but at least for me it wasn’t that.
The itch in my feet subsided. Time apart from my love did not diminish our commitment. In being apart, I discovered that while absence didn’t necessarily make my heart grow fonder, it did increase surety.
And now, a year since someone pressed the big PAUSE button on the planet, the sun has begun to shine. I’ve picked up my pen again. I’m singing more.
Yes, it’s been a quiet year, but the months ahead are full of promise. I’m booking concerts for 2022-2023. I’m making plans. Exciting things are on my horizon, and you will find out about them here now that my fingers have found their way back to the keyboard.
Most of my concert dates from 2020 were bumped to 2021. Some have bumped ahead again, giving me a head start on 2022. For that I am grateful. I’m looking forward to getting back out, to singing my songs again, to putting some miles on my car, and having a bit more to write about.
Be well. I’ll see you along the way.