By Jelane A. Kennedy
Traditionally this post has been mostly photos but this is an unusual year so this is a more wordy Photo Essay for Solstice. It has been in many ways the year that never was. We started out 2020 by going to a 1st day hike sponsored by New York State Parks, at Crown Point State Park in the Adirondacks in Upstate New York. It was a fun morning walk where we learned about the birds in the area. A great way to start 2020.
For New Years resolutions we had decided we both were going to swim more and were excited to start swimming during the week at a local LA Fitness near where I work in Connecticut. We also planned to visit local museums in Connecticut and get to know the area more. In March we did so by visiting the Mark Twain House in Hartford, it was a great tour. We really enjoyed learning about the planned neighborhood where the Twain’s lived and learning more about his life. We even had plans to check out some of the writing workshops but of course that was all put on hold.
When COVID-19 struck my work moved to remote and we suddenly, like all of the US, found ourselves trying to figure out what that all meant. Eileen had found a new place for PT and was trying to get back her mobility but that all came to a full stop. She has committed herself to exercising each day and taught me stretches to help her so she would not totally lose what she had. This has continued to be a work in progress as she deals with chronic pain.
Our second bedroom became my office and teaching studio. Luckily I had run out to the Apple Store the day school closed and grabbed an Ipad as I would try teaching that night my first remote class. I was in the office at school in the morning and had begun to pack some things as there was an inkling we would at least be out a week. I grabbed a skelton of what I would need for the rest of the semester, just in case. Which ended up being a life saver. Since that day I have been on-campus three times.
Thankfully a few years earlier I had taken a class on the principles of online teaching. So I had some idea/confidence on how I might figure it all out. But it would be the first time and four classes at once (usually a teacher has a year of planning per class). The good news is video conferencing gave me hope. The rest of March through May is a blur in many ways as I worked long hours on end to figure out the technology and did class planning. June I did a lot of training to had to my knowledge. I worked to have my students get the most we could out of a bad situation. (It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. ~ Epictetus/Greek Philosopher). In the end I have been recognized by my students for my work both in the Spring and again this Fall.
We have walked pretty much everyday weather permitting. And over that time found several great little nature trails that I blogged about in the spring (3 walks in Central Connecticut Part 1 – 3 walks in Central Connecticut Part 2). Sometimes our walks have just in the complex. Each weekend I would try to find a new place to try or we would go back to our new haunts, just to have variety. Travel was very local.
Over the spring we made the decision to look for a new condo that was all on one floor since two steep flights of stairs were not working for Eileen. Our summer was spent buying , selling, and downsizing. We also took advantage of the local pool and swam as often as we could schedule a time block – they did an amazing job making it safe. The pool became a refuge and a way to feel normal in not normal summer. When possible, between me still working way beyond school year being done, we made a couple of trips to the Adirondacks. Again finding time in the woods and on the beach the most sense of normal in a new normal none of us wanted. Our little van took only day trips as camping the first part of the summer was restricted. Once the restrictions were sort of lifted we heard that most campgrounds were like the wild west so we stuck to our day trips.
COVID has also meant that I have done a lot of reading. I think I have read close to 50 books since COVID started, this is a record for me. I began with biographies but soon found I needed the escapism of fiction. I did read some non-fiction but my mainstay has been fiction especially on those nights when I was restless. It was a good way to unplug from my worries.
The rallies this summer for racial justice brought me hope. As a Diversity Educator for over 20 years, to see the mix of people marching and to hear what has seemed like more open discussions has made me feel like the work myself and others have been doing for a long time, might actually be having an impact. There is still much to be done and it will still remain to be seen what will come of the unrest, but I have hope.
The day after we moved into the condo in August, we made an emergency trip to Michigan. We spent the first 6 weeks of the school semester helping my Mom recover from a fall. I never thought I would be teaching out of my Mom’s basement family room but it was the gift of COVID that made it possible for us to be their to help Mom.
During all of this we saw a lot of signs that local areas used to express the need to mask up, social distance and wash your hands. The signs in the Adirondacks were the most fun!
This holiday season has also meant we have not gotten to do some of the fun things that break up the end of the year. We missed going to see the Gingerbread Houses at Wood Library that we have seen the last two years in South Windsor. But next year we look forward to that opportunity (2019 displays)
In many ways it is been a time for Sisu (a Finnish word we learned during our summer 2019 great bike adventure in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan). Sisu means in many ways grit, perseverance in adversity, sustained courage. Keep safe ~ wear a mask!
(c) 2020 Jelane A. Kennedy