A Year of Wonders; Fifty-Two Weeks In

I am absolutely a person who thrives on routine and ritual, and exactly one year ago my daily routines and rituals, like everyone else’s, were disrupted and destroyed. After a few weeks of muddling about, I created new routines and rituals that I have kept to this day. I wake very early in the morning, the only time the house is quiet and mine alone, I drink some coffee and read and write for half an hour, and then I select a poem to read. I read my poem and do my yoga practice, and that is how I start my day.

The very first poem I read when I began this ritual was this one, by Mary Oliver.

I read that poem and then, as I practiced, I watched the sky change from pitch black to inky blue, lightening into morning. This past week, pre-time change*, seeing that same change of darkness opening into morning as I do my yoga practice, reminds me more than anything else of last March. It is as if watching the sky change at that exact time is now imprinted on my soul and forever will be, and will always remind me of the time when the world changed.

When I think about March 2020, I remember it as a time of cold and darkness. I remember the feeling of disbelief, fear, panic, and, above all, despair. I remember lining up in the cold grey parking lot to get groceries, I remember the apocalyptically-empty shelves at the grocery store, I remember trying to manage the household with suddenly everyone at home all the time. If anyone had told me then that the pandemic would last as long as it has lasted, with time yet to go, I would have simply curled into a ball and cried, I would have not been able to go on.

But here we are! Look at what we have done! We have made it a year, and we can keep going! We have been running our houses and caring for our families and working and supervising our children’s education all under the strangest and most stressful of circumstances, and WE ARE HERE. Things may be far from ideal, mistakes have been made, sometimes we feel like we are failing, but WE ARE HERE. I know so many people who have been knocked down, over and over, and have dusted themselves off and gotten back up; I know people who have switched careers, who have adapted to and thrived in new circumstances, who are homeschooling their children, who are all doing and learning new things, and WE ARE HERE. I am so proud of all of us and everything we have accomplished.

After our second lockdown, in December, I fretted to my friend Nicole (HI NICOLE) about all the new measures, and what if all these measures didn’t work? She said, soothingly, that we can just do what we can do, the rest is out of our control. So true. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it is that life is like the Serenity Prayer: we need to accept the things we cannot change, have courage to change the things we can, and have wisdom to know the difference. I am not a front-line worker, I do not provide an essential service, I am not a scientist working on vaccines. All I can do is wear my mask, distance from people, and avoid travel and gatherings. I am a teeny tiny cog in the giant wheel of life, and yet collectively, collectively we are all actually making a difference. My efforts are small in the singular, but put together with all of YOUR efforts, they are significant.

We have all just tried to figure things out. Last spring, I had many well-meaning friends share what probably helped them get through the days, but were soul-crushing to me: friends who gave suggestions about disinfecting my groceries, for example, or friends who suggested digging out my flower gardens to plant vegetables for anticipated food shortages. Those suggestions, well-meant as they were, were not good for my mental state. At the time, thinking ahead more than one day at a time, or one week at a time, propelled me into a sadness spiral. Even now, if I think about the economic and financial ruin, whole industries devastated – restaurants, travel – not to mention the loss of so many lives, well. I cannot think about it. I have to keep myself going and so I keep my focus on the day to day. I don’t read the news anymore, I have scaled back hard on social media, and I remind myself that there is nothing wrong with being in the now. In fact, the pandemic has made me more mindful about living in the present; I think to the week ahead and no more, not really.

I do imagine that at some point in the future, I will be able to travel again, and I hope I will never take that for granted. In the future, I hope that I will be always grateful to share a meal with friends or hug someone. Right now I am grateful every single day for the schools, every day that the kids are at school is a boon. I hope that I never take any of those things for granted, for the rest of my life.

My initial reaction to March 2020 is, as I say, the feeling of cold and dark, but as I think of it more, I remember some really wonderful things. I remember the massive amounts of sidewalk chalk art as I walked through the neighbourhood. I remember people putting signs in their windows for children to look at. I remember how it felt when the sun came out, and the snow started to melt, and how we were all pulling together to support each other. It felt like spring, it felt like hope.

*Time change, can you believe we are still doing this? I mean, have we not been through enough?

Outfit of the Week

I have walked every single day of this pandemic, regardless of weather, and so it seems fitting that this week’s outfit is a walking one.

It’s continued to be mild and so last week’s light puffy coat is making an appearance, along with boots, and my very favourite bum warmer from My Cozy Buns.

Here’s what’s under all the outerwear (bonus Barkley photo): a decade-old sweater from Jacob that I still love, yoga tights, and the longest warm socks you have ever seen. Comfortable and warm, and perfect for walking and also lounging.

Pandemic Reading

No one can accuse me of not reading a wide variety of genres this week.

First of all, a shout-out to my librarian cousin Karen (HI KAREN), who sent me this book with the request that I drop it off in a little free library after I finished; she had put a bookmark with a sweet note in it as well, which made me want to put little notes in every LFL book.

Isn’t that sweet? Anyway, about the book: it is a compelling, uncomfortable, well-written, unsettling book that is about a fictional dystopian world of injustice and inequality, that does not actually feel very fictional. It leaves the reader with a tiny glimmer of hope.

I really love Malcolm Gladwell and this is probably my favourite of his books. It was a reread for me but well worth it. It’s all about success and the myth of meritocracies, and how we all – whether we know or acknowledge it – are products of our environment, legacies, and lucky breaks.

I don’t always read historical fiction…but when I do I like it to be juicy and scandalous. HOO BOY. This was juicy. The woman in question was, like Wallis, an American; in fact, she was the twin sister of Gloria Vanderbilt the senior. She was also married to a British peer who knew and kind of sanctioned the whole affair. It’s QUITE the story.

I decided to read this on the exact anniversary of the lockdown, which for us was Saturday. I had read this book when it first came out, probably twenty years ago, for a book club. Reader alert: it’s a little gross. I mean, it deals with the bubonic plague, and there are descriptions about the bubonic plague, so be warned. Anyway, it’s a fictional account of a true story about a village in England that quarantined itself during the Great Plague of London in 1665-66. It’s an interesting read about how people respond in a crisis not that we would know anything about that, would we??? The ending is great, some of the book drags for me, but overall decent.

I’m planning to restart my running routine after a winter hiatus in the next week or two, so I picked up this book that I received as a Christmas gift. It reads like a blog, probably because it was based on a blog. The author is the head instructor at Peloton, and her positive energy and inspiring words shine through. I don’t think there are any great or new revelations here, but it’s a good manual for runners or people interested in becoming runners.

And Sunday was Pi Day! Did you celebrate? I personally loathe pie, but I love my guys, and so she’s my cherry pie.

Have a great week, friends, stay strong. xo


  1. I’m working on a covid anniversary post, too, and would you believe I almost called it Year of Wonders? I also read that book this year, though I loved it all except the end– different strokes for different folks, I guess. Anyway, I went with the title of another pandemic-themed book I read. Hoping to post tomorrow.

    We got little individual grocery store pies for π day, because no one felt like baking one.

  2. I needed this today. I just texted Coach this morning after I had a mild freak out last night- not pandemic related, but just life circumstances that at times feel overwhelming. I told him ‘JUST GOING TO TAKE IT A DAY AT A TIME’. Well, we’ve had practice at this over the last year. So much has changed. I just wondered over the weekend if I would ever open a door again in a public place (church) without using my coat to avoid touching the handle.

    Oh, how I LOVE the sweater with the red stripe at the bottom edge, or is that the butt warmer? Looks just the right length for leggings.

    I do like ‘Outliers.’ I stopped running a few years ago. It seemed to mess too much with my back. I have been considering giving running a try again this summer. Not sure if my body will be on board. Maybe I should check out that running book.

  3. Pat Birnie says

    This is really beautifully written, and reflects so many of my feelings. I am always active, run about 4 times a week (not sure in the winter, I would if I lived in Calgary!) but still found very early in the shutdown that the odd day I didn’t go outside as I was busy, did weights etc. Within two weeks I made a decision that for my mental health I had to go outside every single day & I haven’t missed a day. If it’s beautiful, you feel better and if it’s miserable you feel like you’ve accomplished something by conquering the elements — and you feel better! I also use an app to record 3 gratitudes every night – that has also helped to keep my spirits up. I love your outfit – as always you look super cute! And pie — who the heck doesn’t like pie?? Looks so yummy. . 20 years ago, my husband and I ate pie & ice cream every.single.night. Not something our metabolisms can handle now!! it’s a rare treat these days. Thanks for the book titles (love Outliers, may have to give it a re-read)

  4. I love this post and the Oliver poem and the PHOTO depiction of the line in the Oliver poem. We got through a year. We can get through more. And Daylight Saving Time can bite me.

  5. We have somehow muddled through it and continue to do what needs to be done. That tells me we are more resilient than we thought we could be a year ago. Hopefully, the end is near. Somehow, though, I think there has been a huge shift in how we used to do certain things and how we will do those things in the future.

  6. Glad I was soothing in December 🙂

    Lovely post, thank you!

  7. This is a great post Nicole. I agree, had we known it would be a YEAR of this at the beginning, we would ALL have been much more overwhelmed than we actually are/were.
    I remember thinking TWO WEEKS? We’re shutting down everything for TWO weeks? How will this work? HA.
    I love Pie. But not Cherry. How about Apple next time? 😉

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