Last month I read Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham (a fictional account of what might have happened to Hillary Clinton had she not married Bill), and in it the author describes how Hillary would create her ‘nest’ each night: burrowed into her bed, robe and tea, surrounded by blankets and pillows and a tower of books and notebooks. She would study here, read here, research here, plan here. I’m not sure whether this is actually true or not, but I like to think that it is, as I sit here in my own nest, my winter nest.
I’ve often talked of how I like to write in my kitchen, next to a little heater, my toes hooked around the rungs of an opposite chair. But sometimes, especially in the winter, I’ll retreat back to my bedroom as soon as the sun goes down. I spread out layers of blankets and prop myself up against a stack of pillows, make a mug of tea or hot chocolate or pour myself an icy glass of seltzer water, and settle in with my computer.
It feels warms here, hidden away in the back of my apartment, across from a window that faces nothing but trees. It’s where I am right now- a winter afternoon at the very end of January, where outside the snow has started falling (this could be a big storm!) and I’m here tucked away, with nowhere I need to go, nowhere I need to be.
Outside of my working and walking hours, this is probably where you could have found me this month, buried in my winter nest: tinkering away on my Camino videos, watching episodes of Game of Thrones and eating dark chocolate caramels. There are worse ways to spend a Pandemic January, for sure. In fact, in many ways, this month wasn’t all that bad. Certainly better than I’d expected it to be.
I could probably end this post right here, having already mentioned the main highlights of the month: making Camino videos, watching Game of Thrones. But here are a few more things!
I walked a lot this month. Maybe because it was the start of a new year and I felt recommitted to moving and walking and hiking. I squeezed in the walks where I could, nearly always a short one in the morning before work, a longer one after work, always walking with the sunrise and the sunset. These were the usual, neighborhood loops, and lately I’ve started to wonder what my neighbors must think of me. “There she goes again,” they might say. “The lady who walks.” But by now I’ve met a lot of these neighbors, and the small interactions always add a perk to my step. There’s Bill who walks in the sanctuary, who proudly told me that he recently celebrated his 90th birthday. And Steve, who was driving by and rolled down his window so we could chat about the vaccine, and the attack on the Capitol. And a new (to me) neighbor, who was heading down the street to check out a fallen tree (this is a somewhat common thing in my neighborhood), and who urged me to join the tennis club this summer. Mary, and Sue, and the man who jogs in a Santa hat, and all of the dogs who run over to greet me.
I met up with a few friends for quick walks and small hikes this month; the temperatures were cold, but it’s the only way I feel comfortable seeing anyone these days. And honestly? On a sunny day and with a brisk pace, the cold doesn’t bother me too much (and wearing a face mask helps!). I walked around Potts Meadow and past the Wyeth Studios on the Harvey Run Trail, and explored a quiet trail in Green Lane Park. Not adventurous stuff, but my local winter landscapes are full of such quiet, soft beauty.
I also started doing yoga again this month! I’ve never consistently practiced yoga, but there was a year or two (a rather long time ago, now) that I took some classes and practiced just a bit on my own. A friend has been doing Yoga With Adriene during the pandemic, and encouraged me to check out her month-long January ‘journey’, so I did. I made it halfway through the month and then stopped, but even just those two weeks were great. It reminded me that I have an awful lot of muscles that I don’t use much, that my body could really benefit from the stretching, that it’s a nice way to slow down in the evenings. I’d like to try to incorporate a bit of yoga into my days again, even just once or twice a week.
I didn’t do a ton of writing this month- my focus was on creating YouTube videos, more on that below- but I did manage to continue my habit of posting one personal-essay a month to my Patreon site (these are essays available only to my patrons, who pledge a dollar-amount per month). This month’s was about what it was like to walk through a heatwave on the Camino Aragonés. It was good timing for that essay, too, because it went along nicely with some of the footage in Pt 2 of my Camino Aragonés series on YouTube.
Ahh, the YouTube videos. I wrote about it here, and I know I said it in that post but I can’t help but say it again: making these videos has been a lot of fun. There’s something really energizing about learning a new skill, practicing, getting better, making something. I posted two videos that cover my walk on the Aragonés, and now I’ve moved on to working on footage from the Norte. I wish- so much- that I had taken more videos while I walked. But learning the process has been great, and it’s filling my head with ideas of the kinds of videos I might be able to make in the future. Now, I just have to be allowed back into Spain to actually go on another walk, and at this point who knows when that will be…
The Small Stuff, the Big Stuff
Game of Thrones is getting me through the winter. So is freshly baked bread, and London Fogs from a local coffee shop. Thick, warm, polar bear socks that I put on immediately after I come in from my walk. On so many days I wish I could be working from the safety of my home, but getting to work with some students in-person is revitalizing.
And then, the even bigger stuff: my grandmother turning 102. A new president. My first vaccine shot.
Some days feel hard, the cold is endless, the clouds are thick, summer seems a lifetime away and what will it be like then, anyway? Will it be another summer in the US, without a long walk, without a Camino, dreaming and dreaming of an open, safe world? Maybe. In the meantime, I’ll walk, and write, and edit videos, and eat caramels and sink into the world of Westeros, and carry on with my work, and drink hot tea, and hold onto moments of beauty wherever I can find them.