It feels as though I was just writing my November recap post, and here I am again, at the end of another month, another year. At the time of writing, New Year’s Eve is tomorrow, and it’s going to be a quiet one. Fitting, of course, to have a quiet end to a very quiet year.
A few weeks ago I was trying to write a different blog post, one that could recap the year, but I struggled with it. I couldn’t quite seem to muster up enough enthusiasm to write about travel highlights, or the lessons from the failures and mishaps, or even just general highlights. Maybe I’ll manage to string some words together if the inspiration strikes, but for now, I’ll stick with recapping this past month and then wipe my hands of this year. Even if the first half of 2021 is more of the same, I’m eager to move into a time when at least the promise of brighter things are ahead. And it feels as though 2021 might just offer up that promise.
So, December! As we entered the month I couldn’t help but think back to 2019, when December was an all-around solid month and gave me a great deal of momentum to head into the new year. I visited my sister in Cleveland where we went to a rollicking live Christmas band and a festive house party, I drove up to Maine for a lightening fast visit to surprise a friend for her 40th birthday (and during the weekend managed to see another friend as well as the former owners of La Muse… and, maybe most importantly, my beloved Homer the dog). I ended the year in Maryland celebrating New Year’s with friends, and in-between managed to get out and about for other festive activities.
This year? You guessed it: no running off to any new places, no visiting friends afar, no leaving the state, no live bands, no holiday house tours, etc. Despite all the extra time at home this year, I’m still- on the whole- enjoying the extra peace and quiet. In the best of times I like to hunker down in the winter and stay in more than go out, and so on the whole it was a good month. But I do worry a little about the weeks/months ahead, looking down the long, dark stretch of winter, wondering if there will be a point when I’ll go stir crazy.
But for now? I’ll end this month and this year in the same way I spent most of it: at home. Writing at the kitchen table, with a glass of red wine (well, maybe champagne for the holiday), a book at my side, long walks through the neighborhood, greetings to my neighbors.
Those were all highlights of the past month, here are a few more:
The two notable hikes of the month were at Stroud Preserve in Chester County, and the Mt Gretna loop trail in Lebanon County. I went to Stroud with my Camino friend/neighbor; we’ve vowed to continue to meet and hike all through the winter, regardless of how cold it might get. Our morning hike at Stroud was chilly but I was reminded of how quickly you can warm up once you get moving. It had been several years since I’d hiked the trails here, and was reminded of a steep hill that could be good Camino training. I’ll definitely go back.
And while I was home to see my parents for Christmas, I drove out to find some hiking trails and wound up doing nearly 6-miles through the forested trails of Mt Gretna. At the end of the hike I climbed up to the top of an observation tower (steel ladders all the way up!!), and I had 360 degree views. It felt good to explore something new, and it’s certainly a spot that would make for beautiful hiking in the spring and fall.
Zooming with friends
I’m tired of Zoom, and at the same time, greatly appreciate Zoom (or, any video-conferencing app). This month, a few of my traditional holiday hangouts with friends had to shift to virtual meet ups, and for as fatiguing as it can sometimes be to spend hours on a screen, I was so appreciative for each call. From a fondue/wine night to toasting to nearly 20-years of “Christmas dinners” with my high school pals, I am so grateful for strong and enduring friendships and the traditions they carry.
It’s been awhile since my area has seen a good snowstorm (at least a couple of years), so to get a decent snowfall in December was something to celebrate. What I love more than fresh snow is fresh snow against a blue sky, and so I ran out with my camera to try to capture the magic. Here’s hoping for more snow this winter!
I read three novels this month: Writers and Lovers by Lily King, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, and Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld. Each was released in 2020, and I loved both Writers and Lovers and Rodham (each took me just a little bit to get into, but by the second half of both I was hooked), and liked Transcendent Kingdom.
And speaking of being hooked, I started watching Game of Thrones with my family over Christmas and now I can’t stop. I’m certainly late to the party on this one, and for the longest time just thought that the show wouldn’t be for me, but I was wrong. Now I know what I’ll be doing in January!
I also couldn’t stop watching Camino YouTube videos (here, and here); I keep adding more and more routes to my list!
This wasn’t my greatest month for writing; despite not being out and about nearly as much this December, there was still more to do and more distraction because of the holidays. It was hard to settle into a good writing routine (but I’m hopeful for January!). In addition to some work here and there on my book, I posted another essay up on Patreon (a site where you can support my writing/walking, with a new essay every month, just for my patrons! Subscribing starts at as little as $1/month). This one was about the early days of quarantine, childhood memories and the joy of naming things.
For as hard as this year has been, there’s so much I have to be grateful for. I was thinking about this as I spent Christmas with my family: a roof over our heads, plenty of (good!) food, board games and books and lots of warmth. I’m safe and healthy and even though it feels as though life is on pause, I trust that it will restart again, and I’m lucky to be able to sit here and make plans for when it does. And in the meantime, grateful for all of the connections with family and friends, for the ability to write my stories, to walk my path, to keep going despite it all.
A Happy New Year to all, may the days ahead be joyful and bright!