As the old saying goes ” The way you ring in the new year is the way you will spend the rest of that year,” and so it was for 2020! While in years past we would have had a fancy dinner out, ringing in the new year with champagne flutes and festive hats, or we would have been out of town, exploring a new city and their holiday traditions, or we would have been in the company of friends, enjoying favorite snacks, learning new customs, and celebrating with clinking glasses and kisses on cheeks, all in the hopes of continuing those activities throughout the year….for New Year’s Eve 2019, we were on the couch, in pajamas, playing with stupid Snapchat filters (i.e. on our phones…). True foreshadowing!!
You see, we had VERY high hopes for 2020, a projected ‘perfect’ year: two milestone birthdays, a big celebratory trip to Europe (planned for years, which was to also include lots of visiting with friends and family), an election year, and the beginning of a new decade. So, ringing in the new year “low key,” at home, saving money, seemed like a good way to ensure there would be balance throughout the year. But then, REALITY (natural disasters, the pandemic, politics and protests, etc), which meant we would continue being at home, mostly in pajamas, with way too much screen time. Did we jinx ourselves? Was the adage never truer? Was it just a coincidence? Any which way, we had to find ways to rise above, and in the end 2020 had many good moments.
In fact, the first 2.5 months were actually great. We did a mini ‘glamp’ (glamorous camping) in Ithaca with friends (rented an airbnb house, hiked in Taughannock falls, and – ooooh – ate in restaurants!), we spent a long weekend in the Adirondacks to cross-country ski, visit friends and enjoy the (super crowded) Winter Festival in Saranac Lake, and we traveled to Ottawa and Toronto for another long weekend of cross-country skiing, eating and enjoying the end-of-winter Light Festival. And we had a great snowy winter, which we thoroughly enjoyed!
And then COVID-19 reached New York state. On March 16, Jen transitioned to working remotely, and we began to deal with our new reality: having to wear masks in public, standing 6 feet apart from others in public, no more eating out, no more visiting or hugging or spending time with friends and family….all precautionary, but abruptly instilled.
We were lucky that despite the situation in more densely-populated parts of NY, we were never prevented from being in nature, and as the weather warmed up, we took full advantage. We visited state parks we had either never been to, or hadn’t been to in ages: Hamlin Beach (Lake Ontario) with beautiful sandy beaches and lots of hiking trails; Fairhaven Beach (Lake Ontario) with miles of rocky coast, washed up drift wood and dramatic bluffs; Golden Hill (Lake Ontario) with it’s small coves, walking trails, tall trees and lighthouse; Jacques Cartier (Thousand Islands) ‘on the river’ where we camped for a couple days with friends, swam in the St. Lawrence River and cooked over a camp fire; and Green Lakes with it’s challenging disc golf course and gorgeous meromictic glacial lakes and hilly hiking trails, full of wild mushrooms. We live in an incredibly beautiful state!
We also spent a lot of time closer to home, walking and hiking in some of our favorite spots that we might only visit once a year otherwise, and we took lots of long drives, around the Fingerlakes, the scenic Lake Ontario Seaway Trail, Route 104, and Routes 5 & 20. We swam and kayaked and floated and paddle-boarded all over the place, we supported local farms and businesses, and soaked in the sun, we foraged for wild edibles, and in general we enjoyed the seasons. The walking got us outside and gave us a break from sitting (see pajamas, couch and working from home above…), and we got the added bonus of being exposed to the daily beauty of our region’s spring, then summer, then fall. We ended up walking over 1,000 miles from the end of March to the end of December!
And we still celebrated milestones, traveled and managed some visiting with friends.
In May, Jen celebrated her 50th with her annual “birthday month,” new this year with VIRTUAL lunches, dinners and happy hours, and we even had a socially-distanced party for her immediate family in her mom’s backyard, eating Chinese food and a delicious and beautiful cake that was supposed to feed 50 people (we did our best, but only managed to eat a quarter of it at the party…). It wasn’t the celebration we had planned, but it was still memorable!
In June, right around the time we would have been departing for our European vacation and cruise, we instead rented a big SUV and drove to Maine for a week! Our destination was Acadia National Park, near Bar Harbor, a very popular park that is notoriously overrun with tourists and choked by traffic in a ‘normal’ summer, but which we hoped would be less busy due to the pandemic.
We got the required covid tests 72 hrs prior to entering the state (we were negative!), and then did a combo of car-camping (think air mattress and mosquito net in the back of the truck) alternated with a couple nights in a motel. After a roughly 12-hour drive to Bar Harbor, we were rewarded with a nearly empty park! We were able to see every major site, visit the beaches and swim, take in sunsets, and hike to beautiful look-outs, all without having to interact with other people!
The only down side was that the lack of tourists to the park meant restaurants, including road-side lobster shacks, were mostly closed, as were rest stops, so there was still some stress figuring out where to eat and ‘rest’….but it was definitely nice to have had the park all to ourselves!
The whole month of October was also a highlight, as we had mostly great weather, a beautiful autumn, foliage-wise, visits with friends (after quarantines to prepare), some unexpected swimming opportunities plus many hiking outings, and a really festive Halloween season including taking in the awesome decorations around the area (people seemed to really go all out this year). We even carved pumpkins “with” our cousins in Italy via video exchange!
Then the end of the year came in hot! Our absolutely crazy elections, followed by Jay’s 60th (favorite meals, cake and the awesome Tribute video many of you contributed to!), followed by a less-than-optimal Thanksgiving holiday missing the usual family gatherings, and before we knew it, it was December and Christmas was looming!
While we tried to get into the holiday spirit by driving around to see the elaborate light displays throughout our city, taking in the annual Gingerbread House exhibit at the George Eastman Museum, and walking outside in the little bit of snow we got, the last weeks of 2020 ripped through our lives, and dealt some rough hands as we lost friends (both to covid and non-covid causes), faced the angst of family wanting to gather but unable to because of rising cases, and had unexpected car trouble…..but determined NOT to repeat the ‘mistake’ of ringing in 2021 isolated at home, we went out of town, ate a decadent 3-course meal (in a restaurant, but following social distancing rules!), and managed to stay awake and toast the New Year in the company of friends, both in person (after quarantining and being tested!) and virtually, via many video chats throughout the night and morning.
We sincerely hope that 2021 brings better things for all of us, even as we realize some things are just here to stay for a while. We know we will get through this and there will be opportunities to resume some of our favorite activities, but until then, we are trying to be gracious and present, and enjoy every minute of each day we have our health, our wits and each other. Happy New Year!