While hiking with friends today, I took out my phone to get a photo and before I could get to the camera app, I noticed the date. 3/13/2022. What an auspicious anniversary today is – 2 years ago today, was when I was told to prepare as Colorado was in a state of emergency. Two weeks later, the stay at home order began. When I got home from the hike, my FB memory from one year ago popped up.
One year ago today, I was sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store talking to my sister, Susan, on the phone. She told me that I needed to make sure I had at least TWO weeks of food because of the coronavirus and a possible quarantine. She lives in MA and they were about a week or two ahead of where we were regarding the virus in CO. I remember asking her, “TWO weeks??? Are you sure? That’s a long time!”
“Oh, and they’re saying we should stock up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer…. and make sure the food isn’t perishable… things like beans and rice.”
The first thing I noticed was we were still calling it Coronavirus… We had no idea the variants Delta and Omicron were on deck. I mentioned the date to the three friends I was hiking with and each one remembered the date clearly and had a story of how and when they heard about the shut down and what it meant to them. It’s an easy date for me to remember as it was Friday the 13th. I am a bit superstitious, avoiding walking under ladders, reluctancy to cross a black cat’s path and then of course, Friday the 13th, which I can’t say is either lucky or unlucky for me, but I do take note. I had no idea at the time that this would be the Friday the 13th that I’d never forget. This would be the date that had me running from store to store to shore up supplies for two weeks. Buy enough food for two weeks, I was told. A week later, I’d enter a period of time that would last six weeks. Six weeks of not getting close enough to anyone, including my family, to give them a hug. Six weeks of me alone in my house, staying busy with closet and drawer clean outs like everyone else, digging out canvases and paints and trying my hand at something I used to do daily many years ago but had set it aside and writing. Lots of writing. I look back at those 6 weeks with a sense of fondness and pride. It was hard, especially for someone who needs and thrives in the company of others, but it also felt like a very healthy reset for me. I became tight with my introverted self – the self that until the 6 week isolation, I had no idea existed. It would become the most inspiring, lonely, introspective, creative, sad and heart opening time of my life.
When I look back on who I was and what I was doing two years ago, for lack of a better word, I’m flabbergasted (does that word make me sound old?). There have been so many changes I’ve gone though yet it was all so gradual that I really couldn’t comprehend it until now with two years of prospective and enough distance to fine tune my focus.
Two years ago I knew my neighbors, but only through the exchange of pleasantries with each other while shoveling snow or mowing grass. One neighbor I had a few more conversations with because she invited me to their New Year’s Eve party in the afternoon on the 31st, Scottish time, their annual tradition to honor her husband’s Scottish heritage. After coming away from their house that early evening on 12/31/2019, I felt hopeful. I met a handful of people at the party. Maybe people I could hike with. Maybe people who I’d be able to call friends someday. That didn’t happen but the neighbor who hosted the party did invite me over for a socially distanced dinner on their patio. This meant she and her husband at one table and me at my own table for one on the opposite side of the patio. Conversation was a bit difficult as we had to shout to be heard, and of course we had masks on when we weren’t eating, but we felt safe and I had an invite. Yes, things were looking up. And then they moved.
It took me until January of 2021 to decide it was time to mask up and get out and hike. Still without friends or anyone to hike with, I laced up my boots, gathered up my nerve and went on a Meet-Up hike. I’m not including my Boulder family in the friends category, by the way, because although my kids are my friends, they can’t be the sole members in category. Or so I think.
It’s hard to be the only one in the group that no one knows. It’s hard to be vulnerable. I sat in my car and watched the group gather at the trail head, leaving the engine running as the conversation I was having with myself and meeting people and putting myself out there wasn’t going well. Going home and walking around my neighborhood instead was winning. Then I remembered what my sister, Susan, had told me when she first went to a Meet-Up hiking group in the Berkshires where she had moved and it started a whole chain of friendships for her. I could feel her nudge while I sat there, my hands on the wheel, ready to put the car in reverse and leave. She told me I could make all sorts of excuses as to why I shouldn’t get out of the car to join the group, all of them pretty flimsy, by the way, but until I put myself out there, I wouldn’t meet anyone. Plus, you’ll be doing what you love. Her words were louder than the NPR voices coming out of my radio. How could I ignore that sage advice? I got out of the car, walked over to the group, introduced myself and headed up for what I now realize still holds the record for the hardest hike I’ve done in Boulder since moving here. 8 miles and 1,400 feet of elevation gains. I came home tired, but happy. I met two women that day, both who texted me the following day to make plans. I’ve gone on many hikes with both women, and have seen one of them for regular hikes and social outings.
The three women I hiked with today I also met on hikes and now, 15 months and hundreds of miles of hiking later, I’ve found my tribe and it’s a good one because we’re all doing what we love. I think it was the push of the pandemic after so much time alone, that gave me the courage and the “what the hell and why not?” attitude, because seriously, after what we’ve been through, how can one not feel that way?
Two years ago I wouldn’t have had any idea that the journey we were starting to embark upon would still be present two years later. I’ve been vaccinated, boosted and even got Covid a month ago. I’ve worn masks for most of the past two years due to mandates, have been thoughtful about where I will dine, preferring outside, have sacrificed movies and theatre and live music and have only made a few trips on airplanes. I missed Christmas with my parents and siblings and one of my sons and his wife, for the first time ever. I missed hugging. So much. I know I wasn’t alone in any of it, which gave me a collective strength, making it much easier. The two years of sacrifice and priorities, growth and discovery, creation and contemplation have been above all else, a gift. There was a whole lot of missing that went on and I know I share that with most of the world, but today, while traversing the muddy Mesa Trail, I realized that all that missing has made me a lot more grateful for what I have now.
Close to a year after we shut down, I finally saw two of my friend’s faces who I had been hiking with for several months. The three of us participated in a memorial walk to honor the ten people killed in the King Sooper shooting. It was such an emotional afternoon that afterwards, we decided to walk over to a nearby restaurant for an early dinner. The restaurant had large garage-type doors opened in the front for fresh air and was operating at 1/3 capacity. It felt safe and necessary. When our food arrived and our masks came off to eat, I realized that I had never seen the smiles of these two women who I had become so close to through the countless stories shared through the cloth of our masks. Those smiles were just as bright as their eyes, that had been doing all of the communicating when the masks were on.
The word that continued to circle through my thoughts today while on the trail was gratitude. It’s been a long, difficult road of Covid that for me came on the heels of my move to Boulder. I think Covid helped me assimilate into this town and onto the trails and if I had to find the silver lining to the last 2 years, that would be it. The other silver lining was my son and his girlfriend, got married on 12/21/2020. A bride, a groom, a marriage officiant and a photographer. Done. What could be more romantic or more true to the intention of the union than that? And I got another daughter in law in the process. Truly, a highlight for 2020.
I’m hoping if I post a blog a year from today, it will be about a child or a grandchild or an incredibly exotic trip or maybe how pretty my garden looks in the late afternoon sun and that Covid won’t even get a mention.