Saturday, January 2, 2021

Happy Highlights in a Bleak Year

The Big Picture

There is no doubt that 2020 was a tough year. More than 83 million people worldwide were infected with covid-19 in 2020, and more than 1.8 million have died. Every one of us knows someone who has had the disease, and even if the lives of those close to us were spared, we have heard the tragic stories of so many who have passed away, including, especially, our elders. 

Add to that the extreme wildfires in Australia and California, the explosion in Beirut, the murder of George Floyd, and the stomach-churning in-your-face pandemonium of American politics, and it is clear that 2020 has been a bleak year. 

Of course, there also have been heroes, collaborative efforts, and sweeping changes that have reaffirmed my faith in human nature and science. 

 Thank-you to the physicians, nurses, other health care workers, and long term care home staff who have worked so hard to save lives during this pandemic, even while putting their own health and well-being at risk. 

Thank-you to governments and public health leaders who have made the right choices during the pandemic, whether by quickly allocating funding to workers forced to stay at home, or by making the hard decisions to order unpopular public health restrictions before our hospitals were overwhelmed. I count our public health officer here in BC, Dr. Bonnie Henry, among the heroes of the pandemic.

Thank-you to the essential workers who have made it possible for others of us to stay home. As well, I thank the everyday heroes, my friends and neighbours, who have trusted science and chosen to comply with quarantines, physical-distancing guidelines, and mask wearing to protect themselves and others around them, day after day after day. It has been hard, and will continue to be hard for some months to come. 

Thank-you to the scientists who have pulled out all the stops to develop safe vaccines in record time. This accomplishment has involved a level of international scientific collaboration that is unprecedented. It shows we can work together when we understand the gravity of an problem. Let's hope the same level of dedication and global collaboration will next be applied to the existential problems of climate change and species extinction. 

At a Personal Level

I have been very fortunate in most ways throughout this pandemic, and for that I am deeply grateful. Yet, even so, there have been some sad times, personally, during 2020. Our beloved dog, Kate, died in July. Shortly after, our cat became ill and his health continues to decline. Our retaining wall at the back of our property failed, and repairing it will be difficult and expensive. We've missed being able to spend time with friends and family in person during much of the year. 

Yet, in the grand scheme of things, these are minor and temporary wrinkles. 

Overall, for me 2020 has been a year of much new learning and many happy moments (in spite of the dire pandemic backdrop). I realized Rob and I have had many joyful experiences in 2020 when I looked in my phone to find a few photos to illustrate this blog and ended up choosing 50!

Hawaii

 

 
 
 
 
We made a trip to Hawaii in January of the year with Rob's daughter and son-in-law and our two grandchildren. 
 
We had a wonderful time together, and we thank our lucky stars that we travelled when we did, before the Sars2 corona virus had begun to spread widely. 
Under the Banyan Tree
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We loved spending time with the grandkids.
Bamboo

 

 

 

The island of Maui is beautiful. I found the varied topography fascinating, from the beach, to the tropical rain forest, to the top of the Haleakala volcano.

 

 

 

 

We were in full tourist mode in Maui, and we saw a lot.

While we were there, we began hearing on the news about a new and lethal virus spreading throughout China. Like so many other North Americans, we hadn't yet realized that we were on the verge of a worldwide pandemic.
Playing with Trucks on top of Haleakala

 In the meantime, we hiked, snorkeled, swam, kayaked, and went out on boat cruises. We marvelled at the sea life at the aquarium, and swam with turtles. 

We had a condo with a kitchen, so we breakfasted at the condo, and then usually made a picnic to take along on our day trips.  

Most evenings, we enjoyed trying out the various restaurants on Maui.

I have been to Maui before, but it was many years ago. So I was intrigued to revisit places I remembered from that trip.

We were lucky to have fabulous weather while we were there. Many evenings, we walked through the parks admiring the sunset. I have dozens of sunset photos, but I decided to only include the one. 

Our trip to Maui was the last foreign travel we will do for a long time. 

 

Enjoying the Outdoors on Vancouver Island

Back home in Canada, we had a wonderful time skiing at our local ski hill during February and the first half of March. In fact, we had the skis packed in the truck and were about to leave to drive to the ski hill on the day everything closed down in BC in mid-March.

We checked the website one last time before we left (it's a 75 minute drive), and found out that the ski hill was closed because of covid-19 restrictions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We live on beautiful Vancouver Island, so we switched to other outdoor activities.

 

In the initial six weeks of the pandemic restrictions, everyone was encouraged to stay home and only to go out among people as little as possible. However, outdoor activities were allowed, as long as we employed physical distancing. 

We are fortunate to live in a semi-rural area, where there are lots of trails through the forest and along the ocean shore. 

 As it became safe to do so, we began to meet up with friends and my adult kids for hikes and picnics. 

Hiking with my Son

 I realized that for me, not seeing my kids and grandkids throughout the spring months has been the most difficult period of the pandemic so far.

Hiking with my Daughter



 

 

 

 

 

 

 Although we talked on the phone and used videoconferencing, it was not like being together in person. 

In the summer months, the numbers of daily new cases in BC were in the single digits. So many of the earlier restrictions were lifted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I helped my daughter out providing part-time childcare while she worked. I loved having "Grandma time" with the two boys!

So, although it was a terrible year in many ways, for me, the first six months of 2020 also had many happy highlights. During this pandemic, I have learned that being able to spend time with those I love, and also spending time in nature are things that allow me to find joy even in difficult times. 


21 comments:

  1. Looking back at the fall in cases in the summer now is quite poignant! I don’t know about where you are, but I think they opened up too early here and some policies (looking at you Eat Out to Help Out) were just plain daft. This new variant is now filling our hospitals again, but at least the doctors know more about treatment now and the vaccines are well on their way (though the U.K. govt seems to be about to screw that up as well). But yes, 2020 had its good, even great, times too. Your pictures are wonderful! Happy new year, Jude, and all the best to you and yours for 2021.

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    1. Hi Anabel, and Happy New Year to you! Here in Canada, public health is within the provincial rather than federal jurisdiction. It has been fascinating to me to see how different the approaches to managing the pandemic have been in each province, and the consequential difference in case numbers and deaths. Here in BC where we have two ongoing epidemics — the COVID epidemic and a fentanyl drug overdose epidemic — our public health officer has had to walk a fine line between rate of COVID transmission and the fatal mental health/addiction consequences of extended lockdowns. She has chosen to appeal to people’s pro-social desire to do the right thing and care for each other rather than emphasizing a punitive approach, which has mostly worked well.

      Jude

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  2. Beautiful pictures and a thoughtful recap, Jude. As the time approaches for my annual winter getaway to Barbados (not happening this year, of course) I find myself yearning for travel in a way I haven't experienced before. Lovely to visit Hawaii through your photos.

    Deb

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    1. Thanks Deb, and Happy New Year! Doing a lot more travelling was one of my expectations for my retirement, and I am so glad I managed to do a number of trips in the first 2 1/2 years, because now we can’t travel. I totally understand your wish to go to Barbados. I’ve been there and it is beautiful — a very special place. There are so many places in the world I’d love to see.

      Judith

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  3. Hi, Judith - I love your photos and your highlights (especially of Vancouver Island). I wholeheartedly agree with you that being able to spend time in nature as well as with good friends and family (virtually or appropriately distanced) is the balm to the soul. Looking forward to connecting together again soon!

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    1. Hi Donna, and Happy New Year! One of the lessons this pandemic has reinforced for me is just how important spending time with friends and loved ones is. If this crazy rain ever stops, I’d love to join you and Deb on one of your more modest hikes.

      Jude

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    2. I would LOVE that too. Let me know whenever you are free.

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  4. Happy New Year, Jude! Wonderful highlights and beautiful photos. Being in nature and getting support from family and friends make a huge difference in mental health during the pandemic and lockdowns. Wishing you and your family all the best in 2021.

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    1. Hi Natalie. Happy New Year! Like you, I truly enjoy spending time in nature. It is a balm to the soul. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that one’s partner, family, friends, and community are more important than almost anything.

      Jude

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  5. I agree with you that - as nut-so as 2020 was, there was also a lot of good (and, I understand how very privileged I am to be able to say that). Your pictures showed many of the highlights of the past year, and I'm sure you'll be able to add lots of wonderful, new memories in 2021.

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    1. Hi Janis. Happy New Year to you and Paul! 2020 has been nut-so, and I have wasted far too much time poring over news websites. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to turn away from the craziness (doom-scrolling). Thank goodness for all the photos in my camera to remind me of all the lovely times we’ve had this year, in spite of everything. So far, I’ve only written about January to June. Expect another post to follow on July to December.

      Jude

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  6. I always appreciate your candor and your wisdom, Jude. And, yes, “stomach-churning” and “pandemonium.” I also appreciate “...my faith in human nature and science.” You describe well the thank-yous to many people that have made sacrifices and a difference in our lives. I extra love the photos you share here. Many of the things we did while we could. Maui is a wonderful family destination, and we will likely be able to travel again....in a few years. We also count our blessings living on Vancouver Island. I wholeheartedly agree with the most special times are spent with our family and in nature. I look forward to connecting and sharing in 2021.

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    1. Hi Erica. Happy New Year to you and Chuck! I’m glad you like the photos. I always think I don’t take all that many photos, but then I look in my phone and there are hundreds there. It’s a good thing I can look back at them, or I wouldn’t remember half of our adventures.

      I do have great faith in human nature (and science). I think most people’s natural inclination is strive to do the right thing, and people accomplish remarkable things when they are not hindered from creative problem-solving, and when they work together. Sadly, negative stories and bad behaviours are what the news focuses on, leading people to believe that bad stuff is more pervasive than it really is. That distortion, I believe, contributes to our present-day mental health crisis, as well as susceptibility to believe in conspiracies, and to be misled by corrupt and manipulative politicians.

      Jude

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    2. I agree with you, Jude, how I fall into the trap, reading too many negative news stories, neglecting to highlight the good people and good stories. One foot in front of the other. I am hopeful we are moving forward in a positive direction.

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    3. Erica, since the pandemic began, I have wasted far too many hours poring over news stories and scary statistics.

      Jude

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  7. Your review of the year has proven that in the midst of all the bad news there were plenty of things to be grateful for - family and friends being at the top of that list, even if our interactions were limited.

    Happy New Year, Jude. Let's all maintain hope and optimism that this one will be kinder to everyone.

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    1. Happy New Year, Joanne! I think that for at least the first half of the coming year, we are going to be deeply impacted by the pandemic — illnesses, deaths, and restrictions. So I’m not holding out too much hope for 2021. The good thing though, is that we have begun to figure out how to live with it and get on with our lives to a certain extent. And the vaccine is coming!! Rob might be eligible as early as April to get it, and as for me, I’m thinking my turn will come in about September.

      Jude

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  8. Hi Jude,
    Great post! I think that historians of the future will have a hey day compiling the thousands or hundreds of thousands first person testimonies of how the pandemic played out for them. The pattern is clear though, there is an almost universal hope that 2021 will turn out more positively than 2020. As your story tells, it is a mixed bag for everyone.

    Great to hear that you had a few months at the beginning of the year when one could still travel, with in souciance unburdened by a reality few of us recognized in January and February. Thanks for the shout out for bamboo in Hawaii, that is where Ben's business is based with a 25 year history of building and designing fantastic luxury bamboo houses and now they have expanded into the reforestation and carbon offsets.

    Beautiful photos, looks like you certainly had many positive and beuatiful moments in 2020 and that is what it's all about.

    Manifesting with you a better 2021.

    Peta

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    1. Hi Peta— it’s great to hear from you! I have been trying to get to your blog, Green Global Trek, but the link seems to be broken. I even tried putting the URL into Google, with no luck.

      Yes, it’s hard to believe how oblivious we were to the impending spread of the corona virus back in January and February, and how unprepared we were for a pandemic. I remember that even in March, as COVID-19 spread worldwide and public health restrictions were implemented, I still felt a sense of denial (“We’ll stay home for a few weeks and then everything will get back to normal...”). Certainly, there will be a lot of interesting social data generated over 2020/21 that will keep researchers busy for a decade. It almost makes me want to start a research project myself.

      I didn’t realize Ben’s work with bamboo had a base in Hawaii. I knew about your projects in South America, and his recent work in Mindanao. Bamboo regenerates so quickly that it is amazing, and we love our bamboo floors.

      All the best to you and Ben in 2021!

      Jude

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  9. Such lovely photos, Jude! I’m so happy - and a tad envious - that you managed to fit your vacation in Hawaii in. That was quite lucky. I think all of us had to make “sacrifices” this years, but I agree with you that being able to walk and spend time in nature if one of the things that kept us sane. And, for Mark and me, safely camped away from others. I hope your cat’s health will somehow improve! And, of course, we were deeply saddened to learn about Kate’s passing earlier this year. :( Wishing you and Rob a fantastic 2021!

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    1. Liesbet, we felt very lucky that we made the trip to Maui when we did. And of course, spending time with our grandkids and their parents was the icing on the cake. We miss our little doggy. When Oliver first got sick, it took us awhile to realize that he was physically ill. We thought he was moping and meowing because he missed his buddy, Kate. His treatment regime seems to be helping. But he is going on 17, so I guess we have to prepare for the inevitable.

      Enjoy your travels and stay safe!

      Jude

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