Some days, I’m just not productive. My brain isn’t working, I’m distracted, or things just… somehow don’t ever work out right. Monday was one of those days.
But you know what? That’s the whole advantage of being a salaried employee with flex-time – if I can’t seem to get anything done one day… I can always just stay late on a day that I can get things done. And on the day that I can’t get things done, I can go home a bit early.
Today, I chose that option.
Granted, it was only an hour early. But when the sun sets right when I normally leave work, that hour makes all the difference. I escaped, drove home, and immediately tossed my little inflatable dinghy into my pack before stepping out the door.
It was glorious.
Beautiful views, excellent river-sounds, and basically nobody around since it was barely above freezing. I stayed close to the shore, because of the mentioned temperatures, but ended up tying up to a nearby dock and just… floating.
The river rushed by, swollen by the recent rain, and I just stared at the sky, caught up on messages from friends, and read my book until I couldn’t quite feel my hands.
The entirety of 2020… Can it even be summarized? How can I look back on a year that seems to have lasted a lifetime? More than a lifetime, even?
But here I am.
Typing my thoughts into a blog, thinking back on one of the most eventful and impactful years of my life. Even as I type that sentence, I question it… was this last year really that much different from the previous years? I’ve had major life shifts, sure, but… I’ve had those before. Leaving Medway to go to college, graduating college, even moving to a new state for an internship. Breaking my arm, then my leg, or stepping onto that plane that took me so far from home, when I first traveled to South America?
Those were all such huge events… but I feel like the difference is that they were planned. Expected. Part of the roadmap, so to speak. 2020… well, it didn’t have a roadmap. Even if it did, the track I followed sure wasn’t the same map that I started the year with…
Right now, I’m alternating between standing on my porch, overlooking an empty road, and sitting by my little gas fireplace, enjoying the warmth and the simplicity of the fake wood.
Celebrating New Year’s Eve alone.
And that’s okay.
That’s what 2020 became – a chance to be alone, and to settle back into myself. To recall who I truly am, what I can be, and where I want to be going. The whole world is changing, faster than I think any of us ever expected, and sometimes we’ve got to step back and appreciate the quiet solitude while we still can…
Let’s sit down together, and walk through the year together, shall we?
January – I started the year in Scotland. We watched as Australia burned, while lashing rain both torpedoed the family plans and also gave me some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen – the sun shining out over the Isle of Skye. We flew back to the United States, blissfully unaware of just how much the world was going to change over the next 12 months…
February – My Mom came out to visit Portland! Honestly, this seems so long ago that I can barely even remember it… which I definitely feel bad about! I ran a 5k, and although I didn’t do quite as well as the previous year I still stuck it out, grinding my way through the steps.
March – I started working from home. Something I’d wanted the option to do for years, but I didn’t ever expect that it would be caused by a pandemic like this… In March, I still felt like COVID was something almost normal, or that it at least wouldn’t lead to as much of an impact to my life as it did… Snow came to Portland, and I started settling into a slow trudge of another year.
April – The lockdown really came in earnest – We limited exposure to people, and I started trying to do better about staying fit while being stuck indoors. That lead to a new injury – Trying to do deadlifts at home led to me pulling a nerve in my back, which in turn led to some of the strongest pain medications I’ve had to take.
May – We started taking Ollie to my office on the weekends – I was going into work every other day, but was also stepping in for an hour or so on weekends to help with 3D printing face shields for COVID relief… which gave us some unique chances to get out of the house, and even out of our neighborhood, at least for a few short hours.
Flowers started blooming in the garden, adding a really nice touch of color to the ongoing pandemic…
June – June marked the end of my longest relationship, and was the closing of a hugely impactful chapter of my life. A relationship ended, and I was set back on the path of remembering who I actually am… slowly restarting the parts of myself that I’d shut down over the years. I went camping, and backpacking, and finally met my friend Mike down in California…
I also moved to a new town, cutting my daily commute from 90min down to 10, which would slowly reverberate through the rest of the year as extra time, energy, and focus.
July – My Birthday came and went, though I could barely tell you what happened. I was still settling into my new apartment, my new routine, and my new life. COVID restrictions were still in effect, but comparatively lax against what was to come.
I started going outside even more; hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing.
July also marked my newfound love of hiking Elk Meadows, which would become my new retreat from the insanity of the city…
August – August brought hiking and biking, but the biggest standout of the month was my first big solo backpacking trip in… well, I can’t remember how long. I took the week off from work, packed up the Mustang, and ground away the miles to far Eastern Oregon, to the Eagle Cap Wilderness and the near-legendary Ice Lake.
Ice Lake is supposedly one of the most picturesque backpacking trips in Oregon, it absolutely didn’t disappoint… and was a beautiful chance for me to escape into my own mind for a few days.
September – The wildfires on the West Coast are no joke, and September brought them in with a vengeance. Every year the fires seem to get worse and worse, and this year was no exception to that rule – my site was shut down for over a week due to hazardous air quality, and I didn’t leave the house without a respirator on for most of the month.
Almost scarier though, was one of the hikes I went on… when we got back to the trailhead, the whole state forest had been closed to hikers due to the imminent fire danger. I ended up accidentally leaving my boots at the trailhead in my rush to get out of the danger area.
I did get out of town once, though, in an escape to the cool temperatures and clean air of the Oregon coast!
October – October, thankfully, brought the start of Oregon’s rain and the end of the wildfires. Warm skies started opening up, and the leaves started changing outside my windows. The first ice crystals started forming on the trails around Mt. Hood, and we really started into Autumn with a vengeance.
I kept going backpacking, and started diving further into taking more and more pictures, enjoying the focus that trying to capture just the right scene gives…