A Year Like No Other

Well, here we are at the end of the strangest year in our lifetimes, and somehow we have managed to survive the long months of pandemic living.

Over the past 10 days I’ve put my paint brushes aside to focus on the frenetic activity that surrounds the holiday season, and then to quietly reflect on the year that was, and the new year ahead.

I wish I could say I was bursting with optimism, but my naive belief that we would emerge a kinder, gentler world died somewhere around month 3.

At this point I could easily go off on a rant but quite frankly I just don’t have the energy for it. I had to take an ailing Theo to the vet this morning, which means I didn’t sleep much last night in anticipation of Drama Boy’s melodramatics. I’m not sure which one of us is more traumatized by these vet visits.

After a multitude of tests, Drama Boy is back home again. Nothing obvious jumped out, so now we wait until the results are analyzed in greater detail.

Dreaming of endless treats and catnip.

December started off with one of my weekly hikes with Younger Son. Walks around the neighbourhood just don’t give me the same sense of peaceful calm and core happiness that ‘forest bathing’ provides … plus our quiet, reflective personalities pair well together in the stillness of a forest trail.

We even colour coordinate.

Unfortunately that came to an abrupt end when Misha was suddenly sent into quarantine after the Covid app announced he had been exposed to the virus – we’re assuming on public transit. Thankfully he emerged 2 weeks later, just in time for Christmas, with a negative Covid test and no symptoms.

I celebrated the Winter Solstice with my first candle ceremony to welcome the gradual return of longer days of sunlight ahead. Over the past year, I’ve discovered that the small things need to be celebrated … and that includes lighting small flames to shout against the darkness.

For Christmas, we decided to gather our small family unit to celebrate together … in spite of government urging not to.

It was a subdued affair with no gifts exchanged, but instead focusing on what really mattered – time together with each other. We’ve been in lockdown for the past 5 weeks, with another 4 weeks ahead of us. This little bit of rebelliousness felt good.

Photo by my son-in-law, Dempsey.

I think we would all agree that the highlight was a walk on Christmas morning. It had snowed overnight and the trail was a magical place.

For a brief moment, the sun broke through sparkling on the water. As the clouds promised, more snow was on the way.

The count down has now begun on closing out this most unusual – and unwelcome – of years. We all have wishes that the new year is kinder and brings us back closer to some level of normalcy. Personally, I don’t see that happening for many more months, but we can hope.

Happy New Year everyone! Fasten your seatbelts for another trip around the sun. Perhaps the new year won’t be quite so bumpy.

108 comments

  1. Joanne, it has been a bad year for pets as well as humans. We lost our dog Kate in July and now our old cat Oliver is in failing health. I hope Theo bounces back. I love the family photos in the snow β€” it looks like a magical day.

    Jude

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    • I feel the sadness and hole that Kate has left behind in your life – made worse by concerns for Oliver.

      Unfortunately, Theo too is old and starting to decline. He has kidney disease which the vet has tried to assure me is in early stages, giving Theo a few more years. But I can see he’s failing and not the same cat. It’s a sad lesson for all of us as we age πŸ˜•

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  2. It makes me happy to see you and your family happy and healthy together. I share your love of light and enjoy the sun setting later and later each day. I hope the new year is a good one for you and yours.

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  3. β€œA year like no other” is a great title, Joanne. I am very sorry about ailing Theo. I extra love the family photo taken by Dempsey. A priceless, magical time and place. ❀️ Happy New Year and I look forward to connecting with you as it unfolds.

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    • Thanks Erica. We’ve each had our own version of ‘a year like no other’. I think we can all agree that we’re hoping 2021 will be kinder and less turbulent.
      Big hugs to you and Chuck, and my best wishes for this new year ❀️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It was definitely a weird year. So much self learning, and for some, pain. It was definitely hard to be away from my family. For us, holiday is the time to fly back home to spend time with our loved ones. It has been more than a year since we have hugged our family. But, I have hopes for 2021.

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  5. Happy New Year, Joanne. I hope that Theo is doing better. Forest bathing is such a rejuvenating thing. I’m glad that you and your son were able to get out on a hike. And the Christmas walk through the snow looks beautiful. I love the peaceful quiet that a snowy morning brings. I have journaled and reflected during the solstices, but not had a candle ceremony. I love that idea. I think we are still in for a bumpy ride but I do hope 2021 just gets better and better. Wishing all the best to you and yours. xx

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    • The longer this ordeal drags on, the more frayed around the edges we are all becoming. There is still a long rocky road ahead of us, and we each need to find a little bit of happy in our lives. Nature is a great emotional cleanser for me.

      Thanks for your kind wishes for Theo. I’m hoping to get some answers today on what’s ailing him. I have my fingers crossed it’s not serious.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Getting outside is a beautiful thing. I agree the next few months are going to be tough. Then, like the candles of your celebration, we will see more and more flickers of light and hope. Stay well and I am sending huge hugs across the country.

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  7. Getting outside and yes as you say – into the forest continues to be so important for my mental and physical health as well! Hope your Theo recovers soon and here’s hoping this new year gives us all a break.

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    • I could never live somewhere without trees. I think I would wither away inside.

      I too hope Theo recovers soon from whatever is ailing him. So far we are all puzzled πŸ˜•

      Happy New Year and Happy Hiking!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The last photo suits the year that was. Hoping it brightens for 2021. Good for you for gathering the clan. It wasn’t a big gathering like that eejit Randy Hillier apparently had and you didn’t travel to St. Barts like that other eejit. Here’s to the aforementioned and upcoming “hugfest”. Stay well, Joanne. Please.

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  9. I’m glad to hear you survived the year intact. I would have joined you on the rant but I’m equally exhausted by it all. We were lucky enough to have had restrictions eased sufficiently to let us gather (legally) as a wider family for Christmas as we are used to doing on a monthly basis but have been unable to do since February. It felt good.
    Hope the year ahead holds a smooth road for you and yours, Joanne. ❀

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    • I’m so glad to hear from you! You’ve crossed my mind more than a few times over the past many months.

      I’m envious of how much better control you seem to have over the situation in Australia compared to here in Canada. In Ontario, we just seem to be going from bad to worse πŸ˜•

      We’re all just putting so many high hopes on this new year. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

      Stay well, Heather, and best wishes to you and your family ❀️

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know I haven’t been around the blogosphere much in the last year. Out of necessity, my world became smaller and more focussed and energy resources were limited. But it’s always been on my mind, wondering how people are managing in their own parts of the world in this global trouble. Hopefully, as things ease this year, I’ll find my way here more often. πŸ™‚

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  10. I’m 1 hour 45 minutes from 2021. This time last year, we had no idea, did we? We were out with friends drinking champagne 😟. It’s been a roller coaster year with times of hope snatched away by the return of despair. The vaccines give me some hope but the new strain of virus terrifies me: the hospitals are filling up again and it will be too late for some. Like you, my optimism that life would change, and those in power would realise how precarious many people’s lives are, has died. But – as I said we’re 1 hour and (now) 40 minutes away from the bells and a dram of whisky is calling my name. Happy new year!

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    • Happy New Year, Anabel. For a large part of 2020, I stayed hidden away pretending that all the problems of the world were far away.

      The truth is, it’s bad here too and getting worse. Some days it’s really hard to stay optimistic.

      Stay well. Hopefully next year at this time, we will still be here and sharing stories of an entirely different – and very social – kind of celebration. With whisky of course πŸ™‚

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      • I agree it can be hard to stay optimistic, I just looked at the daily case figures (probably shouldn’t) and they’re higher than ever today. And Brexit compounds it. Still – as you say, maybe next year will be a whole lot better! Stay safe and enjoy the new year as much as you can.

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  11. Your silver photo of the sun breaking through is just gorgeous, Joanne, and what an encapsulation of the feel of this year – darkness coming slowly and painfully to an end. I too hope that we have learned something (though I also question whether that’s the case). We shall see. And I love your “light” ritual. How beautiful. Wishing you a much kinder and joyous new year. I can’t wait until we each can host a giant HUG FEST! ❀

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    • Thanks Tracey. I’ve written so many posts over the past year and left them languishing in my draft folder. I felt it was important to hit ‘publish’ before I changed my mind 😏

      Theo is at least eating again, so that’s good news. Still waiting nervously for the lab reports to find out what’s wrong with him. I’m trying not to let my mind drift into a dark space.

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  12. So lovely to see a post from you in my reader! I’ve missed you my friend. Hope Theo is right as rain & that 2021 gives us an opportunity to spend some time together. Hiking, cycling, drinking, commiserating….it matters not. Just hope to see you😘

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    • Oh Lynn – I miss so much of the ‘old’ world we lived in. I spent 3 years breaking out of my shell to experience the world through ‘new things’ and blog about them. Now I feel like I’ve regressed back to my old hermit tendencies πŸ˜•

      2020 has a lot of sins to atone for!

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  13. Your family photo is gorgeous and I’m so glad you We’re able to celebrate with those fine men of yours.

    I hope Theo will be ok: he certainly looked comfortable in your shot.

    Take care Joanne. Wishing you and your whanau good health and happiness ahead.

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  14. Nice to see you and your family making a calculated decision that works best for your mental health. We wanted to do a quick ‘trade gifts’ get together with the four family members who have been in our extended bubble until the new restrictions (no indoor or outdoor social gatherings with anyone who doesn’t live in your home) came into effect. But my daughters neighbour warned her that they would contact the snitch line if they saw any non-normal visitors/vehicles on their street.

    The neighbourhood snitches have added a new layer of tension to an already tense situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. First off, Joanne, I hope Theo is feeling better today and nothing serious comes from the tests. Give him some extra love from me.

    I love the candlelit table! Any method of adding light to the winter months is a good method.

    Happy New Year to you and the family unit! The Christmas get-together was well-deserved and needed, and the morning walk beautiful. I hope you have the opportunity to get out to the woods and trails in 2021!

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  16. Happy New Year Joanne ~ your post captures well a feeling we have heard from several people about wanting to be positive and upbeat yet finding reality a tad limiting.

    It does feel like 2021 at least starts with new wind under its sails with the global deployment of vaccines. Sure we won’t return instantly to pre 2020 reality but hopefully it’s a start in the right direction. Interesting that there is now a Covid app!

    Love the photo with your son and your family. Brings back great memories of fresh snow falls in Chicago. It’s been a long time since we lived in a cold climate and am embarrassed to admit I’m shivering here in San Cristobal at 60 degrees in this mountain town in a Mexican winter. In Chicago 40 degrees in winter was considered not too bad. How things change!!

    Peta

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    • I look at your photos from Mexico and how they contrast with our cold reality. Right now your chilly 60F sounds wonderful πŸ™‚ … but I can’t really complain. Our winter has been mild so far.

      Many countries have implemented a covid app to assist in contact tracing, but I think that the take-up rate, certainly in Canada, is not very high. People are suspicious – there just seems to be an excess of that these days.

      Stay well and my very best wishes for a new year that’s kinder to all of us.

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  17. The trees were beautiful! At least there’s that. And a healthy family. I am saying a prayer for Theo. I do hope he gets well soon and it’s nothing serious. I am also hoping for a brighter new year for all. It has been a tough year. Best wishes and Happy New Year!!!!

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  18. Lovely post Joanne – your photos are gorgeous. I like to acknowledge the solstices and equinoxes too, the moment of stillness and another turn of the wheel. Hope Drama Boy is completely well. Here in South Africa the days are long and sunny – we’re in serious lockdown as well, more so since the president’s talk to the nation on Monday evening. Keep well, be safe and Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I enjoyed your Christmas walk. My husband and I had Christmas without the kids this year but we did do a drive by gift exchange and opened our gifts over Zoom. It was stress free and quite lovely. We also got out for some great walks through our park system down by the lake. Happy New Year, Joanne. 2021 has to be better than 2020 but it may not start out that way. Fingers crossed. Carol

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    • It sounds like you made the best of it πŸ™‚

      It’s taken me a while to find my optimism again, but I’m finally there. Happy New Year to you and all of yours. Hugs will be in the future again πŸ™‚

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    • LOL! Breathing cannot be overrated and I concur – keep doing it.

      I too hope Theo will be ok. He’s lost a great deal of weight. The hard part is not knowing exactly what’s wrong. Hopefully the test results next week will shed some light on the problem.

      Happy New Year, Nancy. Stay well!

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  20. Love the candles! Never one to go for material β€œwealth,” I’ve always enjoyed celebrating and appreciating the small things in life, so I totally feel you. Good you managed to celebrate Christmas with loved ones and in nature. Wishing you a better-than-2020 2021, Joanne. I think we all have to start there. πŸ™‚

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    • Back at you, Leisbet! You ended 2020 on such a high note with the publication of your book. I hope it is a runaway success for you πŸ™‚

      Keep celebrating all those wonderful small things in life! Happy New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Now that’s what a white Christmas should look like. Proper snow, not the wet sloshy stuff that turns grey almost as soon as it lands. No snow this far south, but some in other parts of the UK. No family meet up either. We’ve kept ourselves out of harm so far so we don’t want to risk it this close to a vaccine, though who knows how long it will protect us for. Lovely to see you (and the family) again, don’t leave it so long again!
    Wishing you a good 2021 xx

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    • I know what you mean about grey and sloshy. That’s what we have right now – a wet soggy mess.

      Everyone’s refrain right now is the same – nothing new happening, seen no one, done nothing, gone nowhere. I think it’s fair to say most people have become a bit numb to the isolation. So many hopes for the new year!!

      I hope your new year is healthy and safe – boring maybe, but a good foundation for the post-pandemic life we’re all wishing for πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I wholeheartedly agree that the small things need to be celebrated. I love your candle ceremony. Your family photo is a definite, framable keeper.
    Wishing Theo a full and speedy recovery and you extra sleep to make up for last night.
    Also wishing you and your family a happy and healthy year ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’re now beginning the long days of winter and it would be so easy to sleep a lot of it away. I’m becoming increasingly convinced that this is what we were meant to do rather than this drive to keep pushing forward with plans and agendas. My inner bear just wants to hibernate πŸ™‚

      I’ve been worried about Theo for weeks now and it’s funny that now I’ve written about it and sent it out into the world, the burden of that worry seems to have lightened. I think there is a lesson somewhere in there.

      Happy, healthy new year to you too, Donna. I’m confident we have many more great adventures ahead of us in spite of the difficulties and challenges that are sure to pop up.

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  23. I’ve missed you. πŸ™‚ The family photo is terrific, and I’m so glad you not only got to see them all, but you went hiking. A good time was had by all. πŸ™‚ I’m grateful for a lot of things and for the fact that I’m still here to usher 2020 out, but it’s been a tough year. I’m thinking my average day must be a lot different from those who can still be 100% positive 24/7 about everything. We’ve seen some bad stuff the past nine months, and I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to forget it all especially the loss of lives. I think you’re right in that this bumpy ride is not over and won’t be for quite a while. So, do us a favor and let that muse lose now and again. Stay well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Judy – I’ve missed you too. It was much too easy to cut myself off from the world, and surprisingly difficult to crawl back.

      I think I’ve weathered this covid storm better than many others, but the last month or two have weighed heavily. I’m becoming increasingly intolerant of the naysayers and those who spread false information to stir up fear and confusion. My patience is wearing thin with the incompetence demonstrated by our provincial government who are all about rhetoric rather than leadership and meaningful action.

      Gaaaah – it seems I’m going to rant after all!

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  24. Love that saying – stay positive test negative! Ah family gatherings – we’ve stuck to outside ones and have been fortunate that the weather gods have cooperated.
    Hope your cat hadn’t developed something serious — they are such a huge part of our lives aren’t they! Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a great saying and one I intend to use liberally over the months ahead!!

      The worst part of any illness, whether human or animal, is not knowing what the problem is. That’s the space I’m in right now so I have no sense of its seriousness – although I suspect it is. I keep my fingers crossed it’s not.

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  25. I love the photos, Joanne, and your rebellious spirit. It doesn’t seem like you did anything dangerous. I’m looking forward to more photos and stories from the trail, from the water and from the deck. Spending time with the people we love needs to be the first thing reestablished in 2021. Happy New Year!

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  26. I love your idea of celebrating the Winter Solstice! I always look forward to that day as a sign of better things to come. Early darkness gets me down.

    I loved the pictures of your family and your hike in the snow. Such a lovely way to spend Christmas.

    I hope Theo is doing better. It’s so hard to watch them suffer and not be able to do anything to make them better. Fingers crossed that it’s just temporary blahs (I get them too every now and then).

    Happy New Year, my friend. Whatever 2021 brings, I can’t help but think it will be an improvement to 2020!

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    • Celebrating the solstice was new to me and I highly recommend it. It feels far more meaningful than an arbitrary “New Year”. Knowing each day is a tiny bit lighter than the one before provides optimism … something we all need right now.

      Poor Theo is sick – we just don’t know why he’s not eating. This is normally an animal who LOVES to eat. Hopefully next week we get answers, and more importantly, a solution – preferably an easy one.

      Here’s hoping for a new year that’s kinder than the last one. Stay well, my friend!

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    • Dempsey took some stunning photos, but this one in particular couldn’t be more perfect for a family photo on Christmas Day! I’ve been trying to capture a family photo every year since Gilles & I first met. I have some years missing, but not bad for a 37 year project πŸ™‚

      Happy New Year, my friend πŸ₯°

      Liked by 1 person

  27. So beautiful to have snow for Christmas! I’ve been reflecting on things that annoyed me last year at this time. I wish I had them all back instead of this much bigger worry. My hope is that I don’t take anything for granted anymore but you know we all fall back in the same old habits. This was a truly bad year. Hugs for Theo. I’m not ready to lose him and not in 2020!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good observation, Kate. I too hope I don’t take things for granted anymore. Complacency sneaks up on us, doesn’t it? Right now I have a whole new perspective on life and I’d hate to have it slip away.

      Poor Theo is like us. He’s aging and I’m afraid this is just one of those reminders. I went to the vet thinking Theo was diabetic, but they’ve ruled it out. Hopefully I’ll have more information next week when all the test results come back. I’m not ready to lose him either!!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Joanne, your candlelight display is just beautiful. Such a simple arrangement, but such an immense meaning. You have such a handsome group of men surrounding you…..I’m jealous! The snow photos are awesome. I love watching it snow and looking out the window after a storm has passed and just taking in the beauty and wonder of all that fresh, unspoiled snow. Of course, then I’m snow blind! My old bones can’t tolerate temperature extremes any more.

    Theo looks so comfy under the tree. He surely is a handsome boy. I do hope his tests result in good news. We had to take our Australian Shepherd to the vet right before Christmas. Murphy will be 13 in February. I had this overwhelming feeling that she wouldn’t be coming home with us. πŸ˜ͺ But after a barrage of tests and X-rays, we came home with her and and a bag of medications and no money! No way was I letting 2020 take her too.

    Wishing you and yours a healthy, Covid free New Year. May 2021 see you surrounded by your loved ones and friends, hiking to your heart’s content, and may your rebelliousness never fade away!

    Looking forward to more of your great posts. I’m so glad we met….sorta met. Good wishes to Theo. Murphy and I send him hugs and massages. ((( ))) ((( ))) ((( )))
    Ginger and 🐾

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    • Thank you for such a wonderful comment!
      I love my men deeply and I know I’m soooo very lucky to have them in my life ❀️

      It sounds like you and I are having a shared experience with Murphy and Theo. Theo too will be 13 in March, and I too came home with no money after all his tests. The only difference – so far – is I have no bag of medications. Fingers crossed that’s all I have to deal with.

      Happy, Happy New Year, Ginger. Who knows? Perhaps my muse will come out of hiding and I’ll be back here more often πŸ™‚

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    • I think the old normal is gone, gone, gone. Once this virus is finally under control, it will be interesting to see what the new normal will look like.

      Happy New Year, Janet. I was sent an email a few weeks ago with the closing line Stay Positive. Test Negative.
      I like that sentiment πŸ™‚

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  29. From your lips to God’s ears! I am glad you and your boys got together for a family Christmas. I did the same it was much needed and everyone enjoyed being together.

    Your walk after the new snow was gorgeous!

    I wish you and yours a Happy and Healthy New Year! πŸ₯°

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I love the light ceremony – and the colour-coded family op – and the Christmas tromp – no gifts! Just the important stuff!

    Theo’s situation though – that must be a worry for you.

    Here’s to false alarms and longer daylight and good health.

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    • False alarms, indeed – I could only hope … but there is clearly something wrong with Theo. We just don’t know what yet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’s not serious.

      You’re so right about just the important stuff. If ever there was a year for clearly identifying what’s really important in our lives, it was this one!

      Liked by 1 person

  31. I wish others would be as “rebellious” as you are. Misha quarantined for two weeks and only then took his test before seeing you all of you? I applaud him! So many others don’t even bother to get tested, or when they do it’s meaningless because they then hop aboard mass transit before coming into contact.

    Indeed, another trip around the sun. Happy New Year, Joanne! – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I am glad you were your rebellious self!! Your family time was well deserved and that hike looks amazing. I love the idea of celebrating the solstice – I have never done that! I think the next several months will still be challenging, but we’re all used to it now right?? Ugh. Cheers to brighter days ahead friend!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Brighter days literally & figuratively!! πŸ™‚

      I’ve always considered the solstices and equinoxes as special, but I’ve never really explicitly celebrated them. I think I might have some new traditions ahead πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

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