Postcard from the Edge

Well, that was the year that wasn’t, and didn’t, and couldn’t. I just finished reading over last year’s Christmas missive, and all it accomplished was to remind me of how much we’ve missed this year. No visits from family or friends, no music, no day trips, no impromptu cocktails or meals on the deck with our friends outside our “bubble”, no happy busyness. Nothing surprising in this for you the reader or for anyone else, anywhere.

So enough of 2020. We’re all in the same pickle so why dwell on it? We’ve been lucky to stay well so that is one bright spot. Long may it continue.

One very special event happened on May 10 when Christopher and Sara announced via text message and attached photos that they got engaged! We were having a leisurely breakfast when my phone pinged with the news! Jubilation ensued! They had been planning to travel to Japan in March so Chris could propose under the cherry blossoms in Kyoto, but Covid put pay to that plan. Thus, he waited until the blossoms on the cherry tree in their backyard were almost open to ask the important question. Such has innovation thrived during the pandemic that solutions are found to most conundrums. We couldn’t be happier! Needless to say, the wedding date will have to wait until the pandemic is over and it’s safe to travel. We have no idea when that will be.

Meanwhile, we have stayed in close contact through FaceTime video calls and Zoom dinners (pictured is Chris and Sara in Toronto, Sara’s Dad Kazem in Montréal, and us in Lunenburg, all of us sporting our “Covid hair”). We’ve really enjoyed those gatherings and have been most thankful for the internet and technology in general. Whenever I’ve felt disheartened over the lockdowns, I’ve thought of how awful it must have been during the Spanish Flu Pandemic 100 years ago, when no one really knew what was going on and didn’t know how their distant families and friends were faring. It must have been awful.

There were some good times with our bubble, our dear friends Robert, Louis, Dale, and Blake. Since we have no family down here, we were allowed to “adopt” close friends, with gatherings limited to six people. The Chief Medical Officer of Nova Scotia was ultra-diligent in order to keep cases to a minimum; there were only six cases in the province when the government slammed the borders closed, which seemed draconian at the time, but it really worked in keeping the numbers down on the East Coast. Although it meant we couldn’t host family or friends this summer, it has kept most of us safe from contagion, hopefully until the pandemic is over. It’s played merry hell with celebratory seasons, too, with Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas effectively cancelled. We have made the most of the times with our bubble, with the seasonal festive dinners as well as daily summer barbecues on decks and porches; but we kept these events to the bubble only as there are some health issues in our group necessitating extra caution.

The biggest impact the extended lockdown had on my lifestyle was the shutting down of music, both concerts and my own playing and singing. In mid-March, all music here ceased. Suddenly, my main occupation was gone — no Lenten or Advent concerts for the madrigal group to perform, no summer recorder group, no church choir or church, and no glorious Musique Royale concerts to attend and enjoy. For my friends and me it was a heartbreak; for the professional musicians far and wide it was an existential threat. People have scrambled and innovated to find ways of making music virtually. I moved into summer mode and started gardening, and fortunately, the weather cooperated. We had very little snow last winter so I was able to start picking up branches and raking pine needles right away, and bit by bit repairing the winter-damaged gardens, restoring the badly-damaged moss garden, and redesigning the rock garden. There were some tense moments when the garden centres weren’t allowed to open at the beginning of the planting season, so much of my vegetable garden was started from old seeds that I had on hand and further furnished by transplants that Louis had started from seed in his greenhouse, including some special tomato seeds he had bought in Italy eight years ago! The summer was hot and dry, and with judicious watering (thank goodness for a drilled well!) the vegetable yield was spectacular. We just finished the last of the cherry tomatoes this week, and we’ll have fresh homegrown carrots and potatoes for weeks more; Grant preserved tomatoes and beets, and I dried several varieties of herbs. I finally wrapped up the last of the raking in late November, completing eight months of gardening. I do believe that’s a record.

Grant, meanwhile, branched out even further in his exploits as Iron Chef, varying the menu constantly and exploring new countries’ cuisines. I never know what we’ll be eating but I love the discoveries. Also, although a longtime bread baker, he took the Covid challenge to start baking with sourdough, mostly because yeast was as scarce as hen’s teeth at the beginning of the lockdown and we don’t buy bread. After a couple of difficulties, once the weather started to warm up the sourdough starter took off and Grant was away to the races. One of the side benefits of sourdough is that, on the day when the starter needs refreshing (“feeding” in sourdough-speak), we get sourdough pancakes. I can’t begin to describe these heavenly delights!

We had one sad loss in our immediate family: Mom’s old cat, Yeti, suffered kidney failure and passed away in June. The poor little guy hung on for three days, desperately ill, until the vet could see him and help him out of his pain. I blame Covid for that, too.

Now the challenge is to get as much outside time as possible during the winter months. I’m not a big fan of this upcoming season (I’m sure this comes as no surprise to any of you), so it will take the need for Charlie’s walks and considerable willpower on my part to take the advice of medical science and get lots of fresh air. Charlie’s not a big fan of rain or ice, either, so she’ll take some convincing, too. I have a new pair of boots for ice and a new winter coat, and I’m hoping those will help. Retail therapy practically applied.

With apologies for the lengthy section on the garden (it’s all I did for most of the year), that was 2020 on the South Shore. We can hope that the internet will sustain us and keep us in touch with our family and special friends until we can all be together again.

May the blessings of Christmas bring you joy, even if only virtually, and may your new year be happy, healthy, and all that you wish it to be! And a helluva lot better than 2020!

Love and Peace,

Grant and Doreen and Charlie