The Epistle According to the Andersons
Well it’s hard know how to describe our activities in 2020 – there weren’t many. Since mid-February we have hardly left the house, except to get groceries every week or so – and then we picked the most slack time at our local store.
We’d love to tell you about our 10-day trip to Budapest and Vienna in late April and early May, and all the sites we saw again and many we had never seen – but we didn’t go. We would love to tell you about our trip in late September and early October to somewhere warm in the Mediterranean, but we hadn’t settle on the location – and we didn’t go. We’d love to tell you about all the summer arts and crafts, and music festivals we so much love on Whidbey and surrounding areas – but they were all canceled. We’d love to tell you about our trip to Ashland, OR in July to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to see eight plays in five days – but it was cancelled. We’d love to tell you about all the great plays (also eight) we saw in our subscription to the Seattle Reparatory Theater – but they were all cancelled (they did do one short one that had already been rehearsed streamed it to subscribers).
The Seattle Symphony was a little better. We had subscribed to 13 concerts for the 2020-2021 season and the season was canceled, but they started a series of Thursday evening live concerts from the stage at Benaroya Hall (with no audience), with a reduced sized orchestra, wearing masks (except for the wind instruments while they played) and socially distanced, and streamed for a modest charge and free to subscribers. The audio and video was outstandingly handled and sounded great when we connected our computer to our living room sound system. With miking and amplification the reduced orchestra sounded full even when they did Beethoven’s Fifth.
But after the infection rate shot up following Thanksgiving, the governor reimposed more restrictions (which we support) and the Symphony had to cancel new live performances and start streaming some of their previous concerts that had been recorded.
We’d love to tell your about our two or three times-a-month trips to see Katherine, Bill and our two grandchildren (Lise and Emil), often combined with Symphony or Seattle Rep, but there were few. We did make three or four, visiting them outside for a few hours wearing masks (birthdays, etc.), but we missed the closer activities. We started keeping contact by Zoom. The grandkids love it and it gave Katherine a break to do things while we keep them occupied by remote. Katherine and Bill have continued teaching remotely and we are delighted that their family remains healthy.
Jan and Lise also started “Nana School” via zoom to provide some reading and math supplemental activities during a time when Lise was taken out of school to quarantine before Thanksgiving. Lise liked it so much that she continued to request it during the vacation and even though she is back in school, it is still a frequent request of hers. Two year-old Emil also joins in as the “judge”, making sure the word Lise reads matches the picture after Nana uncovers it.
But being together by Zoom is not nearly as satisfying as being really together. Once during the summer, we got tested, Kat and the kids got tested and they came up and stayed with us for nearly a week. It was great to share closer activities with them: the Tunnel House (I built a long low frame out of PVC pipe – so it could be disassembled – and Jan sewed a cover – top and draped over sides – about eight feet long with a side room at the end), an outdoor water slide, and always BUBBLES, … That week was almost the old normal. But after schools started in-classroom instruction, the risk became too great for intimate visits.
We have a group of friends on and near Whidbey that before the pandemic would get together for food and conversation every month or so – the same group that we invited to our Sicilian and Andalusian dinners. So we have tried to keep the friendships going by Zooming once a week. Not all meet every week and the format of discussion is a little different (and hard to share food), but it helps us keep up with what is going on in each other’s lives, support each other and discuss topics we share interest in (or like to argue about). But we look forward to being able to be together face-to-face.
We did do a few beach walks (on beaches that are never crowded) and walks in wildlife areas nearby. We drove the Mountain Loop Highway (a fifty-six mile loop, part paved, part gravel in the west slope of the Cascades), which I’ve wanted to do ever since we moved here full time. It has gorgeous views of forests and peaks. We took drives through the beauty of the Skagit Valley in our Miata (with the top down, of course). From our house, we looked out of our window at the beauty of the Dugualla and Skagit Bays and the Osprey, Eagles, and Trumpeter Swans frequenting them. We watch the birds that come to our deck for the feeder and birdbath: doves, juncos, spotted towhees, several kinds of sparrows, grosbeaks, several kinds of finches (lots of goldfinches), pine siskins, hummingbirds (Rufous and Anna’s), house wrens, robins, red-wing blackbirds, northern flickers, chickadees, nuthatches and yes mean starlings to drive the others away -- just to name a few – some year round, some seasonal.
So there was still some life to our lives, but other than these few things, we have little to tell. Jan continued working in the yard, filling in every empty inch of our garden area leaving no way to walk through and get to plants that need attention. However, there is another view as to just how much of the garden space actually got occupied even though several new plantings were added. Perspective on this issue is perhaps a function of who enjoys gardening the most. Jan found working outside, beginning with the stay-at-home order in March, to be a welcome way to spend time, seeing new plant growth emerge as a calm reminder of the forces of life. Working several hours a day outside while being surrounded by birdsong and blossoms, was a calming retreat for her from the upheaval that had changed our life on so many levels.
We also added a whole-house generator because we get frequent blackouts due to our strong winds blowing over trees. The generator was placed on the steep slope on the west side of our house. That area had never been landscaped, so this summer we added wood and gravel steps to get down the hill more safely as well as to access the generator for service. This area gets nearly no sun, so we completed the task by adding a fern garden on much of the slope.
Jan also got really into jigsaw puzzles -- one or two we already had and then four or five she ordered. I helped a little solving them but she did by far the most. And, of course, we read even more books than other years.
We’ve also increased our video watching (scheduled TV has little of interest) by choosing a favorite actor or actress and creating our own retrospective using films from the filmography. We especially enjoy the old classics we have not seen for a long time.
Terry’s life was closer to normal. He is still working “half-time” (that works out to more like three-quarters), writing software for the Army (used to control radio communications). But since he works normally from his office in our lower floor, on computers or on-line, there was little difference from other years. He normally travels to the Army customer four or five times a year – for team coordination, presentations and testing - for a week. This year there was only one trip in early February before Covid-19 really started to spread.
It’s especially painful to not be able to celebrate the holidays this year surrounded by family and friends we love so much. Our isolation this year makes the memory of last year’s Christmas with the Carty family on Orcas Island all the more precious. It was the best gift ever to be together in a large house – unmasked - and sharing delicious food and congenial company. Here’s looking forward to another time together next year!
Our socializing with our friends is an important part of our lives and we have missed this so much this year. We hope to refill that void in the coming year – after our vaccine cometh.
We hope all of you are healthy and were able to enjoy a little during this difficult year. With pain of the pandemic, and other events and things I’ll leave ambiguous, we are happy that 2020 is nearly over and we hope for a MUCH better future in 2021.