The Year Alone: Reflections on Wonder, Luck and Hope

There is a storm on the way. These things look a little unbelievable on the weather forecaster’s computer display, but there seems to be a massive low pressure area cut off from the jet stream sliding relentlessly towards a part of the United States that will set up a big weather event. Snow. Lots of snow. Maybe feet of snow. I’m pretty stocked up but I needed a few items for my weekend cooking, so I headed to the grocery store late in the day to grab them. Oh, oh. The store was packed and the shelves were already emptying out. Shoppers radiated urgency as they raced down aisles disregarding the one-way Covid-19 traffic patterns. New shoppers were pouring in the door as I checked out and there was a whiff of panic as they passed me. This is crazy! How much snow is really coming, I wondered as I loaded my bags into the car and escaped the chaotic parking lot. I hadn’t seen anything like this since the early days of Covid-19 as the lockdown approached…

The lockdown. This week is the anniversary of the first Covid-19 death in my state, Colorado, and in just a few more days it will be the anniversary of the lockdown that started my year at home in isolation. So many people have been sick, and way too many have died. So much has been lost by so many people; this is the greatest tragedy of my lifetime. For me, however, in strict isolation, the year has rolled by with me in my own little world mostly disconnected from the greater world outside; my story is a lockdown story, not a Covid-19 story. I have been disappointed by people who kept me trapped in my home by refusing to wear masks or to comply with public health recommendations, and brought to tears by the kindness of strangers. A year is a long time; looking back now it seems like it passed in a flash even though I had some real struggles along the way.

Last night one of the local news programs had people post the last picture on their phone before the lockdown happened. Here’s mine.

My son’s kitten Jonesy in a tube attached to the cat pillar. He’s a 6 months old kitten in this shot.
Jonesy today as a handsome young adult at 18 months old.

This year of isolation has been 2/3’s of Jonesy’s life and the entirety of Hannah’s life as she was born within the first few days of lockdown in the middle of March. Looking at Hannah and Jonesy it is so obvious how long this year has been. Looking at Hannah and Jonesy it doesn’t seem all that bad, but of course this has been an extraordinarily tough year.

I sewed some cloth masks early on and wore them on the few occasions I had to leave the house: a science geek who had read way too many books about epidemiology, I suspected airborne transmission based on anecdotal reports from the New York City outbreak. That mask picture is the 2nd one on my phone after the start of the lockdown. As the debate about mask efficacy raged in online forums I wore mine anyway and ignored people who made negative comments. Almost a year later I was wearing two masks, one a highly regarded Vogmask, as I got that first dose of Pfizer vaccine.

“Do you trust the vaccine?” asked my neighbor yesterday. “Absolutely,” I replied.

I feel very, very lucky to get this Pfizer vaccine. Through chance I have a degree in molecular biology and worked for years in an immunology research lab. The molecular trickery used in this vaccine to harness my immune system to protect me from Covid-19 is the best thing that happened all year in my opinion.

I’ve been assigning lots of labels to this year spent mostly alone with my little tuxedo kitten, my books, and my bottomless pit of a yarn stash. This has been the year of astonishment. The year of disappointment. The year of living dangerously. The year of setting priorities. The year of realigning values. The year of healing. The year of decluttering. The year of absolute outrage. The year of lies and fake news. The year of masks. The year of Zoom. Finally, today, it is the year of luck and wonder.

I do want to apologize for my use of the words luck and wonder. There is no real luck in a pandemic at all. I absolutely know how awful and devastating this has been for so many people: how profoundly unlucky so many of us are that this happened to us right now in our lifetimes. The mutation and jump to humans of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was an event that has been anticipated and feared for a long time. It’s like waiting for an earthquake in California (The Big One) that will be massively destructive. You know it is coming, but you don’t know when or exactly where it will strike, and how devastating the damage will be. You prepare for it and hope that you are ready. How ironic, after growing up in California waiting for The Big One to hit, the crushing event of my lifetime came from a virus. In spite of the basic awfulness of all of this, I am learning to value the little crumbs of luck that came my way during my time in strict isolation while other people recovered so much of their lives and I was left behind.

I am so grateful for the luck, the random chance events, the technology, the human kindness, and the science that helped me get through this year.

My wonderful pandemic kitten was a failed adoption returned to the shelter and rejected by everyone else before I arrived to find her alone standing in a little cat tunnel. The last kitten left in the kitten room; her 6 litter mates had all found forever homes days before. Returned, rejected, all alone: the one thing that I needed. How lucky is that?

That’s little abandoned kitten Hannah on the left, 6 month old Hannah in the middle, and Hannah tonight hanging out with me while I type. Hannah was the one thing that I needed to pull me out of growing sorrow and a sense of abandonment when I realized that the the pandemic was raging unchecked in the USA as the result of a deliberate policy set by my government.

I was diagnosed with nocturnal hypoxia and received the oxygen equipment 5 days before lockdown. How lucky is that? Because of the oxygen I have been steadily improving for months.

I can order anything that I need online and have it delivered to the house in just a few minutes, hours, or days. Seriously, almost anything. A hamburger? It’s on the way!! A case of paper towels? My Instacart shopper is on it! A pair of new sheepskin slippers? Amazon makes it happen! More yarn… yes!! A plethora of indy yarn dyers will ship me my heart’s content. What would have happened if this pandemic hit in the 1990’s? How lucky that the technological infrastructure that allows all of these supportive services to exist is there for me and everyone else who needs them.

Every time I stream a movie on Netflix I feel lucky.

I was raised in the 50’s and 60’s: I can home cook from scratch and have returned to the meals of my childhood. Comfort food in a modern crockpot. How lucky is that?

I have a SMART PHONE that does everything that I can imagine doing. It banks for me. It remotely checks me into my doctor’s appointments. It tells me the route to drive to come home after a long day in a medical center. It connects me to so many other people in Facebook forums. It answers all of my questions: a couple of YouTube tutorials can handle any crisis. I can text all of my friends and family no matter what is happening outside. I feel lucky, people!!

I met with my primary care doctor via Zoom. I feel grateful for Zoom, people, even though most people in America hate its guts by now.

Knitting and reading groups have sprung up online that have connected me to wonderful, supportive, and positive friends from all over the world as we share our books, knitting, and cats. Then there is this blog. I tell you, I feel so lucky that this is all possible.

The Sharon Show, a MKAL run by Sharon from Security, a snarky cat who loves whiskey a little too much…

I can get unlimited ebooks and audibooks (well, as much as my bank account will allow…) instantly delivered to my Kindle tablet. I feel lucky.

In my year of isolation, oxygen, and limited adventures out of the house my painful joints have settled down, my kidney function has improved, and my red blood cell count has fallen into normal ranges for the first time in years. I am doing much better in many ways. Okay, I’m looking at a lot of medical testing to identify the cause of persistent chest pain, and there is still the problem of the severely damaged hip joint, but I’m in much better shape at the moment to tackle this then I was a year ago. I feel lucky.

Winter will end and the garden outside will come back to life soon. I feel lucky!!

I spend too much time wondering about things. Left alone, I have a lot of time for my imagination to run wild as I wonder about everything. I wonder if my roses all survived the dry winter. I wonder if the vet will yell at me for not getting Hannah in for her shots this year. I wonder what would have happened if this pandemic happened 20 years ago. I wonder what if it hadn’t happened at all. I wonder if I should throw away so many of my belongings as I declutter. I wonder why do I have a rare disease (systemic sclerosis) that appears to share some characteristics with Covid-19; what were the chances of that? I wonder when the Big One will come. I wonder if I should write a book. I wonder how I should combine colors of yarn in my next knitting project. I wonder what is happening with the Covid-19 long haulers. I wonder why some Covid-19 long haulers have improved after getting their Covid-19 vaccinations.

I wonder why, one week after my vaccination, I feel significantly better then I did two weeks ago.

I am actually looking forward to shoveling some snow this weekend.

In the greatest of tragedies there are still little crumbs of luck and rays of hope.

May our bad times end soon and we all have days of wonder, luck, and hope.

Author: Midnight Knitter

I weave, knit and read in Aurora, Colorado where my garden lives. I have 2 sons, a knitting daughter-in-law, a grandson and an exceptionally spoiled kitten. In 2014 I was diagnosed with a serious rare autoimmune disease called systemic sclerosis along with Sjogren's Disease and fibromyalgia.

20 thoughts on “The Year Alone: Reflections on Wonder, Luck and Hope”

  1. Such a very wise take on the year. I was born in 1942 so can identify with some of what you say about early years. I have often thought of us as the lucky generation in this pandemic. Whatever criticism is levelled at our government at least we haven’t had our PM leading the lack of regard for others.

    1. I really do think that we are the lucky generation in the lockdown, but sadly the very unlucky generation in terms of impact by the virus as so many have died from our cohort. It’s a strange mixture of survival strategies: self reliance and home cooking with all the modern conveniences of no contact shopping and Zoom meetings. πŸ™‚ I do have some concerns that several states near me are lifting all of their restrictions and mask mandates… as a former science teacher I am freaking appalled!

  2. Firstly, in case I forget, you write so beautifully I was thinking you should write a book. Then I read you were wondering whether you should…my vote is Yes. You have so beautifully described your year during this crisis and many of the thoughts you’ve shared have such similarities to the thoughts I have had. You mention when the big quake in California may happen, I often wonder about Yellowstone or some super-sized volcanic event. There are rumblings in Iceland at the moment, volcanoes fascinate me. I guess I didn’t really have in the back of my mind a pandemic like this. As we approach the year anniversary of lockdown here it is a good time to reflect. Perhaps I shall write my own reflection post whilst I’m having to wait at the Drs today for my jab. Does it make you wonder whether perhaps you had a Covid-98 or whatever year you first experienced the symptoms of your disease? I have said it so many times before, but I am so glad you and Hannah found each other.

    1. I do wonder about that freaking supervolcano in Yellowstone from time to time!! There was a huge swarm of earthquakes a couple of years back and the temperature of the lake in the Yellowstone caldera rose a couple of degrees and I was excited/concerned at the same time. I think that we all crave disasters at some level (that’s why we love those movies) but the real thing is not fun at all! I hope that your jab goes well and that you have your own selfie to post too! I was so happy and excited to get mine. πŸ™‚

      I have thought (wondered) a lot about the Covid-19 and my own autoimmune condition. The analogy that I’m thinking of is cancer: there are many pathways to cancer, but once cells arrive there they all have common hallmarks that are well defined. Ironically, systemic sclerosis shares some of the cellular hallmarks with cancer and people with my condition are high risk to develop cancer. Anyway, some of the pathways that are causing pneumonia and scarring (fibrosis) are the same in Covid-19 and systemic sclerosis. Treatments to shut down those immune system pathways could certainly apply to both diseases. It’s kind of the best of times, the worst of times right now in the scleroderma community.

    2. I forgot to talk about thinking of writing… thank you so much for your very encouraging words. The woman of my family have lived amazing, just amazing lives and I keep thinking that there is a book in there somewhere. Then reading World of Wonders made me think of all the wonderful reflective experiences I have had connecting my life with moments in the natural world. Stuff more like this post… I also think about a book called Hannah and Me

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words about my writing. I avoided writing for years (hello… science major because you didn’t have to write term papers…) only to succumb to a need to write later in my life. It does hurt my hear to think that Hannah almost slipped away to an unhappy life in a home where she wasn’t well loved. As I took her out of the shelter one of the workers told me that she hoped I was ready to handle a crying kitten at 3am and she didn’t want to see me bring her back! How sad is that? Hannah was exceptionally needy for weeks and I just let her attach to me and babied her. Best little kitten ever!!

  3. This is a beautiful post. I would definitely read a book you wrote! I’m so glad you’ve found what you can be thankful for this year, I know it’s been tough for me sometimes to feel happy and grateful with everything else going on around me but we can only take grace as it comes.

    1. “only take grace as it comes” is exactly what I’m feeling these days. It is so hard to carry on sometimes when everything is SO HARD!! but that is what we all are doing because there is no sense in dwelling on those things that we can’t change. Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement.

  4. Beautiful post – I love your writing! I also vote yes on a book πŸ™‚ I love your reflections on the ups and downs of this past year and of your situation. It is a good thing to think about the luck or the blessings or however people want to think of the good parts of the last year, which has been not great in so many ways. I know I say this often – so glad you and Hannah found each other! You are so perfect together πŸ™‚ Stay safe and warm in all this snow, you two!

    1. Hannah: I looked the snow last time it came and I don’t think it is nice stuff at all!

      Thank you so much for the encouragement. You know, I started writing this blog for myself in the beginning and never thought about making it appealing for other people. The voice that I use is just me putting my little life out into the world. It makes me happy that anyone else finds it worthwhile to read. πŸ™‚

      I forgot to mention in the post the luck of all the wildlife that has emerged in my neighborhood/yard since I started staying in so much. I guess that will be another time. I have some seriously cute bunnies hanging out and playing together in the back, and last night I heard a great horned owl.

      I was pretty much starting to slide into depression when I managed to get Hannah last summer. Best thing ever for both of us.

      1. Hannah – it is pretty cold stuff for kitties to be out in. You should probably watch it from inside the house. Preferably from Kitten Mom’s side!

        You always have an interesting perspective and I’m always glad to see one of your posts in my feed! It is so great to see how much more wildlife is about now that more people are home more of the time. Yay for bunnies and also owls, but hopefully they are not too near each other!

  5. There is a lot to be grateful for, and you’ve outlined them beautifully. I’m so happy to read about the improvements to your health. I volunteer thirty hours a week at an unhoused women’s drop-in center, so I reflect daily on the wealth that keeps a roof over my head, food on the table, and love in my heart. So many of the women we serve live with a mental illness (or two), drug addiction, loss of job and family support, violence, and on and on. I long for a society that can right these wrongs.

    1. Wow! You are really doing meaningful volunteer work. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. I taught in marginalized communities and I also reflect on all the good things that I have and how many people suffer with so little.

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