Today marks one year since the first morning that I didn’t go to work. I remember that morning well. I woke up, made myself a coffee, and sat out on the front driveway. I played guitar, watched the people walking past, and took in the sunshine. Kids were still in school, and I remember every day for the rest of that week, I would sit out in the morning, playing guitar, and watching the kids walk past.
The next week there were no more kids. Schools had closed, but I still sat out, drinking my coffee, some days knitting, some days drawing. I kept track of my days. From March 17th until June 3rd, I didn’t leave my neighbourhood. 79 days. I suppose it felt like an eternity, but now when I look back on those days when all I had to do was paint my nails and bake bread, I remember them fondly. Everything was new, different. I think I felt very present, very in the moment. It was an incredible spring, with blue skies and vibrant flowers, and I would spend long evenings laying in the grass on the empty golf course, watching the sun set over the hills.
It’s been a challenging year, but also an incredible year. I’ve built wonderful relationships with old friends and new ones. I’ve connected with my community in all sorts of ways I hadn’t before, and built up lively new communities from this place of the unknown.
I’ve learnt new skills. So many of the things that I spend my days doing - spinning, fermenting, making sourdough - were things I had never experienced before the onset of lockdown. Practices like morning walks, and long Sunday afternoons roaming the hills, have been born from this pandemic, and have become very meaningful parts of my life. I’ve found new joy in cooking, and in the moments of human contact that I get to experience. I’ve strengthened my relationships with so many people, and formed new friendships with new people.
I’ve stayed put, and benefited from it. I’m marking a year since I’ve last left Scotland. Never in my life have I ever spent an entire year in one country. I’m always running, trying new things, going new places. This year I stayed put. I’ve explored my neighbourhood, my city and my country, in the slow, slow manner that the pandemic has taught me to observe and to exist. Throughout my explorations, I’ve encountered some incredible places.
The River Clyde runs through Glasgow, northwest until it rounds off over the mainland and heads down into the Firth of Clyde. This is where ships would stop, unable to make it from the ocean into the shallower water towards Glasgow. This is where the twin towns of Greenock and Gourock rise up from the river, dotted with the remains of their industrial pasts.
A roughly paved road heads up from Greenock, away from the town centre and steeply uphill into Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park. Around a corner, it leads to bare grassy hills, grey lochs and rolling sheep pastures. It becomes quite remote. Along 8 miles of single track country road, I didn’t pass a single car. Only over a ridge from the town below, heading over the hill transports you to a separate world.
If you continue down the road, eventually the hills flatten out and the road descends to the town of Largs. A seaside resort, the coastal highway heads down south from Inverclyde, becoming the Ayrshire Coastal Route. The stormy grey skies of Clyde Muirshiel faded into spectacular sunshine, and I spent the afternoon swimming in the salty water and sunning on the rocks. The contrast was incredible, from barren highland landscapes to sandy beaches, all so close together.
I visited Inverclyde because it was close to Glasgow. I wasn’t expecting anything special, just to get out of the city, but I was amazed by what I encountered.
We never know what the future holds, or what we’ll discover. A year ago I couldn’t imagine what was in store for me, both the challenges and the amazing opportunities. In those last days before everything changed, I flew back to the UK from speaking at a conference in Canada, where several hundred people crammed into poorly ventilated rooms and ate from the same buffet table. I celebrated Purim in a packed synagogue hall, and served children dinner with my bare hands. I got on a train to Manchester with no mask and no hand gel without thinking twice. I had no idea what was in store. I got home from Manchester late Thursday evening, and the world changed the next Tuesday. We never know what’s around the bend.
This pandemic is far from over. A year in and we’re still dealing with lockdowns and restrictions. We think we know where we’re going, but I’m not necessarily convinced. But I am immensely grateful for all that I’ve encountered in the past year, and all of the goodness in our lives. It’s been a challenging year and also an incredible year, and I’m excited to see what’s around each coming bend.