Happy New Year

December 31, 2020

So a lot of people are kvetching about the year that is ending. Good Riddance 2020, reads the headline on the National Post this morning. Below is Gary Clement’s cartoon, entirely devoted to the travails of the pandemic: toilet paper hoarding, Zoom calls, endless working from home. How depressing.

I just can’t feel bitter about the year that is ending, though. I feel the urge to celebrate all that Covid brought to us that we did not have: the good, unexpected sides of 2020.

I have just come from the home of a friend. Toronto is in full lockdown, so there is no question of me going into his house. I brought our dog, and we stood, in full winter gear, on his front porch.

We cracked some beers, and drank them out of the cans. For the first time in days, the sun came out. His house is on the west side of the street, so the sun did not hit our faces, but it did illuminate the roofs of the Victorian houses across the street, and I realized, maybe for the first time, just how lovely his street is, with all the houses painted different colours of brick, almost like a street in St. John’s or something.

The guy across the street was washing dishes, and we could see right into his kitchen; something nice about that, too: even the baby-blue dish gloves. People walked by, and our dog stood up to notice them.

In a normal year we’d be inside, maybe wondering why he’d selected that particular music, eating too much, trying to get comfortable…I would never have noticed the beauty of his street.

Earlier today we went for a walk with my cousin, his girlfriend, her kids, and our kids, and our dog. We walked along the Humber River, up from Etienne Brule park in Etobicoke, north along the riverbank.

Again, in pre-COVID times, we would have just gone over to his house, or him to ours, and sat around and chatted. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not necessarily good for your health, just sitting and drinking and eating. A walk – what an innovation! Besides, when there are eight people walking altogether, four men and four women, the impromptu alchemy of the construct is fascinating: here are two women swapping recipes – okay, now it’s my cousin telling me about his brother’s new girlfriend. Now two young men discuss chess!

There was a lot of ice around, on the paths and the grass, forcing us onto a narrow walkway, and forcing the occasional showdown with the remarkably uptight WASPy types in Etobicoke. I felt a little far from home out there.

The good news, the takeaway, is that prodigious numbers of citizens were out walking, even on a coldish and greyish day.

I love a walk. I never wished for a pandemic. That said, if it gets people out walking, standing on their porches, enjoying the air, marveling at the architecture and the sunset, then something good has come of it. As we get ready to usher in the new year, hopefully with a vaccine that allows us to shake hands again, let’s not lose sight of the good parts of 2020 — including al the things we normally did indoors, that we now do outside. WE have never had so much fresh air!