Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 25° Clear
Sports >  Outdoors

Off the Grid: An unlikely Christmas gift

By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

For Christmas this year, I got COVID.

It wasn’t on my wish list, exactly. I figure, what with 2020 being the year of The Great Debacle, it rather made sense that I get this virus as part of the package.

I’ve been watching the news like everyone else and going through emotions about the pandemic as if they were on a giant spinning wheel. Every day, I take a new spin and end up somewhere between terrified or obstinate, guilty or in denial, or the well-lit and oft-used “dissociate by shopping online.” This, of course, leads me back to guilt.

I hadn’t yet dabbled in the shame and embarrassment of actually contracting corona, but the gasps of horror I heard over the phone seemed like I was calling a string of exes to confess an STD. At least I could say I caught it at work and not bar-hopping (which is still allowed in my resident state), and I managed to quarantine before sharing this Christmas joy any further.

Much like my Wheel of Emotions, the coronavirus is a crapshoot of genetic fate, pre-existing conditions, and a bunch of other stuff we don’t understand.

As naively courageous as my vitamin habit makes me, I’m not an idiot (or at least not often), and I bore the news with the appropriate amount of panicked respect anyone ought to have when afflicted by a potentially deadly disease.

I wrote my last wishes on a note card (the back said “Hacer” as before I was planning on dying I was planning on learning Spanish), and tripled my vitamin intake.

When I lost my taste and smell, I subsisted on soggy frozen vegetables as if quarantine was supposed to have an air of monastic penance. My asymptomatic teenager bounced about the home baking cookies I could not smell and undertaking craft projects at the rate of an overcaffeinated grandmother. On Day 6, our house ran out of paper and she declared a state of emergency.

My brother checked in from time to time, but mostly just to make sure I’d put his name on the notecard next to “all my bikes and my Subaru.” Friends stopped by with pots of soup and groceries. The UPS guys still made deliveries. As far as I could tell, the outside world was just humming along as usual.

A week or so in, I decided I probably was among the luckier crowd, although I still managed to feel sorry for myself. Mostly because I couldn’t taste those cookies, but I ate them anyway. Someone reached out to sympathize about the awful nature of this year in general, but remind me a new year is on its way.

And, laying in bed surrounded by a stack of delightful books, bright yarns, and a hot cup of tea my child had just made me, I decided that life rather has a strange way of giving us perspective.

Last year, I hired an arborist to come prune my fruit trees. All this time, I had been congratulating myself on their ability to produce an obscene amount of fruit, but then the apples grew too close together and some rotted and the pears were so heavy that half the tree came down.

When I came outside to see what he had done, my tiny orchard had been cut back to nothing but barren branches, their amputated stubs grotesquely jutting into the air. I was sure he’d killed them.

When spring came, though, the trees produced blossoms again, though not nearly as many. I waited patiently to see if fruit would follow, and indeed an apple grew here or there. When it came time to harvest, the apples, large and bright, were remarkably delicious and complex in flavor. Each one offered an magnificent perfume and a perfect crisp tartness that delighted the senses and made the mouth water.

If I had to label this year, I would say it was a year of pruning. The branches of my life have been trimmed back to the few meaningful ones I can actually nourish enough that they may themselves bear wonderful fruit. The activities and relationships I have preserved and prioritized are those that bring the most meaning to my life. They are surprisingly simple, require no money, and fill me with contentment and joy.

They also bring me soup and tea, and wear the hats I knit for them. While this year has brought some new challenges, it has also renewed my faith in everything from travel insurance to the power of love. And for this, and so much more, I am grateful.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the sports newsletter

Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.