Every year I look forward to cracking open my new calendar. I’m not talking about a twelve page landscape photography calendar, these are spiral bound paper planners that serve as an annual homage to my year ahead, a way of convening with the universe about what my future will hold. Every January I sit down and map out races, adventures, goals and projects. It helps me dream big and make commitments to myself. In an age of digital organization, this is a paper book I can hold in my hands, something real and tangible.
Nowhere in my book would I ever imagine blocking off spring, summer, and potentially fall, for global pandemic. I spent all of last year planning my new life after downsizing our family’s farm. The freedom I would have in the wide open space and time, meant limitless opportunities for me. 2020 was stacked up with work projects and adventures that I had only dreamed of in the years I had my head down taking care of little kids and working on the farm.
In early March I flipped through my paper planner, my eyes falling on the events written in black sharpie pen. First I landed in April: Traverse Puerto Rico on foot/learn about traditional foods. Then onto May: RACE Ice Age 50k then a week later Summit Mt Hood/learn about regenerative grain production. Into June: Lead running camp in Leadville. And July: Mountain running adventure in the Montana Rockies. The farther out the plan, the more hope I had that it wouldn’t be cancelled.
In between the bolded plans were notes written in pencil: turkey hunting, write grassfed beef story, potato planting. As the weeks went on, my focus shifted from the bold plans to the penciled in plans, completely changing my outlook on the bottoming out of the year. The stuff that happens in the background and gives a foundation for bolded plans, rarely gets to shine through as the main event. In our spring isolation, daily rituals became sacred: wake up, make coffee, start a fire, homeschool with kids, run, lunch, worktime, dinner, family hike. And of course I wrote all of these into my planner each day, to give our family a structure that COVID 19 stripped away from us.
Alongside my daily schedule I wrote things like harvest wild leeks and watercress, pick up cream for churning butter, and buy pigs. One of the first things I did when the world came to a screeching halt was to make a few phone calls to see who still had feeder pigs available. I found 15 heritage breed piglets for sale the next county over. The night before we picked up our little herd, I walked the fenceline of the wildly overgrown pasture. It was ironic how it took me three years to transition away from a farm life that would hold me in place, but only a few weeks for me to dive right back into it. I felt an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for something that was barely a year in my past.
A half a dozen or so times in April and May, I found myself lying on my back at first light on the edge of my neighbor’s ridge top farm field. My perfect strategy for being alert and ready when the turkeys woke up was for me to hike up half asleep in the dark, a third of a mile mostly uphill, to my stash of gear. Then after setting up my decoys I would fall back asleep in the grass until I heard the unmistakable gobble of a tom. Making time for spring turkey hunting has always been a tough balance with the running life, but this year there was space for both. The pandemic was pulling me even closer to my food and making space for me to reconnect with the land and the seasons.
The run from my front door up to the trails is short and steep. Every day that I run it, which is most days, I think of how grateful I am to be trapped in my little universe here in southwest Wisconsin. As I page through the upcoming months in my paper planner, I see my adventures staying close to home, this feels uncharacteristically grounding. The more I settle into the world around me, the more intrigue I feel for what I have in my five mile radius between home, the farm, and my trails.