These are the Carnivals of My Pandemic Year-Plus

by Jamie Anderluh 

These are the carnivals of my pandemic year-plus. 

They were not busy. 

They were usually not planned. 

They did not seek attention. 

But they were beautiful. Because in a year-plus of things falling apart they will always be the bright spots.

These are the carnivals of my pandemic year-plus.

My blossom walks during my first COVID spring. At home. I smelled more blossoming trees than ever before, and I am still proud of it.

My sourdough starter named Cleopatra, who perished in a tragic oven accident but still lives on in my heart.

All of the times I danced in my childhood bedroom or with my dogs in the living room.

The time I happened to be staring out the window right as my next door neighbor was doing lunges all the way down the street.

My newfound hobby of cocktail-making. The time I made my first old-fashioned and accidentally got drunk at a socially-distant happy hour including my parents and that very same next door neighbor and his parents.

Telling my parents about the things I was still learning at Zoom University. “It’s all about the soil, Dad! Everything is all about the soil!”

Planting seeds with my mom in the garden. 

Packing up the car to drive across the country to work on a farm, and debating whether or not to bring a third jar of peanut butter.

The time I drove away, and my parents were standing in the driveway, and we all cried. Because, unexpectedly, it had been such a gift to spend those months together.

The time I drove through Utah, and I stuck my arm out the sunroof, and I was totally alone, and I sang.

When I got to Montana, and it smelled like lilacs everywhere, and I was terrified.

When I first met one of my boss’ daughters, and she handed me wildflowers and said, “This is a hug.” 

My second week of work, when it never stopped raining, and we pruned tomatoes in the hoophouse for hours and sang along to “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole.

The first time we made up a haiku while weeding.

All of the times we danced.

The time we were cleaning garlic for so long my thumbs went numb, only to pause for a spontaneous duet of “Islands In the Stream.”

How I fell in love with my coworker. 

When my friend Melina visited, and we sat in the meadow and saw a rainbow. Our synchronized swimming routine. Her dad’s special trail mix. Hiking the Highline with her whole family. 

All of the phone calls. How most of my friends went back to school. How I felt so far from them and so close to them at the same time. The love there.

The days we ate cheese boards at our picnic table. Our only table. 

Our tiny kitchen. The mini fridge we shared between the three of us. The shower in our kitchen. The dirt, everywhere.

The day we decided to name our composting toilet Old Faithful.

The first day the peaches were ripe, and how we cheered.

The day we found bear scat in the lettuce.

The day we found bear scat next to my camper named Sheila.

The morning I saw a bear with my coworker whom I was in love with. Because we had snuck away to go backpacking. Because the night before she had said that we might see one. Because that morning we heard rustling, and I said, “Good morning bear!” But I didn’t think it would actually be a bear. And we unzipped the tent and looked out. And we stared at the bear, and the bear stared at us. And this went on for a while. And then the bear continued on her journey.

That same backpacking trip, when we skinny dipped in Wildcat Lake and it was the deepest, coldest glacial blue.

The time they did the Holidays for my birthday. And I came back from town, and the whole farm was lit up, and they had turned one of the trees into a Christmas tree, and Christmas carols were playing, and I wasn’t allowed to do dishes, and they made Thanksgiving for dinner, and we all exchanged gifts. 

The time my boss swam in her underwear in the canal and I swam in my dress. 

The time we moved the chickens at nightfall, passing them assembly-line style, with headlamps and everything.

The time we sat in the cow pasture with fancy chocolate and a thermos of tea and looked at the stars and listened to “The Wolves” by Mandolin Orange.

The time my other coworker and I silently watched the entire moonrise.

The last days. Our barn party. Harvesting thousands of potatoes. Listening to the Pirates of the Caribbean score while washing potatoes, for dramatic effect and also to increase our speed. 

Feeling proud. Having contributed to something.

The day I left. How it snowed 13 inches. How I had to dig my car out of the snow. How I had help, from the people who had been my family for the last six months. How hard it was to leave. How much I still miss it.

Going to my sister’s tiny wedding. Officiating it because it was so tiny.

Coming home. Winter coming this time, instead of spring. 

The time my coworker, now girlfriend, visited on her way to Vermont and met my parents. How we watched Chopped on Tuesdays, and it was so fun. The Holiday High Tea we decided to throw ourselves.

How it was me and my parents again. How we still got along. How we planned theme nights for just the three of us. How we made our own beer flights. How my mom made scones. 

Dancing in my childhood room again.

Coming back to Ithaca after 11 months away. Moving into a home filled with Moosewood cookbooks and two fridges. 

Devoting a long walk to each reunion.

Feeling at home again. Living with six strong women. How we had a potato potluck for the seven of us. 

The day we jumped into Cayuga Lake when it was 30 degrees outside. And we felt free, and freezingly present. Together, after everything. It was our carnival. 

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