When the pandemic struck last March and Vermonters were told to stay home and stay safe. Those who could work from home, including me, did.

There were so many unknowns last March, so many uncertainties, no clear understanding of how long the pandemic would last. Isolated at home with the dogs, it was hard not to be anxious. It was hard not be anxious about simple things like grocery shopping.

To stay sane, I began taking the dogs out multiple times a day on a loop near my house that is well used by my neighbors and a local sugarmaker. Always two, but often three times a day I took the dogs out on this 20-minute loop to help maintain my sanity. Sometimes I walked it clockwise, sometimes counterclockwise. It’s a piney forest that feels a lot like what Hansel and Gretel may have encountered.

This year, there is so much snow that that loop hasn’t been walkable without snowshoes (dogs + snowshoes = face plants). Last weekend the sugarmaking ATV was out and the trail was smashed down enough to walk it with the dogs.

As I walked through the bright sunlight, noticing that small pieces of evergreen had fallen on the sparkling snow, I remembered encountering those scraps last year on my hundreds of laps. I thought about how scared I’d been last year and how deeply unsettled I was by everything we didn’t know.

Last weekend as I walked, I was feeling hopeful and optimistic about getting to the other side of this horrible virus. I was walking in the sun for pleasure rather than to calm myself down.

I was feeling hopeful that my school teacher friends would be getting vaccines and they are this week. I was overjoyed that a pregnant school teacher friend and another pregnant friend had gotten a shot and gotten scheduled for a shot. I’m happy that so many people now have access to and are able to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

As I wait for my turn to get the shot, I can’t help but reflect on how fear led to resignation, impatience and then gratitude for how thoughtfully Vermont is handling this and now, finally, hope.