As July progressed, arts venues were feeling the pinch. Restaurants and pubs, beauty salons and barber shops were desperate for the July 19 end of lockdown. Some brave people had used the opportunity of lockdown to start new companies, others were able to continue largely unchanged; unless they were very lucky, all small business was starting to struggle.

In our little world, things kept moving forward. The Goslings were beginning the twelfth week of their lives. Daily, they grew stronger and more confident. The next few days were a lot of fun.

We had the feeling that the family would soon be flying off. Although he thought it would be almost two weeks, I wondered. We decided on daily visits, from that point.

Wing displays were more frequent and I always got the sense there was a bit of competition going on.

July 10 – My GP was trying to order in the steroid my Gastro specialist wanted me on. In the meantime, I couldn’t take pain meds and my energy levels were slipping fast, along with my mood.

There was a lot going on in the world that was upsetting and I was finding the lack of … social responsibility, I suppose … difficult to witness. Seniors were told they should be willing to sacrifice themselves, so the young wouldn’t have to live under restrictions. As a young Canadian man living the dream on Broadway lay in a coma from Covid-19 complications, others his age were denying they could even get sick, so why did they have to isolate. People who wore masks were sheep; those who didn’t pretended to have a hidden disability so they could get away with doing whatever they wanted; people with real disabilities were confronted on a regular basis as a result of those in society who abused the exemptions.

Always, there was the family.

July 11 – The Goslings were no longer able to huddle together to sleep and derive comfort, but they still liked to be close.

As I write this, almost a year later, I’ve just realised that we are faced with a similar social situation. Like then, the UK is looking at July 19 as the date upon which all restrictions will be lifted. The hospitality and entertainment industries are particularly grateful, as they’ve been struggling. And I’m watching the case numbers rise, incredibly. It’s like watching the beginning of the pandemic all over again.

The Health Secretary has just resigned in disgrace for breaking social distancing rules whilst having an affair with an employee. He’s been replaced as Health Secretary with someone who’s absolutely more interested in the economy than the public’s health. We’re at a point with the Delta variant that even having vaccinated an amazing proportion of the public, numbers of new cases were over 100,000 between June 28 and July 4, 2021. That’s half of the total number of cases in the UK at this time last year. I can’t even.

Thank goodness, I have the family to retreat to, both in this blog as I remember last year’s family, and in the thousands of photographs I have taken of this year’s family and that I will spend much of my time going through and developing. A wonderful distraction in trying times. Especially when I can get Seed Man to stand closer to me during treat sessions so I can get a different angle!!

July 12 – The UK case numbers topped 289,000, Canada was at over 107,000, and the US had reached 60,000 cases a day. Talk of Long Covid had already begun, as some who had been diagnosed in March, were still sick. And that morning, the family sun-bathed in the early morning light, prepping for an early morning feed.

In Hong Kong, the pro-democracy movement was heating up, with half a million citizens queueing to vote in an election that might have been illegal under a new security law that China was imposing. Much of the United States was living with record-breaking heat. The military, which had been sent in to help in long term care homes in Ontario due to the horrific care crisis during the early months of the pandemic, had been sent home a week or so before. And the UK was looking forward to summer fun when restrictions were lifted the following week.

In the meantime, the Baryshnagoose Competition was ongoing.

It’s always interesting as I look back on the family, every year. By the time they reach this age, it’s very difficult to tell them apart, but some traits always hold true.

And the joy of Seed Man’s visits was the gift that kept on giving.

July 13 – Then, the day came when I knew the family would soon be leaving us, once more. It started out innocently enough, with the Goslings coming in to get seed left over from the last few days.

Later that day, this happened. It was shaky, but they lifted off into their first flight. My heart soared to see it as my brain began missing them. It wouldn’t be more than a day or two, now.

July 14 – Of course, flight used muscles slightly differently and stretching out the next day really did help. It was an awful lot of fun to photograph. All of these take place in about two minutes of time. The action is constant and I swear, they were purposely showing off for me. Apparently, Baryshnagoose Competition Day had arrived!

I took these right after the massive Baryshnagoose Competition. It was like they were all checking to see if I saw them.

And then it began again, but nobody was paying attention … which was probably just as well because as this young male decided to show off for me once more, his leg got stuck in his wing.

And I took these in the evening light, just because it was beautiful and because in the face of what we humans were living, beauty was that much more.

July 15 – I was surprised to see them, actually. They often just disappear first thing in the morning. We might hear them honking as they fly off, but not always.

Seed Man’s visit was very much appreciated by all. You should hear them as they gobble the food pellets and seed. They talk and demand, squeek and grunt, and are constantly on the move, so their feet swish in the grass. And of course, by now, the Goslings are familiar enough that where Papa always used to make the demands, now the Goslings were confident enough to do their share.

A couple of hours later, the family was back under my window. These are among the last shots I took of the 2020 Lockdown Family.

We heard them honk the next morning, about 6:00. Then they were gone.

What a gift their friendship is, fostered over nine years … this 2021 family is our tenth. The trust is incredible. And in the face of what 2020 meant to humanity, their lives were a touchstone of beauty, of life before.

A year later, I’m still working on figuring out how to live with Crohn’s disease, but I’m getting there. I’m in better shape and my meds have been changed so that I’m on one that treats both Crohn’s and Ankylosing Spondylitis. The darkness that came over me last summer seems like a dream. The world will never be the same again. It can’t be. Too much has happened.

My hope is that we can rebuild, that we can create a new normal, one that takes into account the work/life balance so many have found, working from home, schooling children at home, that preserves the healing our planet has experienced.

I’m not sure how I will tell the family’s story next year. I never am until I start looking at the photos. Then, the stories become clear.

For now, I wade through the thousands of photographs I have taken of the family, choosing which to share. I know I shared rather too many this year, but I hoped that I might convey the immediacy of those moments, how quickly they occurred, how fleeting they were.

If we have, any of us, learned anything during this pandemic year, it is to cherish the moments with those we love. And to look forward to the moments when we can be with those we love, on the other side of all this.

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