16 December 2020


Written by: Bianka Martinez

Take a minute.

Slow down.

Catch your breath.

I feel like it's never a bad time to remind yourself of this. However its an especially critical reminder during a pandemic. Especially during the holidays. And especially when you have the weight of what the next year is going to look like, looming around the corner.


I’ve never been one to celebrate the holidays. My family isn't very religious and because we lived in a busy city, we made a habit of always working on the holidays.  We don't really have any traditions to keep going this time of year, or really any reason to be together other than circumstance. However after having the luxury of experiencing the longest year of my life, I’m definitely wishing I did have the privilege of being able to interact with my family, something I don't find myself saying very often.

It's this time of year when I see others being with their families and it fills me with sehnsucht. Akin to nostalgia, but for something I never experienced, it means a yearning for an ideal alternative experience. It's making me realize how much I miss them. I haven't hugged my grandparents in about a year. I’ve seen my mother very sparingly. And as I hear more and more people talking about how they’re traveling to visit their family, I have to remember that choosing to keep my distance is not only the best thing for me, but also for the people I care about.

On a lighter and more fulfilling note, I’ve recently had the pleasure of taking part in my first ever Hanukkah celebration. A friend invited me over for a covid-safe game night, where It was her, her partner, and myself, as respecting each others space, all wearing masks, and all enjoying each others' company. And not only was I fortunate enough to find someone to confide in a time where Ii'm separated from my family and friends, both by distance and by the pandemic. And I was fortunate enough to have someone willing to share their culture and traditions with me. 

For the first time all year, I felt like I was a part of someone's home, even if for just a brief instant. I felt whole, comfortable, and welcomed in a shared space after having navigated this pandemic for so long. We played board games, chatted, and at sundown she sung a prayer and talked us through her personal color choices of the candles she was lighting. She explained to me the origin of Hanukkah, the process of lighting the candles, how a menorah should be placed by a window to share the light with others passing by. We indulged in home made cheese latkes, and just took a moment to not worry about the goings-on around us. It might not seem like that big of a deal. But having come from a family that doesn't do holidays or tradition, it meant a lot to me to be allowed to glimpse into someone else's. It felt warm. It felt fuzzy. And it was both a perfect way to end my week, and the perfect way to start the next. It was a great reminder that sometimes it's okay to slow down, and that it's okay to just enjoy being in the moment.

Agency: U.S Forest Service

Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)

Location: Salida Ranger District

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