John Holyoke (clockwise from lower left), Billy Lander, Pete Warner and Chris Lander pose with the deer Warner shot on residents-only opening day of deer season, Oct. 31, 2020. Credit: John Holyoke / BDN

In a year when all of our lives have been much different than we ever could have imagined, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the negativity and to focus on the things that might have been.

More than once, I’ll admit, I’ve found myself wondering, “What else could possibly go wrong?” And then, sadly, I’ve learned the answer: Lots.

A pandemic has spread around the globe. A particularly bitter battle for the presidency left nerves frayed on both sides of the aisle. Civil unrest has flared up in many cities across the country.

Schools have been closed, graduations and special events canceled. Thousands of our fellow Americans have contracted COVID-19 and died.

But today, despite all of that, I give thanks. Maybe you will, too.

No, 2020 hasn’t been ideal for me, either. I’ve lost two beloved relatives to non-COVID illness. I’ve watched as my first book tour, which I’d been looking forward to for months, had to be abruptly stopped due to the pandemic shutdown. I’ve felt isolated and alone, sitting at my kitchen table and pecking away at the keyboard, day after day after day.

Still, I give thanks.

I know my family members still love me. My wife is here with me, and my stepkids are doing well. My brother and sister and mom keep tabs on me, and I do the same for them. Life goes on, for us, and we’re grateful for that.

I have friends who I still get to spend time with. We hunted birds and tried to call moose back in October, revisiting a familiar place with all the same pals. We ate too much and laughed a lot, and for three days, at least, it seemed like things were downright normal.

Billy Lander and Will Warner prepare to head out for a day of bird hunting. Credit: John Holyoke / BDN

Come deer season, we got together again, and celebrated when one of our group shot a nice buck on opening day. We pitched in getting it out of the woods, and tagged, and off to the meat cutter, reliving the event over and over again. I’m sure that in the years to come, we’ll continue to tell those tales, and cherish those memories.

With so many others having lost their jobs, or having suffered financially during the pandemic, I’m still working, as are my friends and colleagues at the BDN. I don’t take that for granted. Not for one second.

I’m thankful for that, too.

Today, I choose to look at our situation like this: We are lucky to be together. Me and mine. You and yours. And, don’t forget, we’re also all in this together. All across this great state, neighbors are still helping neighbors and people are pitching in to make the lives of complete strangers just a little bit better.

Some are donating to their local food bank, or volunteering their time. Still others are simply offering a smile, or a nod, or an acknowledgement of their fellow humans in ways they may not have before this pandemic turned our worlds upside-down.

To all of you, who continue to support local journalism, and who continue to join me vicariously on my trips afield, or chuckle when I explain how my latest best-laid plans go off the rails, I give thanks.

On this day, more than any other, I feel blessed to be able to do what I do, and to have an audience that makes that possible.

Happy Thanksgiving. Here’s hoping for easier times ahead.

John Holyoke can be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.com or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, is published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.

John Holyoke

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their...