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Every year, “One Month at a Time” has taken me places I never expected to go.

Some of this is just poor planning on my part. I am endlessly making lists of things I could do (or asking others to help me make lists of things I might explore) and then systematically picking them apart.

While there are no bad ideas, some topics just don’t lend themselves to being reasonably explored by a poorly funded, occasionally overwhelmed writer with a couple of dogs and a lawn the size of a football field.

Most of the time, my years doing this column are full of little and large kindnesses, lucky breaks, and just strange connections.

When 2021 began, I wasn’t certain what could be accomplished through One Month at a Time. It was winter and while vaccines were being rolled out, the country was still losing a couple of thousand people a day.

We were all still (mostly) wearing masks and observing reduced social interactions.

The hope was that as people were vaccinated, the pandemic would fade away, but it was too soon to tell if that was even going to work. Then just as the year got underway, we had what looked an awful lot like a half-baked coup attempt at the nation’s Capitol.

I wasn’t sure how a weekly column about trying very hard to learn to knit or making sushi might fit into the new world order. Often in violent revolutions, journalists get rounded up and thrown in jail.

I figured if they couldn’t find enough, I might get picked up, along with the Food Guy. I could do columns about making raisin wine in garbage cans. He could review our bread and water.

Luckily for the both of us, things settled down and I kicked off my year learning to play the ukulele. Despite some help from music teacher Andrew Winter and online ukulele phenom Caroline Scruggs, I didn’t make it that far.

I had a great time and found strumming the uke to be relaxing, almost meditative, but I didn’t really make time to practice and got out of the habit once January wrapped up.

I keep meaning to pick it back up.

From not learning to play the ukulele, I spent a month taking stock of my finances and trying to better my relationship with money. I stopped spending, except on utilities and gas for my car, ate all the food I’d stored up in my cupboards and all but begged friends to send me salt and pepper.

Along with that silliness, I got some sound financial advice from musician and finance guy Will Carter, but I can’t say that my financial situation improved much. This was true for many of us.

Wages never seem to keep up with expenses.

In March, I learned about mountain bikes and spent hours at Elk City Cycles with Brandon Kline. I also visited the Arrowhead Bike Farm and took my first trip on a bumpy trail to see the New River Gorge Bridge.

In April, I got back to my retail roots and became a scooper in training at Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream on Capitol Street in Charleston. I sampled every flavor owner and ice cream chef Ellen Beal had available (including the one with mint) and even tried my hand at making some fancy (or very weird) ice cream at home.

I have never been more popular in the newsroom.

For May, I ran around looking for waterfalls in the state, which was a great way to get out of the office and very illuminating. Not everything that gets called a waterfall by the government is something that anyone should bother hiking several miles to see.

Also, and I can’t stress this enough, always check for ticks after every hike.

June’s project was podcasting, but the podcast never happened because I just got too busy. In June, I also launched “55 in 55,” a harebrained scheme to visit all 55 of the state’s counties before Labor Day.

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My budget was uncertain. My plans were vague. I had the best time.

Over the course of nearly three months, I got to see a lot of West Virginia, met the kindest people, and ate my weight in junk food several times over.

I’d do it again if they’d let me.

For the fall, I tried my hand at rock climbing and hung out at a couple of rock-climbing gyms, including David Statler’s very cool eNeRGy Rock Gym in Charleston and Gritstone Climbing and Fitness in Morgantown.

I put my fitness to the test and, as usual, turned out to be less in shape than I thought.

In October, while everyone else was planning what to wear for Halloween, I faced some of my lingering body issue demons and posed for a couple of figure drawing classes. Local artists needed a male model and I wanted to see if I could see how other people saw me.

Friends gave me a hard time about it. I threatened to mail them calendars.

Being looked at so nakedly was exhausting, but also illuminating.

For November, I focused on thankfulness and learned that you can’t really force gratitude, even on yourself. Thankfulness is a state of mind, and you can work toward being more appreciative of what you have and the people around you, but you can’t just make yourself grateful.

It takes time to expand a heart. You can do that, of course, but not all at once. Forcing a feeling tends to lead to resentment and bitterness, I think.

To finish the year, I celebrated Christmas again. Through December, I checked in with holiday happenings that had been canceled in 2020, explored new events and sometimes struggled to find my Christmas spirit.

It all worked out in the end. I put up a tree, decorated it the way I wanted it and realized what parts of the holiday were important to me and which parts weren’t.

I could never have planned how any of this worked out. In fact, I didn’t.

When I began the year, I only knew I wanted to try to learn the ukulele and maybe ask Ellen Beal if I could try to do something with her shop. The rest (more or less) happened because the opportunities presented themselves and somebody said yes, when I was sure they were going to say no.

As I write this, I find myself again standing between the end of a year and looking ahead to the next. While I’m a man who likes to make resolutions and projections, experience has taught me not to make great pronunciations about them.

As the saying goes, “If you want to make God laugh, just tell him your plans.”

So, I have some ideas for what I’d like to do, but, as always, I’m open to suggestions and more offers than is probably wise. Who knows where any of this will lead?

Just the same, 2021 was a remarkable year, another in a series of remarkable years for me. I don’t know how I could possibly top the amazing things I saw and did in 2021, but I’d love to try.

Thanks to the many people who’ve helped show me around or teach me something they know. Thanks also to everyone who has followed along with my little adventures and let me know you were there.

It has meant more than I know how to say.

Bill Lynch covers entertainment. He can be reached at 304-348-5195 or lynch@hdmediallc.com. Follow @lostHwys on Twitter and @billiscap on Instagram.

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