Saturday, January 2, 2021

Expansive 2021

There are years that ask questions
and years that answer.

Zora Neale Hurston


Thursday, December 31, 2020


I flip through my photo stream as I try to distill this year
into a final post hoping the images will tell a story I am unable to put into words. 
There's a dull ache in my chest as I acknowledge life was certainly lived;
the sun rose and set, vibrant buds filled nearby hillsides, meals were cooked and shared,
silver streaks sprouted from my roots, and faces of loved ones made guest appearances.  
And yet, my overwhelming takeaway is that, at best, life was on hold in 2020.
I was one of the lucky ones who was able to maintain my job, my health and my love, but I watched as the pandemic mounted a slippery slope of anguish for those less fortunate.
My first image of a stranger in a mask appeared on April's fool day like a novelty act,
a spectacle to be photographed. 
Civil unrest and months of shuttered businesses would not occur for another two months significantly altering the businesses selling wellness juices, expensive textiles and farm to table entrees.  
Boarded windows and For Lease signs became pervasive in all neighborhoods, as did homeless tents and piles of discarded trash. 
Compelled to time stamp the moment, my masked face becomes a constant in selfies taken on daily hikes in the warm late afternoon sun.
"I'm still here", the photos bellow, even though at times I felt like my body was melting into the side of the hill dripping into a puddle on the dry earth.
My slipping grasp on reality was indoubitably caused by the devastating wildfires on the west coast.  Living under a pall of grey smoke and ash we were literally trapped in the house.
I knew I would get triggered by the state of our democracy as the election neared,
but I didn't account for the fires and months of unhealthy air quality
creating an even larger barrier between me and the world.
There were immediate ramifications, but it was the searing reality that climate change on the west coast was no longer something that would happen in the future.
 It was at our front door and it threw me for a loop.

The most difficult, defining experience of 2020 for me to write about is absent from 
my photos, but the most profound.
It eclipses the pandemic, Trump's antics, the ugliness of racism in America
and the precarious state of the economy and environment.
Weeks before coronavirus became a household name,
my friend was diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer.
None of us knew what the journey would look like, and although there was a frankness in our conversations, there was always hope he would somehow beat the odds.
His robust appetite, stamina, lucidity and drive to keep writing indicated
he would ring in another year.
Optimism was winning until a brain scan in September revealed the protocol was not successful.
The virus precluded us from gathering while he was undergoing treatment,
but in the six weeks before he died we gathered at his home
in the makeshift hospital room which used to house their dining room table.
These were some of the happiest hours I experienced during 2020.
Complaints and grievances had no place in our conversations guided by the present moment 
and love.
"I'm a lucky man", he uttered with pure conviction.  
Our last evening together was November 7th, a day when church bells rang
and people shouted continuously in the canyon celebrating Biden's win. 
His face lit up when we walked into the room although it was evident his strength was waning.
Too weak to move to the TV room, we listened on the radio to Biden's and Harris' historical
acceptance speeches.
The moment felt suspended in time like a Rockwellian painting documenting this bizarre year.

Death is one of the great mysteries in life.
 I don't think of myself as particularly macabre or morbid,
 but how it will  happen and when is a thought that takes up space in my brain.
These notions aren't just about my demise, but others too, mainly loved ones, but I often go outside the box and ponder about others like The Queen or Donald Trump.
I think about losses which will have global consequences. 
I file it under the heading of curiosity.

Death is the biggest plot twist, but I'm undecided who it impacts the most; the dying or the living.  Dave's death was a little too close for my liking, and I'm not feeling very curious right now.
His loss builds like a pressure in my chest that I'm not always aware of until it gets so heavy
that my breath is shorten to a sob.
His death created a puncture wound in his wife's heart.
We hike when we can and talk often,
but the damn pandemic has hindered our ability to gather around a dinner table
or raise a glass of wine in his honor. 

Throughout this  inimitable year I've had an incredible man by my side. 
Although we were solid before the pandemic, our compatibility is even more abundantly clear.
I love him deeply and can't imagine rowing this boat with anyone else
which leads me to my last observation of the year.

The last day of the year is always a signifier of time marching on 
— endless possibilities loom in the distance as we collectively take one step closer to the finish line.
I hear the tick, tick, tick of the rollercoaster car as it ascends to the top of the track 
and I wish I was kid again whose gut flooded with exuberance anticipating the rapid drop.
The 2020 version of me is holding on for dear life with clenched hands.
A seriousness has crept into my being, stealing my frivolity.
This year has made me acutely aware of the fragility of life, our democracy and "normalcy",
but my goal is to shed the fear that it can all evaporate in nanosecond 
and embrace the moment at hand.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sunday Drivers

How do we mark the last weekend of the year 
when the infection rate continues to soar?
This has been a quiet holiday, but in the silence 
we have found ways decompress and enjoy the days off from work.
Today we drove south to San Pedro, walked along the promenade,
explored the old neighborhoods and drove down the coast through posh Rancho Palos Verdes. 
We came home sated, and put a big x through another day on the calendar.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Ho Ho Ho

The really good stuff about the holiday season —
the traditions that bring friends together and override the stress of getting everything done,
were canceled this year.  
I warded off an existential tug and 
settled for a vintage aluminum tree, evenings spent with Jimmy Stewart and Charlie Brown,
and Christmas Eve zooms with family.   
In the end, I embraced the simplicity of a pared down December, and am forever grateful
that even during a year unlike there was still something vivacious about the day.
I know I'm one of the lucky ones anchored by love and a sound structural foundation in life.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christas Eve Mood


Sunday, December 20, 2020

Solstice Pull