Unlike previous years, this year I couldn’t easily find a photo to use for our holiday greeting email. There was one where I am at home with hair not washed, in another my husband and I are having dinner in front of the television, the food looks great but none of the photos of us are suitable for prime time. Others show a backyard family birthday celebration where we are all masked, and only one or two after I got the long awaited haircut, seated outside at a restaurant at dusk after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Do not worry! I will not bore you with the actual photos. And there were a lot of great photos of birds, and flowers, and bridges… This year I picked up the camera, and saw life through a different lens. Seemed this was a year for self reflection, and a collective questioning of what is.
In January 2021, a young poet’s reading in the presidential inauguration ceremony brought me a moment of rare hope for our collective future. Amanda Gorman’s words still resonate for me today, when my hope has dwindled as I look forward to January 2022.
“When the day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” With her red beret and bright yellow jacket, she filled us with optimism that we can actively search for the positive within the darkness of the moment we were living. That we have the power to isolate that light and use it to illuminate our path forward.
Thus started a year of upheaval, turmoil, with a tumultuous ride on the hope rollercoaster. At times, it was hard to remember that we were still “a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.” From the US Capitol insurrection, to mass shootings, to buildings collapsing, to winter storms and power outages, it was not easy to find that light. But we got vaccinated, rejoined the Paris Climate Accord and WHO, cried with Simone Biles, and watched Meghan and Harry when they sat down with Oprah. Broadway reopened in New York, and Juneteenth became a Federal holiday. And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg for 2021, which seemed like a bizarre extension of the infamous 2020. We are still battling voting rights and the right of women to choose. It’s hard to believe, but on the brink of 2022, women are still not guaranteed a choice; and not all Americans are guaranteed a chance to vote. To quote Amanda Gorman again: We are a nation unfinished.
On New Year’s Eve 2020, like many of us, I had big plans for the new decade. There was no way to know that by March 2020 we would be sheltering at home. Nearly two years later, we are still dealing with the uncertainty of this virus, our ability to find the light is still being tested. Working exclusively from home, shopping online, not seeing friends and family, still don’t seem too natural. I remember the first hug I gave my adult children, after we were vaccinated, after a year of no hugs. That was where I found my light. And in the between moments, I learned that perfection was not the goal, something our Founding Fathers understood way back when they set out to “form a more perfect union.” Sounds like they handed us a work in progress, our nation is a work in progress, and so is each and every one of us. How liberating it is to know you get a chance every day to make yourself better, to make a difference, to make our nation and the world, little by little, more perfect.
I recently learned that the word apocalypse means revelation in ancient Greek. That what we, in our current culture, see as destruction, could be approached as a revelation of great knowledge. As Amanda Gorman said: “for there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”
The photo I chose is of the Pacific Gold Mustard flower off the Northern California coast, on a gray and windy day. What I left out of the photo was the Pacific Ocean foaming like an angry beast. I zoomed in on the tiny petals, some of them wilting in a sea of bright yellow, which when used as a spice can create the ubiquitous prepared mustard. It’s not a perfect photo, nor is the flower itself perfect, but it’s beautiful and it reminds me of a day in 2021 that was more perfect in so many ways.
I wish you a revelatory, inspiring, and empowering, more perfect 2022!