The year 2020 is one we would like to forget but never will. Like some ultra slow-motion, never-ending train wreck it is something we didn't want to see but we could not look away. We all will be glad to have it behind us but we can't help looking back and marveling how we made it through.
2020 caught us like a deer in the headlights: incredulous, that we who thought we were so smart, who thought we were in control, who thought we had brought the world to heel and bent it to our whim, suddenly found ourselves, not only on the defensive, but defenseless. It is not a pretty sight when the self-anointed masters are vanquished and brought low, and all by something we couldn't even see. We who, a year ago, were likely to swagger about, shopping, eating in restaurants, traveling, or just shaking hands and exchanging hugs, soon were cowering in our rooms, afraid of our friends and neighbors, coworkers and even family members. 2020 was a year that was like living on a desert island limited to the things we had with us to sustain and distract, if not exactly amuse, ourselves.
My parents’ generation were the "make do" generation, having lived through the depression, World War II rationing and post war shortages. By necessity they were self reliant; growing food, making their clothes, entertaining themselves with only a radio, a book and a front porch. We should have paid more attention to how they did it because they not only survived it all but came through it mostly unscarred. 2020 was a test of our perseverance and resolve, of our ability to survive and get along on our own, at the same time making us acutely aware of our dependence others. We found that food does not magically appear in the supermarket, let alone in our kitchen, or toilet paper in our bathroom. It takes a whole community of people to supply our basic needs - food, power, health care, to say nothing of emotional and spiritual support. No one survives alone for long. We are all interdependent. We are all socialists in the real non-political meaning of that term. We are all social animals surviving only in concert with others.
Looking back on this year made me think of the annual holiday letter that some folks write. It is a bit of an art form. It's no easy task to find the right balance; to give the highlights for the year without seeming boastful. You don't want a letter that mentions that you had fillings put in two teeth and had the transmission rebuilt in the old Ford, but you also don't want to go overboard about how brilliant and successful the children and grandchildren are. However, a letter this year might say something like:
April - didn't go anywhere, didn't do anything
May - didn't go anywhere, didn't do anything
June, July, August etc. - more of the same.
Highlights would be more muted and mundane, like the last meal in a real restaurant that for us took place on March 14th in Tucson Arizona; the last live music festival we attended in New Orleans in January; a dinner with friends at our house in February. Or maybe more to the point the first curbside pickup; our new routine of takeout Thursdays; biking while masked. And, of course, the Zooming with friends, lectures, concerts and such. A pale substitute but grateful for it none the less. Can we even imaging what the pandemic isolation would have been like without the technology - no email, no text, no zooming. Or without nature - walking around the neighborhood, feeding the birds, hiking in parks and nature preserves - just being outside brought solace and renewal. And it was a good reminder that my significant other is truly significant.
As we face the bleakness of the winter, we hope for spring and long for the renewal it may bring. The sun of another summer beckons; may we all be here to see it.
One Small Voice
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