The Year in Pictures — 2021 Edition

The general consensus is that all time, day, and season since the announcement of the pandemic and the beginning of “these unprecedented times” has flowed together, coagulating into a formless lump of frustrated expectation. The expectation is that life will at any point now return to normal, or at least how we thought of that word prior to March 2020, when it seems that the powers of the world at last conspired to draw their net around the mass of us privileged, who up until that point had managed to eke out our lives in this place without more than the ordinary lot of troubles, looking on more or less helplessly as the “others” of the world suffered for our comfort, and perhaps, in our place.

But normal is one of those words whose meaning seems to fall apart upon close examination. It’s certainly not a universal condition. It can be understood only in a vague sense when conveyed to others. It is transitory. And how much of what we tell ourselves anyway is clouded by our own needful illusions or willful blindness? Did we ever understand what normal was? To anyone who has been paying attention the current situation, though highly abnormal, surely can be explained, even expected. Is it normal to think that we can go about living as we do, from day to day, forever without encountering any challenges to that life? To our assumptions? To our convictions?

It is in these times that we find out who we are. How to live. What to value. We look at things afresh. The normal takes on new meaning. Amid all these constant changes we continue to look for the light, to change our perspective, and wait for the perfect moment to… act, to snap that photo.

Do you see what I did there? I brought it all back to photography. I’m a good writer.

Anyways, it’s that time again, so enjoy this collection of my favorite photos from the year just past. We took a really lovely and memorable trip to Sedona in the spring, and I believe I added several to my collection of personal best photos from our local area.


The Year in Pictures — 2020 Edition

This year was different.

News of the virus in China had already begun to circulate late last year. The videos and stories coming out of Wuhan were quite terrifying. People being welded into their apartments to prevent them from leaving. Bodies being secretly cremated en masse by the authorities. Sick people being burned alive. You have to wonder now if any of that had any basis in reality. I have come to distrust the news, both mainstream and alternative.

By February Donald Trump was doing quite well in the polls. It appeared that he would go on in November to handily beat whomever the Democrat challenger ended up being. By March the disease had reached U.S. shores, and the lockdowns began. Racial strife was unleashed yet again after a series of police killings of black men, eclipsing for a time the nation’s obsession with matters of gender and sexual identity. People marched in the streets. The marches gave way to riots. Righteous anger stood shoulder-to-shoulder with hate, the flames ever fanned by media new and established.

Meanwhile the lockdowns took their toll on normal life. Vacations were canceled. People stayed home. Businesses closed. People lost their jobs. Thank God we survived all that, but my daily habit of working away from home was seriously curtailed. I rediscovered my neighborhood. Took up walking every day at lunchtime, through the heat and sun. I could sweat as much as I pleased. I discovered a new trail system they’d built not too far from us. Found out what the grasses looked like there in the evening light. Found beauty in the spring clovers. There’s a lot of that kind of stuff in this year’s set. I hope you don’t mind.

(Kassi and I did end up taking the kids on a short trip to Arkansas. That’s in there, too. I think we all appreciated the break, as little as it was. We learned that traveling with masks is not completely unbearable.)

The end came quietly. Not without a fight but without violence. Donald Trump is gone from the news after dominating the nation’s attention for four solid years. Covid is still around, worse by any measure than it’s ever been, but the raw fear is less, I think. You learn to deal with pretty much anything. We like everyone else are looking forward to a bit more “normalcy” next year, but I don’t think you ever go back fully to the way things were. You always take something from your experience and carry it with you into the next phase. I hope we can carry with us the coping skills we’ve learned and a renewed appreciation for the little world around us.

Real Life Pokemon on my Walk

Evolved my Ekans into a Daehreppoc. 🐍 Not bad, huh?

But this was my luckiest catch of the day.


Lunchtime Walks on Quarantine

Things have become very busy for me over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been given primary streaming and video responsibilities for our church during the lockdown, all the while ramping up for a new gig at my job, and working on an interesting side project as well — a product shoot for a friend at church who is opening up an Etsy store. (On a side note, I’ve never done anything like that and was honored that she even asked. I’m not 100% satisfied with the edits yet, and I could have done a better job on tamping down the glare in a few of the photos, but overall I’m happy with how they turned out. Even the glare, I think, provides the kind of natural look that she was going for in the shoot.)

The news seems mostly bad during lockdown, and the weather not much better. One of my quiet pleasures, one that has helped to keep me balanced, has been my daily walks. Sometimes one of the kids will tag along, and today I had both my boys with me. My little one held my hand most of the way. He’s seven now, bigger, so it touched me. I wonder sometimes when things like that happen whether they will be the last. There’s always a last time for everything that happens. When he got tired, I carried him on my back. We talked practically the whole time about his favorite toys. His little interests. He told me that if a vintage toy store carries Ninja Turtles, they’d always have a rack full of surplus April O’Neil toys that nobody wants to buy. He asked me what I wanted for Christmas. We speculated what a Star Wars movie would be like if all of the characters were Jabba the Hutts. Augie mostly kept silent. He does that a lot on our walks. Like me, he likes to meditate. I hope he enjoys the sun and air like I do.

The CV Lockdown Blues. Missing California.

I suppose it can’t be helped; every year as March drags into April, as the days get hotter and the brief Texas spring looks more toward the summer, the early zeal of the Lenten discipline wears off, and the sacrifices once willingly undertaken become an annoyance and a burden. These things are only compounded by the enforced isolation and the looming prospect of an almost anti-climatic, if not mildly depressing, Pascha undertaken as it is this year without the usual joy of communal celebration. I find myself thinking about freer times, without all these restrictions on movement and enjoyment. We — the whole family, really — have been fantasizing about another vacation, although I don’t expect there will be anywhere to go for quite some time. I was chatting with a colleague today and I realized I missed California; miss in a sense my old travel schedule and working lifestyle. Pasadena was beautiful. Interesting. It was a great working experience on top of everything. I like to travel, let’s face it. I like exploring, and I always have. I’m glad I had the good fortune to share that with my wife Kassi, on our second most memorable trip together anywhere.

To commemorate those times, I thought I’d put together this collection of my California blogs for both you and me to revisit and reminisce. Enjoy.