What I will remember about this year, in addition to the obvious:
Over the past several years, as my climate anxiety has increased, I have become more and more interested in plant life. One of the ways this has manifested has been in an increasing obsession with house plants.
I have channeled much of my pandemic grief and helplessness into nurturing struggling and/or discarded plants, including this sweet baby, which I found next to a “free” sign on someone’s porch. (Note that photos are, per usual, Carla quality.)
We also attempted (and mostly failed at) growing food. I ambitiously bought packets of seeds (basil, parsley, tomatoes, carrots) in March, thinking the project would be a good learning experience for the kids and a good way for us to stay connected and grounded during a time defined by screens.
The experiment started well; at least, the seeds germinated as expected.
Unfortunately, very few of the plants made it past the start stage. After many months of tending (during which only a few plants survived long enough to be moved outside), we harvested a handful of parsley, enough basil to make one batch of pesto, and zero tomatoes. The carrots, which we attempted to germinate outside later in the spring, never sprouted at all.
Our pandemic experiment was not the first time we failed at growing food. In past years, we’ve planted collards, lettuce, broccoli, and pumpkins. We cared for all of them according to the experts’ instructions, without success.
After this latest debacle, I decided that growing food was not my/our “thing” and vowed to limit family farming adventures to harvesting the apples from our tree. But then last month, when we soaked some dried black beans a bit (OK, a lot) longer than necessary, several of the beans sprouted. What could I do but put the sprouts in some dirt?
As I type, I have bean plants growing on my bedroom windowsill. One has an actual bean pod. So maybe, just maybe. We shall see.
Since 2018, the kids and I have served as “forest stewards” at our neighborhood park. The title is impressive, but the job is pretty basic: We manage a small planted area of young trees and native plants. This year, we (OK, I) spent most of our work hours removing invasive blackberries.
Digging up blackberries is tough work. And, though I love nature in theory, I’m not really much of an “outdoor” person. I’m cold natured and comfort seeking and a bit on the skittish side. But the hours I’ve spent on this strenuous, sometimes painful job have been some of the most satisfying I’ve spent since the pandemic started. Each time I do it, I become so focused, I lose track of time, rescuing tree after tree from the choking vines, until it’s too dark to see. I leave feeling tired and proud of my efforts. And even a little bit hopeful.
For me, the most beautiful thing about 2020 has been watching people take care of each other. From Seattle Community Kitchen serving free chef-cooked meals, to Covid-19 Mutual Aid delivering groceries and hygiene products across the region, to the Seattle Transit Riders Union creating a solidarity fund to buy propane and other necessities for unhoused neighbors, to Bike Works and 350 Seattle organizing a bike drive for emergency transportation support, folks stepped up and stood in the gap for each other.
2020 pushed us toward the future many have been working to build for a long time: a future of, peer-to-peer support, without roles like “giver” or “receiver.” A future where we recognize that our destinies are intertwined, and we finally, finally start acting like it.
In May, my brother Jeremy turned 40. In August, my church friend, Mrs. Alcine Wyatt, turned 100(!). In November, my baby girl turned 13. (Yes, folks, I’m a teenager in bus mom years.) And, also in November, by youngest nibbling, SC, celebrated her first trip around the sun.
It was hard to not be able to gather in ways that we’re used to. But we marked every occasion nonetheless.
Mrs. Wyatt’s loved ones planned a “drive-by” parade. Folks drove past her home at an appointed time, playing music and waving signs from their cars. Our crew walked up, of course, which meant we had the honor of being Mrs. Wyatt’s birthday elves. We transported gifts and cards from her well wishers’ car windows to a box just inside her front gate.
We celebrated Chicklet with a few of her closest buddies in our front yard. We set up a projector and screen in the late afternoon, just as it was starting to get dark. Then, we lit lots of candles; passed out blankets, handwarmers, and hot cider; and watched an outdoor movie.
For my other two beloveds, we gathered outside and shared stories (and, on SC’s big day, Seahawk-themed doughnuts).
Nothing was as we would have wished, but we did what we could. Because if there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s to give folks their flowers—and “Happy 100th birthday” cards—now.
The badasses of the WNBA
One thing I don’t write about much here is my lifelong obsession with basketball. So for those who didn’t know: Basketball is my sport, the WNBA is my league, and the Seattle Storm is my team. (Yes, I spent 30+ years as a Sonics fan. And yes, I’m still bitter.)
I appreciate the WNBA players so much—their leadership, their integrity, their sports(wo)manship. This year in particular, the players showed leadership in the fight for racial justice, putting forth a social justice agenda and insisting that the league adopt it.
Watching the games in the “Wubble” kept me sane this summer. And watching the Storm play team ball all the way to a fourth championship was my idea of basketball nirvana.
Much respect and gratitude to these women of talent, principle, perseverance, and integrity. They held me up (and down) when it felt like everything was falling apart. Their courage and strength became my courage and strength, and helped me rise to the many challenges this year presented.
I don’t have any illusions that the hardships we’ve experienced in 2020 will vanish when the calendar changes to a new year. But I do have hope that we, the people, will continue to unify around the things that matter: care for each other and our shared home. Let’s make 2021 a year of transformation.
P.S. – Here’s a list of the books I read in 2020. It was tough to find time (and often tough to concentrate), but I’m grateful for the ways these authors shifted my understanding, enhanced my knowledge, inspired my action, or just plain entertained me.