Remote Learning. Pandemic. Covid. SARS-Cov-19. Social Distancing. Masks. Quarantine. Isolation. Work-from-Home. Black Lives Matter.

These terms are not isolated to the year 2020, and except for Covid and SARS-Cov-19, are not new.

The issue of public safety sadly took a back seat in an election year with a grossly under-prepared national leadership and woefully underfunded state and national health, research and distribution systems. The extent of the disaster in the United States will not be fully known – perhaps for decades – until there has been time to compile and assess data on a) all the ways that this particular virus directly and indirectly affects the human host, b) the number of dead who succumbed to the virus, c) the number of people with permanent, disabling repercussions such as reduced stamina/strength, heart disease, brain damage, susceptibility to other infections, etc., and d) how many businesses closed entirely or permanently downsized, leaving individuals unemployed, families in need, and communities impoverished.

Realistically, while the deaths are tragic – and more so because many if not most were avoidable – the more devastating result is item (c) in the above paragraph. From an economic standpoint, what will the permanent (or even just long-term) drop in productivity do both nationally and world-wide? Will we see opportunities arise that allow people with disabling conditions to contribute in meaningful ways to their families and society? Will we see massive workforce gaps as family members (usually female) stay home to care for people who can no longer care for themselves? For people who worked in skilled but physical jobs, will they have to retire or find other employment that is less demanding… only to learn that there are no opportunities available?

Yet, it’s 2021, and there is hope on the horizon: vaccines have been developed and are beginning to be distributed; new industries have developed or become stronger; and due to reduced travel and work-from-home there are areas where ecological conditions have improved. If people can remember to stay home when possible, wear a mask when they must be away from home, and wash their hands frequently, the vaccine should eventually allow a return to more-normal socializing and work patterns.

It’s 2021, and it has been a week and a half since Christmas, when so many families and social groups gathered despite warnings to stick to household-only celebrations. It is less than a week since the New Year when many parties were held, in defiance of health orders to avoid crowds and restrict public gatherings. Already the hospitals in some places are overflowing (and turning people away) as a result of the much smaller Thanksgiving gatherings.

It’s 2021, and in the Pacific Northwest we have had a very mild (temperature wise) autumn and winter so far although the last few days have set rain records in my area. Still, mudslides, windstorms bringing down trees, and general flooding is threatening homes and businesses again. And milder winters here mean that plants don’t get the rest they need, and the pests (I am looking at you, banana slugs!) aren’t reduced in the spring.

It’s 2021, and I am fully employed but worried about how long that can be sustained with my health and mobility concerns and the needs of the age of students I normally teach (a moot point this year and maybe next year, but after that… ??). Even with a vaccination available soon, I will still struggle with regular episodes of anaphylaxis when students eat or otherwise bring allergens into my spaces. Will I have the ability to continue to teach as long as I had hoped when I went back to school?

It’s 2021 and our home is finally getting cleared out of things we no longer need – including many boxes from the fire and before… it’s slow going, but they’re going! I am letting go of so many mementoes – things only I care about and that are spoiled from mildew, soot, or both. The only memories I care about now are small, personal ones: marriage, parenting, people I love.

It’s 2021, and the surge of racially and religiously motivated hate crimes continues. It never went away, but in the last four years with a prominent example of a demagogue who celebrates racism and refuses to stand against hate crimes, there is a resurgence of harassment and assaults – and murders based on the color of a person’s skin, the accent when they speak, or the clothes they wear. With so many people I love being from other nations, “minority” religions, or races that don’t identify as white… my heart aches. In the schoolyard when bullying is not addressed swiftly and decisively by teachers and administrators it gets worse. Grown-ups are just bigger kids, and when bullying is allowed to happen or even encouraged, there are many hangers-on who want to affiliate themselves with aggressors.

It’s 2021 and we have plans for the yard and garden… but not sure if our income is up to all the somewhat urgent needs. We’ll make removing hazardous trees a priority, then fence the vegetable patch. Other improvements like extending paved walkways (for wheelchair access) may need to wait for another year.

It’s 2021 and with the death of my last grandparent in the autumn we no longer have any reason to travel long distances twice a year, so my world has become much smaller – day trips only from now on, so that I can sleep in a room that is free of most allergens and eat food that I am (usually) assured is safe. I’ll leave the over-the-mountains visiting to Tom, whose parents are more than a day’s drive away. I haven’t flown in years though I love flying, and cannot envision ever setting foot in an airport again.

It’s 2021 and I have to admit that I am a “bundle of nerves” around the political upheaval both around the world and in my own nation. For only the second time in my life do I feel that there is a probability for civil unrest that rivals that of the mobs of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Unrest that, at its core, is the result of accumulation of wealth and power in an ever-diminishing circle of corruption; and the cynical manipulation of those who are not powerful. Also, I am acutely aware of “saber-rattling” around the globe. As a student of history, I see far too many alarming parallels in these situations to be sanguine.

It’s 2021.

Happy New Year?


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