Turning the Page on 2020...


We snapped that photograph back in March, in the middle of what was one of the most enjoyable and surreal family vacations that we've ever taken. We travelled down to Everglades National Park over spring break. It was our first trip to the Glades, and the park is simply stunning and one of the world's most wondrous places. I enjoyed it every bit as much as I have such national landmarks as Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park and the Redwoods National Scenic Area in California. 

We saw every manner of wildlife that you would expect, from enormous alligators to docile manatees. We explored the entire park and spent a few enjoyable nights in one of the strangest towns I've ever visited. Stay crazy, Homestead! We spent the night at a resort inside the glades and explored Fort Myers on our way up the gulf side en route to spring training. 

Alas, that was when things got surreal and COVID-19 swept across the face of American life like a Montana whiteout, shuttering sports leagues, restaurants, hotels, museums, and all manner of public venues. We cut the vacation short by a day and, while driving home to Jacksonville through Florida's horse country, sat in silence while the anchors on NPR discussed teh scope and magnitude of the Coronavirus and how it was altering our near future. 

We circled the wagons back at home, sliding into the new normal fairly easily. Luke attended a few more weeks of daycare before taking a long hiatus while Lyla finished the spring semester fully online. My classes for the summer and fall were migrated fully online via Canvas, and Jeanne worked from home throughout the summer before heading back to Fletcher in August. 

We haven't eaten in a restaurant since that trip to the Glades. No Nights of Lights, Spooktacular, corn maze, Riverside Arts Market, or movies since March. Basically, it's been visits to the grocery store and walks in the woods. I've visited Deerwood a few times to retrieve items from my office, but I won't be fully back on campus until May. 

Our families are weathering things as best as can be expected, and for that we are deeply grateful. My mom has a pretty fragile constitution, and she and my dad have done an amazing job of keeping themselves safe. My sisters and their families are doing okay, although my nephews miss being in school with their friends. My niece is thriving in Eugene at the University of Oregon, and she is navigating these strange times as best as can be expected. 

I won't reiterate here what a strange, heart-breaking year 2020 was. No need for that. It strained our relationships and taxed us mentally. The four of us were not immune to that strain. But we made it through and I find myself typing this in early January with a renewed sense of optimism, some new coping skills for dealing with stress, and a fresh perspective on what it really means to struggle and stare into the abyss of self doubt. I am thankful for so many things, with the health of Jeanne, Luke, and Lyla at the top of that list. 

I think we have greatness ahead of us, as a country and as a species. The same existential threats that have plagued us for many years--climate change, inequality in human rights, and global aggression--remain, but I feel slightly better about our ability to persevere after what we saw last year. 

That's not to say that we've done a good job here in the United States with our response to COVID-19. We haven't, and my heart aches for the more than 350,000 Americans that have died in part as a result of COVID. I grieve for their families, and I hope that we can turn our inability to administer these vaccinations around quickly and efficiently. 

Happiness is never more than partial, of course, and we can expect ups and downs in all areas of our lives. But there were many downs in 2020, and I'm optimistic that we'll see just a few more ups in the new year. Happy New Year to you and yours. Stay safe, stay the course, and try to inject positivity in your days as much as you're able...

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