Last month, I was asked a series of questions my body has yet to find a response. These questions touched on the obstacles created by the COVID-19 pandemic, racial equity, and in what ways have I shown grace with myself and the connections I’ve gained in a stressful year. Weighty, right?

If I’m honest right now, I don’t think sitting down for three or four hours to write a post could do it justice. Nor do I believe the experience of a global pandemic could be properly paid off in any reflection.

It’s been a full year since I’ve put something in this space. If there are any wise voices I can credit this return to, it would be the few kind souls I can count on one hand who have asked me, “How is your writing coming along?” Sound bites and tiny nudges like these are the ones that have helped me climb out of a rut at the turn of the new year. So in 2021, let me muster up what has settled about this experience and continue charting a course towards the knowledge and experiences I’ve yet to live.

To me, the last 365 days have meant finding the strength to adapt by circumstance and not by choice. After the first stretch of stay-at-home measures and social distancing for over 60 days, it wasn’t until May that our local government let photographers back to work.

As the State of Minnesota began its #StaySafeMN campaign, it also brought up how we navigate between the potential sacrifice of personal health, well-being, and peace of mind against the safety of venturing back out into a world that’s no longer the same. It’s ultimatums like the latter that start a comparison game with any decision I attempt to make. Nobody wins. Shelter-in-place took on a whole new meaning as it was the first time many of us had to isolate (together or alone). Getting up from your desk meant, leaving your couch or dining room table.

Stopping by to say “Hi!” meant taking an extra 15 minutes to find an open slot on someone’s calendar to have a friendly conversation over Zoom or Teams chat. Me, my screen, and I. It wasn’t until Q4 that I finally had time to truly step away from said screen and enjoy some downtime. Catching up on a long list of to-dos including picking up Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book of Hours. One piece (III, I) speaks of claustrophobia in a manner I feel describes the quicksand effects of a mental battle with COVID-19.

Donald Prater (authored a biography of Rilke) said that this poem was written while traveling through a train tunnel as he was gripped with fear. Passing through the Alps on his way to Viareggio (city in Italy).

“It feels as though I make my way
through massive rock
like a vein of ore
alone, encased.

I am so deep inside it
I can’t see the path or any distance:
everything is close
and everything closing in on me
has turned to stone.

Since I still don’t know enough about pain,
this terrible darkness makes me small.
If it’s you, though—

press down hard on me, break in
that I may know the weight of your hand,
and you, the fullness of my cry.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, “III, 1,” The Book of Hours (Trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

Towards the end of his poem, Rilke calls out for an interaction that feels two way. Reciprocal in nature. The kind of outreach that only comes when you have the willingness to know and be known by others.

As much as this past year has taken from the world collectively, I’ve learned there will always be a give and take. For the relationships I’ve lost, kept the same, and watered—I’ve come to learn in my appreciation of making it to 2021—relationship is a dance with tension.

A series of decisions that lead to the tug felt when you stand still or leap. Acting in spite of the fear. It’s that thread, a silver lining guiding your sails to one moment with one person. It’s the feeling that grips you when thoughts of love, family, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, or significant other in a marriage come to mind. This year, I hope life will be different. In 2021, I hope to be more accountable and not be afraid to reach out to others because of what might be found on the other side of that door. That’s why I’m inviting a friend, Lauren Elrick (who has a beautiful way with words) on this journey of photography and exploration with me. The first of many creative partnerships I hope to experience in my lifetime. Crafting words, moments, and language that paint something worthwhile on this canvas we call life.

Lauren believes everything has layers. And when people go really deep, life is meant to be lived as more than just a smudge or blot on a line.

We’re coming up with a series of posts for 2021 that I hope helps you (and me) understand more of what it means to capture what’s in the heart. They won’t solve the world’s problems, but for the three feet of space we own, we’re able to conjure up language that makes us feel limitless in the pursuit of living well.

Happy New Year.
(Hindsight is 20/20)

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