Year in review

It’s hard to even know where to begin. 2021 was full and rich and challenging and beautiful. I’m just going to list a few of the key moments as we look forward to an exciting 2022.

We drove 40,000 miles and visited 27 states. We logged dozens of new interviews and hundreds of new studio portraits.

We stood beside the border wall on the day that construction stopped. At the very spot where construction stopped. 

We got stranded in El Paso as the rest of Texas lost power during an ice storm. 

We talked to people in Oregon whose homes were burned to the ground by a historically large fire in 2020, while an even bigger fire burned through the state this year.

We spent time in the Louisiana bayou just months before Hurricane Ida devastated the region.

We left Kentucky the day before a late season tornado went through.

We gathered stories in Mississippi at the foot of a Confederate statue. We spent time with the Water Protectors along the Mississippi River. We walked Skid Row in Los Angeles. 

We talked with immigrants and cops and drag queens and soldiers. Artists, adventurers, activists and ambulance drivers. 

We squeezed in our youngest’s senior art show and college graduation. We celebrated our niece’s wedding and our other niece’s high school graduation and our other other niece’s college graduation. We backpacked with the kids and connected with friends and family.

We hiked. In the desert. In the mountains. Through the swamp and along the coast. It’s our exercise. It’s our therapy. It’s our entertainment. And we are blessed to live in a diverse and beautiful land.

We gained new friends but lost an axle on our trailer.

We saw stunning landscapes and urban decay.

We learned to live small but decided even smaller might be better.

We formed a nonprofit. Published a book. Restarted programming. 

We worked with middle school students, veterans, educators, and church communities. 

Through it all, we heard stories of courage, grace and compassion. Honest assessments of challenging realities and the bold determination to do something about it. That’s what we took away. 

What we try to reflect back is hope. The belief that something better is possible.

At the end of our engagement with the MLK Center at the University of Minnesota last month, one woman summed it up with this statement, “Thank you for reminding me that people are good…I had forgotten that people are good…”

And that’s enough to keep going right there. The spark of hope.

Thank you. This year, more than ever, we were able to do what we do because of your help. Thank you for your support. Your donations. Your encouragement. For following along and for sharing our message.

Two weeks ago, I did a virtual event with the Corvallis Daytime Drop-In Center and my friend Allison (one of those new friends I mentioned above) closed the session by reading  a poem by Marge Piercy called The Birthday of the World, and this seems like the perfect time to share it.

May your 2022 be filled with sparks.

The birthday of the world
By Marge Piercy
On the birthday of the world
I begin to contemplate
what I have done and left
undone, but this year
not so much rebuilding

of my perennially damaged
psyche, shoring up eroding
friendships, digging out
stumps of old resentments
that refuse to rot on their own.

No, this year I want to call
myself to task for what
I have done and not done
for peace. How much have
I dared in opposition?

How much have I put
on the line for freedom?
For mine and others?
As these freedoms are pared,
sliced and diced, where

have I spoken out? Who
have I tried to move? In
this holy season, I stand
self-convicted of sloth
in a time when lies choke

the mind and rhetoric
bends reason to slithering
choking pythons. Here
I stand before the gates
opening, the fire dazzling

my eyes, and as I approach
what judges me, I judge
myself. Give me weapons
of minute destruction. Let
my words turn into sparks.

2 thoughts on “Year in review

  1. John, thanks for all you did in 2021 and all you will continue to do as time moves on…Aleita

Leave a Reply