Farewell 2020

This time last year, I was writing about 2020 as the “year of vision.” If anything, 2020 was a year of re-vision as we watched a new version of the world unfold.

The idea of 20/20 vision was an attempt to offer a focal point for the year—a challenge in even the best of times. That soon proved to be beside the point. It’s hard to find a focal point in a year without a center.

In spring, teaching remotely without childcare wasn’t so much a blur as an indecipherable smudge, though the science fiction film class I taught stands out since we were living in sci-fi times.

Summer was full-swing “quarantime,” though our staycation of daily films, dishes, and music from around the world was a great coping mechanism. We imagined a future world that looked something like the one we used to know, and we used the arts to help us create order and meaning out of chaos.

We planted a small garden, destroying the perfect suburb grass the previous owner had worked so hard to maintain. It’s wonderful to watch the tangle of tomatoes take off—our most successful crop since root rot and squash bugs took most everything else. But before, when the flowering plants were still full of possibility, Ariel and I spent mornings observing the bugs they attracted—and the birds attracted by the bugs.

We soon turned back to school work, trying to prepare for a semester whose particulars we didn’t know. In August the on-campus forward march into the semester began, a sensation akin to the burning one feels after prolonged numbness: you just have to endure it. Time was collapsing and expanding—two days could be two minutes, or conversely, as Emily Dickinson said, “Eternity in an hour.” My feet hardly touched the ground—I was held up by all the external forces pushing in.

2020 wasn’t all bad. We connected with friends and family in new ways. We enjoyed the quiet of no place to be. Though I didn’t make it through my 2020 reading list, I did read other books—hundreds and hundreds of times—to Ariel. I collected old family recipes and made my grandmother’s famous lemon bars (and found out the recipe actually came from my aunt).

One night as Ariel was stalling before bedtime, she asked me, “Can we go to the moon?” I told her it was pretty far, that I didn’t know if we’d be able to reach it. She replied with confidence and conviction: “Mom, we’re going to need wings.”

I spent a lot of time with my three-year-old, who believes anything is possible with the right tools. She hasn’t learned that some things, once broken, can’t be fixed. During a pandemic, it’s nice to live with someone with such optimism.

It seemed to me something like Icarus might have said to Daedalus as they were stuck in prison. Daedalus’s wings would have worked had Icarus not flown too close to the sun, melting the wax. The myth can be interpreted as a cautionary tale for not reaching too high or daring too much. But director Stanley Kubrick, who often created the technology he needed to achieve a certain visual effect in his films, had another perspective—maybe we should simply build better wings.

My daughter reminds me, day-in and day-out, of how imagination helps us find another way forward by giving us another way of seeing. May 2021 be a year of better wings.

2020: The Year of Vision

I started wearing glasses in kindergarten when I couldn’t see the blackboard. My vision worsened so much that by the time I wanted contacts in middle school, they didn’t yet make a soft contact prescription strong enough for my eyes. I wore gas permeable, or “hard” contacts, which were uncomfortable but at least helped my eye keep its shape to prevent further deterioration. I was incredibly lucky that my grandfather, Lloyd Guerin, was an optometrist. He made sure I could see.

But Grandaddy wasn’t the only one who valued vision. We’d often stop in to see my uncle David at his frame shop, “Omni Optical.” He’d dip our glasses in his heated box of sand and adjust them. Then he’d polish the lenses with a special cloth and hand them back. I’d slip on the warm, clean glasses and open my eyes to a much clearer world.

Uncle David’s phone number was 327-2020, a clever reference to 20/20 vision. So why not apply that to this year? There will never be another 2020, after all. 2019 for me felt like the year of arrival: We moved from our transient on-campus apartment to a small three-bedroom in a quiet neighborhood; we sold our Conway home, an emotional and financial drain; and I started my second year at the new job. Oh, yeah, and I survived another year of parenting a toddler, and am now getting enough sleep to feel inspired.

So what does a vision for 2020 look like? To be inspired, I’m looking to other visionaries. I have a hefty reading list and a smaller list of places to see, including Fayetteville’s Crystal Bridges art museum. And I’ve set creative goals, both for current projects and new ones outside my comfort zone.

Books 2019

To make all this possible, I’d like more yutori, or life space (thanks to Naomi Shihab Nye, for mentioning that in Voices in the Air). Yutori means breathing room for spiritual nourishment and personal connection, for manuerverability when, inevitably, challenges arise . . . and an openness and flexibility so that one bump doesn’t throw you off course.

May 2020 bring us all greater vision and insight!