Enlivened- Reflections on 2021
When I started this blog in January 2021, the year seemed filled with uncertainty. The pandemic was showing no signs of abating, vaccines were just starting to be administered, their efficacy was yet unknown, and more importantly to me, I didn't know if this would be the year I would be able to reconnect with family in far away lands. In order to anchor myself to something generative, that offered an inkling of hope, connection and possibility, I decided to start a blog. I wasn't sure which direction I would take. My intention was two-fold: to write about things that I find interesting, enriching and intriguing, while making connections with people in my community who can offer a deeper dive into their subject. The experience was both rewarding and expansive. I had a chance to meet generous individuals who gave of their time and knowledge while redirecting my attention to subject matters that provided reprieve from the harsher realities of daily life. This was my way of finding enlivenment and focus in times of doubt. As 2021 draws to an end, we find ourselves facing the same uncertainties and interruptions to life as we did at the start. How to handle this? proceed with the route! Don't change a thing. Just continue doing the things that bring you joy, connection, satisfaction. That's the only thing you have control over. Everything else seems to be in perpetual flux and well beyond our control. Time is precious. May every minute be one of inner peace, tranquility, love, forgiveness and kindness. Nothing else is worth taking up your precious energy.
photo credit: Hadia Mawlawi
To close up my first year blogging, I asked some of my blog contributors the following:
How did you find ways to feel enlivened in 2021 and what lessons can you share about life during uncertain times?
Here's what they shared.
For me 2021 has been a roller coaster of hope and despair, and I’ve experienced swings between impulsively uplifting, and fatalistic moods of “you only live once” and “you might not live past this year.” To invite a sense of calm and enrichment into these days, to remind myself that the world has held meaning for people from antiquity to now, I made a concerted effort to change my reading habits. I decided to engage with news only at the level of headlines, diving in deeply only occasionally on the most meaningful threads. Instead, I’ve subscribed to literary journals that I admire, and follow thoughtful recommendations for fiction and nonfiction from beloved sources.
photo credit: Tayyba Maya Kanwal
Our most powerful thinkers have always held the long view and engaged with humanity with a generous mind. That has been exactly what I’ve needed to be able to see past the immediate fires we’ve been fighting, and to hold on to hope, to keep writing, to keep making this world with a faith in the future. In case you’re wondering, three of my favorite journals right now are The Threepenny Review, The Paris Review and World Literature Today.
Tayyba Maya Kanwal
Short Bio: Tayyba Maya Kanwal is a Pakistani-American writer in Houston.
In time of uncertainty I dig deeper into self- what is on my mind and heart-to find what connects me to humanity past, and humanity future. I am the product of the survival of the species, as such I try to connect to the ingenuity and creativity that is in my DNA. In 2021 I doubled down on my artistic work and put forth to the world my concept of Modular Woman, after generations of women whose humanity, body, and voice were trampled. In 2021 I gifted the women sharing the planet with me my artwork depicting us showing up in full extension, fully formed, and resolute to be heard and to become the standard by which we understand the built world and the planet.
photo credit: Geraldina Wise- Modular Woman
Geraldina Interiano Wise
Earlier this year I wrote about gardening in dry times and in a dry climate. I’ve found that even in the sometimes grindingly difficult soil and moisture conditions of the New Mexico steppe, as our regional biome is now being designated, there can be immense satisfaction gained in just getting your hands in the earth and nurturing a few plants to life. After 30 years of gardening in this sere and windy place, I’m learning that if you can coax native plants to establish even a small root-hold in a place where you only saw disturbed dirt or naked clay before, you will be rewarded by outrageously gorgeous blossoms and, probably, by some native pollinator insects and maybe some birds that may have passed that spot by, before. How better to feel enlivened than by nurturing other life?
photo credit: Linda Churchill
So many beings on this planet –human or otherwise--are so far from their native soils, or from their ability to thrive anywhere, native or not. I think of the Central Americans at our southern border, the Afghanis who streamed to the Khabul airport in August, the migrants this winter at the cold Polish border, all desperate to transplant their families to places where they might have a better chance to thrive. How can those people know it’s worth the trouble to emigrate, except that…it’s so bad home, how can they not try? Then within the dire state of governments and power around the world, the viral pandemic of Covid hit us and refuses to go away, making life that much more uncertain for all people.
And I think of how climate change is causing plants and animals to move to places that are colder, farther north, farther up the mountains— what do they do when there’s no more Up, or North, to move to? More and more humans are moving into places that were once only occupied by wildlife, and wildlife seems in every case to be losing those turf wars. How do the smaller occupants of our globe survive?
But I have honest work, a safe home, food I can grow or readily purchase, and a stable community to live in. Within the history of the world, and even the scope of the planet today, I acknowledge that I live a privileged life and I am grateful. In this time of such deep uncertainty for all life, wild or otherwise, I must remember to give thanks and as part of those thanks, to live as honest a life as possible. To pay attention and listen and have empathy for all life around me. I try to do no harm, by planting native plants and growing food and helping others to learn to love the soil and the green things upon it. I promise the wildlife on my small piece of land that I will not harm them. I try to do the same for all people with whom I come in contact although that promise is sometimes more difficult to keep.
photo credit: Linda Churchill
We cannot know that life will become any easier or more stable as the years continue. So if we learn to not only appreciate and honor the earth’s beauty but do our best to share it with the world, all beings--including ourselves--will be enriched.
Linda Churchill- Head Gardener- Santa Fe Botanical Garden
Santa Fe, NM December 2021
Wishing you a healthy Christmas and Happy New Year. May 2022 bring you closer to all the ways you feel enlivened and attuned to all you do.