It’s the time of year, in years past, to drink champagne, make New Year’s resolutions, watch the Times Square clock, and anticipate the joy to come. Dressing up for a New Year’s Eve party is but a distant memory. Fancy frocks adorn our closets. My body is clothed in blue jeans and a Patagonia t-shirt for warmth. The warmth of a Oaxaca December looms large in my recollections of years past when we would gather on my patio for chicken mole negro, tamales and mucho mezcal under the Sacred Mountain Picacho, the winter sun warming us. I dream of those 70 degree days.
I may still drink champagne tonight, a birthday gift from my sister. But, I will be alone with no one here to celebrate with. We are still in lockdown. Really? YES. Just because we are leaving 2020 behind us, it’s not the time to lower our defenses. Not much has changed except for the anticipation of a vaccine (that will be slow to be administered to most of us).
This year I received one annual holiday letter. You know. The many times duplicated letter that recalls all the milestones of the year, life updates (divorce, marriage, death, sickness, babies, children at play) along with photos of family and far-flung, exotic travel destinations. This usually arrives in the mail a week before Christmas, though not this year during a severely curtailed USPS funding breakdown. I’ve never written a holiday letter, but some still do.
For me, instead, I am communicating more and more, for better or worse, with WhatsApp, text and occasionally email. I can hardly keep up with FaceBook Messenger and Instagram, other sources of personal connection for many (though not so much in my age category).
I’m moved to say that we cannot overstate how difficult this year has been for us. Many of us are alone, separated from our children, grandchildren and dear friends, even if they live in the same town. Zoom and FaceTime are hardly substitutes for hugs. I’m trying to think back on 2020 to find the goodness, and there is some.
I’d like to share the Goodness Highlights with you:
- January 2020: Oaxaca Coast Textile Tour was full with wonderful men and women who met extraordinary weavers in remote mountain areas. We generously supported them.
- February 2020: In Chiapas, we met Maya weavers in humble homes who create glorious textiles. Their creativity and perseverance is uplifting.
- On March 12, I left Oaxaca to visit my son for a brief week in Los Angeles before returning to Durham, NC for two months. As Covid hit, I stayed and lived with him in a one-bedroom apartment for two months! It was a highlight of the year!
- In March, panicked and twiddling my thumbs for what to do, I started the Oaxaca Mask Project. Our Oaxaca Cultural Navigator community raised over $20,000 USD to sew and distribute more than 3,000 face masks throughout Oaxaca and outlying villages.
- Then, we raised enough to buy and ship an expensive vital signs monitor for the Teotitlan del Valle public health clinic.
- In July, I asked myself how we could more directly help Oaxaca and Chiapas weavers — the women we visit who depend on us for their livelihoods. I asked them to ship me their work, which I continue to resell, sending the proceeds to them — often several thousands of dollars at a time — to sustain them, their cooperatives and their families.
- Whew! In September, I took a deep breath and a break, and embarked on a road trip to the midwest, equipped with face shield, plastic gloves, alcohol spray and plenty of hand-sanitizer for gas station and pit-stops. I packed my own food. It was wonderful to reconnect with long-time friends. Spiritually and emotionally satisfying in this year of emotional deprivation.
- With this experience behind me, and with some foolishness (I admit), I bought a plane ticket to New Mexico to meet up with my son, my sister, and lifelong friends. I fell in love with the landscape. With my boy, we hiked every day in Albuquerque along the Rio Grande River and the Petroglyph National Monument. With my sister, we enjoyed daily urban hiking in Santa Fe. All the while, keeping safe social distancing and wearing face masks religiously. It was a joy to be together.
- My last two weeks in New Mexico were in Taos, where I REALLY fell in love, decided to buy five acres of high desert rolling hills dotted with sagebrush and build a casita along the Rio Grande River Gorge, down the road from those lifelong friends.
- Oh, and a word about Covid-Hair: I decided no haircut until I get a vaccine. And, maybe not even then!
And, here we are, at the end of 2020. I’m selling my North Carolina condo in downtown Durham and will head west sometime this spring. My construction loan is approved and I’m starting to let go. I’ve been in NC for over 20 years. My friendships here are deep, and I expect the separation will be painful.
This has been a year of tragedy for our nation, but also a year of hopefulness with a new government.
My friend Kathryn gave me some reassuring words from the Poetry Fox: You have already made the decision. It’s the action that hasn’t happened yet. I’m anticipating the action and, true confession, I’m also scared. In my walking around Durham, I came across this:
And, this …
And, a favorite: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!
So, to mark my 75th birthday today, I’m taking deep, healing breaths and continue to plan how and when to return to Oaxaca. Best bet is that I’ll get there sometime this spring or summer post-vaccine. Best best is that you and I will go together on a Oaxaca Day of the Dead Culture Tour (vaccine proof, masks and hand-sanitizer required). Best bet is that we get back to the Oaxaca Coast and Chiapas in January and February 2022.
Then, who knows.
So, I say HAPPY NEW YEAR with energy, commitment and hope for a more compassionate and caring world, one in which we are all safe and in which our confidence in government returns.
P.S. The comments section isn’t working properly. I can read your comments but others can’t. I’m sorry. It’s a problem with the WordPress template I’m using. If anyone out there knows how to fix this, I’m happy to compensate for services rendered.