I didn’t have a “Best Nine” on Instagram for 2021. Some weird technology change meant I couldn’t simply generate it as in past years. I gave up. Mostly because I didn’t care. While it’s a nice way to look back on the year, the photos I posted with the most “likes” have never felt like *my* idea of the best of anything.
I started this “writer’s photography” to refocus my thoughts. To find a moment of peace in the world that felt exceedingly chaotic. If I could shift my focus long enough, perhaps I could keep the fears and anxiety at bay. What I have come to realize is that I don’t care about “likes” in the traditional social media sense. But I do enjoy connecting to others who understand my intentions. And it feels nice when someone let’s me know I’ve provided them a moment of relief when they most needed it. The greatest compliment I received was when a friend said, “You’ve helped me see the things around me in a different way.”
In 2021 we all faced our “new” new reality. The fact there was no going back to normal. Many of us realized we didn’t want to go back to the way things were. We’d learned new things. There was no going back. We are thinking through new ways to move forward. But first, I realized I needed to conquer the things I’d been postponing. Like many others I had been delaying grief. Also, travel suddenly seemed possible. I still dreamed of a long-imagined research trip. I seriously just needed to get out of the house.
I marvel at my first social media post of 2021… I quoted Lewis Carroll “If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.” I couldn’t have imagined the metaphoric and literal roads I would travel in the months ahead. I did a lot of reconnecting in 2021. The journeys brought me back to loved ones, but also allowed me to reconnect to parts of myself I hadn’t realized had been missing. But that quote also reminds me of another I discovered sometime in the months after, one that seems to have stuck in my head, although I can’t recall where it comes from: “stop asking directions from people who have never been where you are going.” What a revelation!
This practice of looking back in photos brings with it an immense sense of gratitude. None of us knows what the future holds. But with a bit of grace, I hope to keep discovering joy in the smallest of moments.
A quick note about this photo blog: Anything the appears in blue text is taken from my Instagram feed (mostly as it originally appeared as dated.) All the photos were taken by me with my Samsung cell phone. The photos are not meant to be fancy, just how I saw things in that moment. Some “filtered” but many are not.
January 3, 2021: “If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.” –Cheshire Cat
January 5, 2021: “The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” —Leonardo da Vinci
January 6, 2021: Cat. Kitten. Full House.
“Weeee. Weeee. Weeee.” –Piggy
Meet Piggy. He came with this name. It fits. And he answers to it. Especially for treats!
The afternoon of January 6th was difficult for every American. There are no words. We watched our democracy under attack. More violence caused by outright lies. Yet in the midst of the chaos, we received a new family member. We’d been waiting for weeks. What an afternoon. As it turns out, a new puppy and the reactions of our cat and kitten were the distractions we needed to get through.
January 9, 2021: Newsfeed Palate Cleanser
I know I have over-done it on social media and the various news outlets these past few days. But I can’t look away. Truthfully, I don’t want to look away. I want to feel it all. From the profound sadness to the outright rage. It might be time for some primal screaming.
Yet in this moment I also want to sit in gratitude. To fortify myself for the road ahead. Whatever may come. I take comfort in this fluffy little soul who is feeling insecure upon the arrival of some puppy-shaped competition. She needs extra cuddles. So do I. Am I reassuring her? Or the other way around?
January 8, 2021
When puppy goes for walks, she [Josephine] appears from her hiding spots to demand treats and love.
As you can see, she enjoys her treats immensely.
January 15, 2021
Please pick all that apply:
- I am hungry
- Treat please
- WTF? A kitten And a puppy? Really?
- Treat please
- When might the sunshine come back?
- Please feed me now
January 16, 2021
Hazelnut has gotten brave and decided Piggy’s tail is a fun toy. Piggy didn’t agree.
Place your bets on which combo will be caught snuggling together first:
A. Hazelnut and Piggy (kitten-puppy)
B. Josephine and Piggy (cat-puppy)
C. Hazelnut and Josephine (kitten-cat)
D. All three together
E. All three together on top of Chip
*There is truly only one answer here*
January 25, 2021: “Piggly-Wiggly Puppy Tail Wagging”
January 27, 2021: Seeking the Invincible Summer
I am NOT a winter person. At all. I hibernate. And perhaps take a photo of snow through the window.
January 31, 2021: I don’t recall seeing snowflakes look so much like snowflakes
There was, however, ONE reason to leave the house. Perhaps the only reason.
February 9, 2021: Vaccine with a View
Waiting, Check In, Scheduling #2, Vaccine, Monitoring Room… the 15th floor provides an awesome view through the process.
Heard a rumor they are vaccinating one person a minute? Over 900 today so far.
February 21, 2021: Winter Sundays
I sit and watch the constant swirl of 3 animals moving from sun to blanket, to dog bed, to second dog bed, to chair, and back again. A continued shifting like some sort of celestial Stonehenge.
February 24, 2021: He yelled back to his buddies, “I have holes in my shoes!”
March 1 & March 2, 2021: Night Bright, Morning Light
I opened the blinds to find the sun sitting where I had left the moon
March 12, 2021: Count ‘Yo Blessings
March 14, 2021: I am fairly sure my hubby has no clue what Pi Day is… but somehow magically he made my favorite Dutch Apple today. He went to bed… I am alone with my pie.
For the record, flower therapy is real. In Winter, I buy whatever is on special at the supermarket.
March 17, 2021: “Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!” (…and sometimes in my tulips)
March 19, 2021: My Little Garden Gremlin
It might only be in the 40s outside… but Miss Josephine is holding Spring in her heart. And keeping watch over the tulip bulbs!
March 20, 2021: While I was upstairs writing, the purple pansy fairy visited the back patio…
March 22, 2021: I said “smile for the camera”
March 26, 2021: Piggy’s first beer out as we waited for to-go pizza and salad. Hundreds of people on the streets and in the parks. I would say 99% masking… including so many kids. If felt like the beginning of the end.
March 29, 2021: I love how her whiskers were captured in a ray of light…
March 31, 2021: True story…
Last year (towards the end of April) I shared with you the story of the lone yellow tulip among the bulbs planted before my mom died. This one yellow flower that appeared defiantly last among the pinks & oranges…and the family inside joke that gave this tulip such great meaning. (April 23, 2020)
The bulbs were stored away in the basement and those that survived were replanted last November. Two white pots were “Sandi’s tulips” joined by three blue pots full of newly ordered Painter’s Palette tulips. I wasn’t even sure the replanted tulips would come back.
This morning I looked out the kitchen window… and there it was… that lone yellow tulip in Sandi’s pots… only this time it had bloomed first. Seemingly out of nowhere…I don’t even see buds on any other stems.
Okay mom… we see you… and we know you are still in control of *your* garden.
April 2, 2021: Day 3
Here’s our Sandi tulip hanging out directly in the middle of things. I hear my mother’s voice asking me how long it will be before I take down the dead holiday decoration hanging above. Is that tulip pointing directly at it?
My question to her is how long will it be before you let the other tulips bloom?
Tulip Season in my tiny city garden has begun. TULIP SEASON!!!
April 1, 2021: Insomniac’s View: 1:35 AM
Reflecting the street light
Calling me to the window
To witness simple beauty
April 3, 2021: For the record
This homemade skylight shade was never intended to be a kitty hammock. Despite my best efforts, Hazelnut continues to disagree.
April 4, 2021: Birthday Girl
According to her adoption papers… this girl is one-year-old today!
April 5, 2021: One of my favorite parts of Spring in Philly
April 9, 2021:
There’s something incredibly beautiful in the contrast between the delicate blossoms and new leaves against the hard red brick and black wall…
I fell asleep watching the bees at work
Things that felt uniquely pandemic-era…
Getting a vaccine inside a storied live music venue, inviting a friend over for “dinner and a show” (this theater performance was actually interactive and live from South America), Zoom meetings (are here to stay), and those endless single-use takeout containers (house-made ketchup and maple syrup leftovers from our favorite Morning Glory breakfasts.)
April 21, 2021: Holy Hail… had to capture the worker-bees behind watching the hail storm above
April 28, 2021: Garden Path [Bartram’s Garden]
May 5, 2021:
When you witness a loved one enjoying their happy place, you cannot help but smile
May 14, 2021: Josephine’s Happy Place
May 7, 2021: Someone had a rough day. [Ruff day?]
May 31, 2021: I didn’t realize she was keeping tabs on the household by watching through the mirror…
It’s Hazelnut’s World. The ultimate Pandemic Kitty.
May 15, 2021: Tulip season is done… let’s see what happens next… I tried some new things…
May 17, 2021: Monday
It may have started as Blue Monday, but this Gazania bloom appeared out of nowhere and said nope nope nope!
May 26, 2021: Every Day A New Revelation
Spring had sprung. Summer was on the horizon. And I was forced out of hibernation… I went to the salon for some color, volunteered at the polls, and gave my first private walking tour in 2-years.
June 3, 2021: Take a Whiff
Current weather conditions have created a moment of serene scent magic… tucked amid the bright showy blossoms you will find Lavender, Thyme, Rosemary, Russian sage, Mountain Mint… and of course the current Jasmine blooms.
June 5, 2021: Neighbor cat William stopped by for some treats… and to pass judgement on the garden updates…
June 6, 2021: My New Rule: Weekly “office” flowers for writing inspiration
June 9, 2021: Anyone Need a Hug?
June 14, 2021: [Walking home from book club]
Lightening in the distance
Oh the smell
Chinese men laughing over Majong
A last minute ice cream
Por favor mami
Home before the deluge
June 18, 2021
This place [Rittenhouse Square] is always a stellar people-watching location. I am trying to figure out if I prefer the Michael Jackson impersonator and his endless Beat It soundtrack or the 25-minute version of Le Vie en Rose on the accordion?
Regardless, nothing beats the sweet potato fries with Sriracha sauce from Hip City Veg.
June 23, 2021: He hasn’t learned how to read yet…
June 30, 2021:
As we continue moving out of our pandemic bubbles we are learning to reconnect in the physical world. Over the course of these last few weeks I have had the pleasure of spending quality time with a mix of friends… heart connections… some going back more than 45 years, some quite new but very important to my sanity. It’s been interesting. And it’s led me to think about intentions. Who are we reconnecting with and why? Perhaps it’s merely a moment to say “I remember” or perhaps it’s a moment to recommit to moving forward. All these physical interactions are important.
In Summer, The Song Sings Itself. — William Carlos Williams [Especially in the City]
A Day Trip to Longwood Gardens
July 31, 2021: Is it good Karma when your skirt matches your smoothie?
Beyond my normal walks around town… I began venturing back inside public spaces… the places I missed the most seem to have a theme…
August 8, 2021: I spy a…
#sky #clouds #frog #reflections #water #statuary #maidens #garden [The Highlands]
August 19, 2021: He’s no Spring chicken, but he’s a keeper
We had visions of a “bigger” celebration for Chip’s 60th birthday, but given Pandemic protocols, he picked a road trip to Maine. And of course he wanted to bring Piggy along too. (Sigh.)
September 9, 2021: The Walk Home
Most times I take a photo
No, I told myself, no photos
“What’s better than a Fogo de Chao?”
“A Buca de Beppo”
The man with the grey ponytail who carried a fancy umbrella
We took different paths
But ended up on the same corner blocks away
He gave me a puzzled look as I dashed across Broad.
The toddler in the neon green rain boots
His mother in tow.
The sun setting
Sending bright flares off the shiny surfaces on South Street.
Pizza truck night
A long line
And a pizza party in the park
I finally stopped to take a photo
The final block
September 11, 2021: Answer: A Catenary
Questions: What kind of a cat can grin?
September 15, 2021: The Shady Side
Walking home from a cross-town meeting and pondering how much longer I will be seeking the shady side of the street. Before you know it, we will be bundled in coats seeking the sunny patches.
September 6, 2021: The End of Summer is Nigh
Between vacation and the weather, things got completely out-of-hand in my wee little garden. We added this new roadside find. This is me letting go. Remembering to breathe in and just enjoy these last delicious moments of the season.
September 18 & 22, 2021: Weaving in the Season Change & Taking a moment to celebrate the change of the seasons
Eating “out” still means curbside dining, but there’s always great food to be found. We are still retreating to the rooftops for happy hour and even book club. We have also enjoyed outdoor theater and a masked art exhibit.
As Fall arrives in the city, our post-dinner walks became illuminated.
September 25, 2021: Happy First Birthday to our PigMonster
Time flies when you are chewing through life…treats, toys, furniture…
October 8, 2021: On The Road
Hubby says we must focus on “getting there” so he refuses to stop for photos. But this drive has been fascinating: from Rockefeller’s Brutalist Albany architecture, to Troy’s Victoriana, to Hoosic Falls quintessential New England charm. We are now surrounded by Vermont’s peak foliage.
Watching the clouds turn pink and the setting sun light the yellow and red leaves aflame… church steeples, red barns, and quaint towns. One after the other.
It was a solemn trip. The first of several pandemic-delayed memorial services. This one for Chip’s cousin David Black. New Hampshire and the Black Forest (the family compound) hold a big place in Chip’s heart. It was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with family. We made a special trip to Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, an especially interestingly timed visit given the sculptor’s fame for creating grand public memorials. Memory is a curious creature. We definitely drove the scenic-way home, Olana and Hudson, NY included.
October 16, 2021: Caturday Morning Wakeup Call
October 18, 2021: Answering the call. Channeling the ancestors. Looking for a revelation.
I was scheduled to be in St. Louis for a conference that got Omicron-cancelled. Prior to the conference, I had planned to drive across the state to the border of Kansas, to do some family research. I had already paid for the plane ticket. So I went. At some point I will write about why I went and what I was looking for. But this post isn’t about that. I visited small historical societies and countless cemeteries. For now I will say once again, memory is a curious creature.
Back in Philadelphia, I spent the day volunteering at Stenton‘s Halloween Harvest Festival. It’s a really lovely community event. And it was a picture perfect day!
November 5, 2021: You can’t be in a bad mood with this girlie hanging around…
November 6, 2021: Duck. Duck. Boat.
Battleship? Tall Ship? Sailboat? Wooden Yacht? Paddleboat? Kayak? Tugboat? (Just out of frame)
That Green Dragon is just my speed…
November 7, 2021:
I haven’t paid much attention to sunsets of late. This one called me to the window.
November 8. 2021:
Today my intention was to walk towards the sunset.
There must be a lesson here?
Yesterday I never left the house and got a spectacular show. Tonight I walked miles and got this.
November 19, 2021:
Some journeys are physical.
Some journeys are mental.
Some journeys are spiritual.
Some journeys are of the heart.
Some journeys are all of the above.
Some journeys are really f**king difficult.
Tonight we start at 0.0 miles.
Once again I found myself driving across the country. This time with a copilot. I thought this trip was about the destination. Turns out the miles out and back were just as important. I had a lot of bottled-up grief to process. This journey was a start. Time with my sister. Sharing stories with my nephew and his kids. Showing them a century’s worth of places their ancestors lived. Driving the long way home. Because when will I be able to do that again?
Flyover country. Route 70 out: Indianapolis (where my dad died), St. Charles, MO (where I brought my husband home to meet my family), a few hours in Hermann to stretch our legs (and remember a silly day I spent with my parents), losing count of the wind turbines that have sprouted up everywhere in Kansas. The Catbird Hotel in Denver. Scottsbluff, Nebraska. A home that was never my home. A place of intense memories. Route 80 back. More stops down long dirt roads that only led to gravestones. Because we were nearby, right?
November 20, 2021: Mile 675 [Indiana]- Watching the sunrise over farm country
November 21, 2021: Such an exquisite ache. Nothing brings me back to my childhood and my parents more than road trips. My dad had rules of the road. One of the most important was to always park your car where it was viewable from your hotel room. He much preferred motels where you could park directly in front.
November 21, 2021: There are no Wawas out here, but you can visit some Canadian geese and other stuffed menagerie when you make a pit stop.
November 23, 2021: Highlights of good day [with family]
November 26, 2021: Some childhood memories are just weird…
November 28, 2021:
One last chance to share family stories and look through old photos.
One last night in the shadow of the bluff… listening to the voices in the prairie winds
One last beer before we hit the road.
A selfie taken by nephew Jason atop Scottsbluff National Monument. It was a weird moment that we felt the need to capture. The second we had flung the last of the ashes over the edge of the bluff a powerful gust of wind blew them all away. We looked at each other in disbelief, wondering if we’d each imagined what we’d just witnessed.
November 27, 2021: I hold this place in my heart.
Home to 3 generations of my family. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents lived out their lives and are buried here. And now my parents’ ashes—released to the prairie winds—reside here.
November 30, 2021: Mile 2695 [Council Bluffs, Iowa]
1200 miles to go… no (tourist) stops ’till Philly…
December 1, 2021: Crescent Moon Over Philly (Schuylkill Expressway)
4:20 AM. Mile 3889. Almost Home.
December 1, 2021: Quite a different view from the last several days… it’s good to be home.
December 3, 2021:
I was interrupted by a loud murder of crows…
There was something falling through the air… couldn’t tell if it was feathers or fur… yikes
What is it about the sound a crow makes?
December 5, 2021:
Do you think Buddha appreciates his crown of greens and holiday lights?
Yup! He likes it.
I could feel myself craving hibernation mode… Omicron had us being extra careful… but we still managed to get out for a few social occasions… I think I am on the verge of full-on agoraphobia… yet I danced at a wedding and took a moment to celebrate the season.
Just because I like these photos…
December 17, 2021: I don’t even know what’s going on here…
December 19, 2021:
Took a 4-mile walk around the city this afternoon, stayed away from the crowds around City Hall, and very unlike me, I took zero photos. Zilch. Not one. The city didn’t feel particularly festive. Sort of depressing actually. So yeah, here’s the view from my kitchen sink.
Dec 21, 2021:
Can you see the birds taking flight?
Today the tides of darkness turn.
December 27, 2021: Dormant: 4 PM
Dec 31, 2021: I have always preferred a night “in” on NYE
First course: Old Fashions, oysters, and an enlightening tarot-oracle card reading
Second course: clam chowder, garlic bread, and scratch-off tickets
What will the future bring? #staytuned