One of my best friends passed away last Friday. He was fifteen and a half and I had known him his whole life. Tyrant (early on we had considered the name Scurvy) was an apricot-colored toy poodle who I had gifted to Kari-Lise for Christmas in 2005. (Being a whiny baby, he refused to sleep and ruined the surprise, but it was quickly forgiven.) He was a good boy.
He had been known by many names over the course of his life, Bub, Boo, Boo-bear, Shakes, Sweet Boy, the Mad King, My Heart, Monster, Little Man, and so many more. But always Tyrant, a name that he never lived up to. He loved unconditionally. He was kind, gentle, and intelligent. He rarely barked. His only dislike was crows and the outdoors, thinking of the latter only as “the bathroom” and wanting to spend very little time out there and away from the soft cushions of his perfect world.
Those who knew him, knew him as one of the chillest dogs ever to exist. He loved people and was always excited when meeting new laps. A perfect day for him was one spent at anyone’s side—he wasn’t picky. As long as a few simple needs were met, he was content. Being near humans was the height of Tyrant-satisfaction.
He was, throughout his life, a companion in creativity. Tyrant never missed a day to snooze supportively as Kari-Lise painted in her studio. He also spent years cuddled between the back of my office chair and my butt, again snoozing, as I wrote a great many stories, a few of which became novels. A Muse, one’s heart, and always a friend. I’m grateful for the years he gave us. If there was a silver lining to the COVID pandemic it was that we got to spend so much time with him in his final year. Moments and cuddles we will always cherish.
It’s been hard to say goodbye. The last few days have felt surreal. I keep expecting him to waddle around a corner looking for treats, cuddles, pets, or to come into my office and demand chair time or just crash out on the floor. The absence is heartbreaking.
Tyrant, thank you for enriching my life. Thank you for loving me unconditionally. Thank you for showing me the deepest kind of love for over fifteen years. I know the last year had been difficult for you, but I selfishly wish it could had been fifteen more. You were the goodest of boys. I’m going to miss you. While it hurts so much now, in the paraphrased words of Wilson Rawls, “You’re worth it, old friend, and a thousand times over.”
Today is December 19th, also known as March 294th, around our house. 2020, man. 2020. I think we can all agree it’s been a terrible year. If not personally, then nationally and globally. And we still have twelve days left. Feels like it’s been forever and yet, somehow, no time at all.
The tradition around here dictates I need to assemble a post wherein I share ten photos from the year representing the most significant moments of my personal past 365-ish days. Normally, I look forward to this, but 2020 was tougher than most. This time around, I wasn’t so eager to ponder how the year went. I didn’t want to dwell on the events that have unfolded. But I did. And below is the culmination of that effort, for better or worse.
The rules are simple but firm, pick ten photos from your past year that are the most significant to you: positive or negative—significance can be found in either. But it can’t be more, it can’t be less. Some moments will have to fall by the wayside—and that’s intentional—culling is essential. It’ll help create a more realistic picture of your year. Some years will be harder than others, and sometimes you’ll need to discover significance in the smaller, quieter moments. The ten are irascible, and they’re relentless. It is the way.
So, enough talk! Let’s take a look at my 2020 distilled into ten significant photos.
We began our 2020 by going on a trip to celebrate Kari-Lise’s birthday. Ah, those carefree halcyon days. Feels like a lifetime ago. This time we took an extensive food-focused trip to Portland and Hood River, Oregon. It was easily one of the best trips we’ve taken together and a wonderful way to celebrate Kari-Lise’s birthday. We ate and drank and tasted so many incredible things. I had planned to put together one of my standard travel posts a few months after we returned, but 2020 had other plans. It’s odd to looking back. It feels like a different era.
Not long after our return from Portland, my brother Nick and my sister-in-law Hallie welcomed their second child, Amberlynn, into the world in February. With Liesel and Blakely arriving last year and Amberlynn this year, I now have three nieces that have all shown up in a very short time. Can’t wait to watch them grow up and spoil them rotten. I’ve yet to meet Amberlynn. (Details why in the next photo. You can probably guess.) But, I’m looking forward to the day I do.
So, the obvious one—the COVID-19 pandemic. I could wax poetic about everything that’s happened in the last ten months, but we’ve all been dealing with this. What can I say that hasn’t been said already by a thousand other folks? I am tired of staying at home. I miss my family and friends. At the same time, I know it’s the right thing to do, and I’m blessed that I have a job that allows me to do it. Please do what you can to stay safe and healthy. Be kind. Wear a mask. Social distance. Avoid groups. Get your vaccine when you can. All that stuff.
2020 was the gift that keeps on giving. Early in the pandemic Tyrant, one of our two old dogs (he’s fifteen!) started having breathing issues one Saturday morning, and we had to take him to an emergency vet. That turned into early morning calls and early morning trips to the pharmacy. The same weekend our other old dog, Suge (she’s fourteen!), had a cyst that burst on her back leg, so she ended up in the doggie hospital for minor surgery. Two dogs. Two hospitals. Many vets. All in the middle of a pandemic. It was an exhaustive and stress-filled four days. Thankfully, both dogs are doing well. Suge is back to her rambunctious self. Tyrant is still sleepy and lazy and gets to take doggy pills three times a day.
Black Lives Matter. I don’t know why that’s a difficult concept for some people to grasp. This summer was similar to summers in other parts of the country. Protests. Marches. Police action. Bits of violence. For a brief moment, Seattle had the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone and offshoot of the protests, which drew most of the country’s attention. The outgoing President might have declared Seattle an “Anarchist Jurisdiction” (whatever that means,) but the tales of chaos were greatly exaggerated and largely overblown. Ignore your weird uncle on Facebook. The CHAZ only lasted for a few weeks. Demonstrations there have largely faded away. But the BLM movement rightfully continues, and I don’t think it’ll stop until we see systematic change.
Kari-Lise revealed Night Garden, her latest solo show at Roq La Rue, and it was wildly successful! It’s strange to have a gallery show in the middle of a pandemic. There was no official opening. No opening night crowds. No afterparty. But the show premiered online and ended up selling out. I feel like I broken record repeating the same thing I do every show, but I think this series was her best work ever. I’m incredibly proud to see how she continues to evolve as an artist. Can’t wait to see what she does next.
So, I’ve always liked cooking, and this year was no different. If anything, this year I cooked even more, since I had more time at home. I feel like I dialed in my meat-smoking game and got a little better at baking (like everyone else, but I’m still not great.) This little BBQ sandwich was 100% made from scratch. Smoke pork butt. Steamed/Fried sourdough half-way buns. Homemade dill pickles. Homemade pickled onions. Stone ground mustard. Yes, it was delicious. Yes, I made it more than once.
In October, we briefly escaped one house to retreat to another. We rented an incredible cabin on Vashon Island, only a ferry ride away from Seattle. We spent a week on the island. We hiked, explored, cooked, relaxed, read a ton, soaked in a huge bathtub, took showers in an outdoor shower. I also took the time to revamp this website. And we were able to do it with proper social distancing! It was a chill and relaxing week away from the world and unplugged from a stressful news cycle. We loved it so much we are planning a return visit in January. So don’t be shocked if a similar photo appears in next year’s list.
One of the wildest and most important elections in my lifetime happened, and what an election it was. Records were smashed. Norms were abandoned. Lawsuits were filed and quickly tossed out when no evidence could be presented except for wishes, hopes, and dreams. (Turns out wanting something to be true won’t make it true.) It was great to see so many Americans actively involved in the civic process. King County, Washington (where I live) had an 85% turnout, which I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It made me really proud of my city, county, state, and country. Nice work, America. Let’s keep this trend of civic involvement going.
It’s hard to encapsulate this in a single image. Like much of the world, 2020 became the “Year of the House” for the Alexanders. This had been the plan for us before the pandemic set in, and we had been saving toward it for a while. We bought this place in 2010, which means we’ve been living in our house for a decade, and it was past time to put a little love back into the place. That means, among other things, new paint, new roof, new floors in several rooms, lots of love pour into the garden, new countertops, that fantastic bookcase in the picture above, and we’re in the middle of a bathroom remodel. It’s been awkward, stressful, and a bit odd at times juggling all this work with the pandemic, but we think it’ll be worth it.
Looking back at everything that happened in 2020, I was surprised to find how much significance happened even while I spent most of my time here at home. The ten photos above don’t begin to cover everything that happened. My sister-in-law’s father, Tom, passed away, a dear man, and we could only send condolences from afar. Friends and family got sick, and not just from COVID. Pets passed away. People lost jobs. There were the forest fires and the awful weeks of smoke that blanketed much of the PNW. MURDER HORNETS.
But it wasn’t all awful events. New hobbies were found. New skills explored. Moth & Myth continued its wild growth and is leaping into a new phase of business. Friends published books. Friends made art. Friends had shows. Friends wrote new books and game systems. We all learned how to video conference (for better or worse.) There was good to be found even among the muck. I’m not going to miss 2020. It might have been an awful year, but it’s probably been one of the most notable years of my life.
So, how about you? What did you experience in 2020? What are your ten? Assemble them and leave a comment with a link! Let us all know about the significant events in your year.
Want to revisit my photos of past years? The experiences then seem almost charming now. Just click on any of the links below and check out my pictures from that specific year. I find it fascinating to watch subtle changes year over year.
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