2021 in Ten Significant Photos

How is it already the end of December? Christmas is this weekend! In some ways, it feels like the year was ten years long, yet in others, it feels like a blip. I blame the pandemic. My perception of time has gotten funny since it started.

This is the post wherein I reflect on my last year through ten photos that marked significant places in time. It’s become a tradition here. After last year, I thought (hoped?) this would be easy, but like 2021 itself, it was an odd experience full of highs and lows. That said, as always, I found that there was more to my year than I expected and 2021 was surprising.

The rules. Pick ten photos from my past year that are the most significant to me: 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—that’s intentional—culling is a part of this process. It helps create a more realistic and personal picture of your year. Some years will be more complicated than others, and sometimes you’ll need to discover significance in the smaller, quieter moments. This is the way.

So, I could keep rambling, but instead, let’s take a look at my 2021 distilled into ten significant photos.


My favorite photo of Willa in our garden (Photo by Kari-Lise)

Willamina, our big English Lop, passed away early in the year. We buried her under her favorite bush. She was old for a large rabbit, but her death snuck up on us. I haven’t ever met a rabbit like Willa. She was fearless, curious, friendly, loved attention and people. It was typical for her to follow us around the yard and explore as we worked nearby. Our garden isn’t the same without her.


New bathroom (Left) and remodeled kitchen (Right)

Last year I mentioned that we had declared 2020 as “The Year of the House,” and in many ways, it was. But that labor spilled over into the first few months of 2021 as well. But in the end, we got a fancy new bathroom—removing the original bathroom from the 1940s—and an upgraded kitchen. We’ve been in our house for over a decade now, and many of these updates were long overdue. I’m delighted with the result and the outcome was worth the awkwardness that came with remodels during a pandemic.


Gleam Upon the Waves and its swag set

I launched a new book! It’s true! It happened! Gleam Upon the Waves, the next chapter of Waldo Bell’s adventures, arrived at the end of March and was released to the world. You can buy it right now! When you get deeper into writing a series, things get more complicated, and this story was a long time coming. I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Thanks to everyone who picked up a copy. Double thanks to those of you who left reviews. Your excitement is what keeps me going. I couldn’t be more appreciative of my readers.


While waiting my 15 minutes, I took a selfie

The vaccine arrived! Kari-Lise and I got jabbed as soon as possible, and we got our second shot a few weeks later at a lovely little spot right by Lake Washington. It was a huge relief, and I am grateful that my city has embraced it. It’s a pretty incredible feat of medicine. I cannot think of how many lives it’s saved, and I am grateful to the medical community for pouring so much effort into its development, rollout, and distribution. Seattle is over 75% vaccinated, still vigilant, and we’ve been near the bottom in cases per capita in Washington. It makes a fella proud to call this place home.


Kari-Lise in a monochromatic space within the House of Eternal Return

We escaped! Freshly vaccinated, we took a short trip away from home to Santa Fe, New Mexico. After more than fifteen months of staying home and social distancing, it was a welcome respite and a nice change of pace. We ate incredible food. We saw cool art, and we got lost in Meow Wolf’s stunning House of Eternal Return. Santa Fe is rad, and New Mexico is spectacular. Should you like to know more, I documented the whole trip in this post.


Tyrant hanging out with me earlier in the year

After fifteen years, one of my best buddies in the world passed away. Tyrant had become an essential fixture in our lives, and it was hard to let him go. I’m grateful the pandemic allowed me to spend so much time with him during his last years. Months later, here I am, tearing up while writing this. Shortly after his death, I wrote a tribute that encapsulates him better than this tiny blurb ever could. I still miss him. Tyrant never lived up to his name. He was a good boy.


Ferry to Bainbridge Island looking back toward Seattle

We explored our home. We started doing this in 2020, and it continued into 2021. One of the best things about living in the Puget Sound area is the hundreds of islands, peninsulas, straights, bays, coves, ports, beaches, and bluffs there are to explore. We returned to favorites like Vashon Island, explored Whidbey, and went to the Peninsula a few times. I’ve often said that to experience Seattle, you have to leave Seattle it’s a city defined by the landscape around it, and these trips cemented why living here is so wonderful.


Vera with Uncle Michael (Left) and Reghan (Right)

The streak continues! This year, I have two new nieces, which brings my nibling count up to seven! Vera on the left was born in the spring to Kari-Lise’s brother Andrew and his wife, Kim. (I can assure you we have a better rapport than what you see in that photo.) Reghan, on the right, was born on my birthday (more on that later) to my sister Meghan and her husband, Tyler. Both are adorable and growing way too quickly.


For whatever reason, I found myself reconnecting with baseball. I’ve always been a fan of the Seattle Mariners, mostly thanks to being the perfect age when Ken Griffey Jr. played (the man is still my first sports hero), but the game took a backseat over the last few decades. This year was different. I found myself drawn back to the ball game and the ballpark. While the Mariners still didn’t make the playoffs, (there’s always next year) I’m finding myself looking forward to the 2022 season.


Me hiking along the Harry’s Ridge trail at Mt. Saint Helens (Photo by Kari-Lise)

I turned forty. I don’t usually care much for my birthday. I find the whole thing superfluous. But, this one is supposed to be a milestone. It’s interesting to look back on my life after forty years. The moments that stand out. While this post focuses on the events this year, hitting a “birthday milestone” like this had me reflecting on life in macro. I’ve had a good life. I’m happy. I’m healthy. I am married to the best person in the world. I have amazing friends and a loving family. I’m lucky. Forty ain’t so bad.


There’s my ten! As I said earlier, it was a year of highs and lows. I’m not alone in that. This was a mixed year for many people, and it was a mixed year for me as well. The pandemic is still present in our lives, and normal still isn’t so normal anymore. We’re still masking up, being careful, and social distancing when we can. Thankfully many of our friends are vaccinated, so hangouts were easy, and that personal reconnection was good.

There’s so much to 2021 this post didn’t cover. Trips with friends to celebrate the New Year. Paneling at TBRCon was terrific, and it set up much of my reading for the year. (I’m coming back in 2022!) Cabining. Writing retreats. A visit from my sister. Our garden. A trip to Portland for the wake of a dear friend. Beaches and tide pools. Backyard BBQs. Family and close friends both moving back to the Seattle area. Summer soccer games. Seattle’s record-breaking heatwave in June and its record rain in November. Then there’s Moth & Myth’s incredible growth. As with every year, this list could be so much longer.

So, how about you? What did you experience in 2021? What are your ten photos? Assemble them and leave a comment with a link! Let us all know about the significant events in your year.


I’ve been doing this since 2014, and even in challenging years, I’ve found it beneficial. Interested in revisiting my photos of past years? Just click on any link below and check out my selection from that specific year.

2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 
• 2018 • 20192020


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A Good Boy

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.

Baby me with a baby Tyrant, Christmas 2005

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.”

Defender of the house