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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2018 in Ten Significant Photos

In our ever increasing world of social media, we all share a lot. But how often do we take a moment to look back? If you’re an Instagram user, then I am sure you’ve seen people share their “top nine.” If you haven’t seen these, here’s how they work: the Top Nine app goes through your feed and selects your “top” photos based on the numbers of likes and builds a grid-collage with those photos. It’s always bothered me. A “like” is worthless. It holds no value. It’s applied to photos of new babies and on pics of brunch with equal abandon. Using this as a metric, Top Nine ignores the most meaningful events one’s life in exchange for the false reality of pseudo-engagement.

This ritual is different. By personally selected the ten significant photos that matter the most to ourselves we are forced to reflect—that reflection requires thought and contemplation. We’re forced to choose what mattered and by doing so, we select moments of meaning over moments of popularity.

The rules are simple, pick ten photos from your year that are the most significant to you: positive or negative. Some moments will fall by the wayside, that’s intentional. Culling is important. Focus on what is essential. I’ve been doing this publically for five years now and I look forward to it every year. It puts things into perspective.

Enough talk! Let’s take a look at my 2018 distilled into ten significant photos.


The beginning of 2018 marked a small achievement for us. Kari-Lise and I have lived in Seattle for a decade—I think that makes us locals. I’ve never regretted moving. Much of my year was spent in my city—and I often found myself reflecting on its current challenges and how despite ups and downs living here has changed my life for the better. This town has captured my heart in a way no other place has, and it’s truly become home.


I didn’t attend too many conventions this year. But I did manage to join my friend and fellow writer Steve Toutonghi and attend ECCC 2018 here in Seattle. Overall, it was a great experience to come together with so many and celebrate the stuff we love, be sure to read my con debriefing where I go into more details.


One nice thing about living in the PNW is how easy it can be to escape from the constant rush of urban life. I’d even say it’s a critical part of living here. Mid-spring Kari-Lise and I joined some friends and headed out to the Washington peninsula—we traversed some of our favorite locations in Olympic National Park, Cape Flattery, and along the Strait of Juan De Fuca Highway. I love it out there.


I read a lot this year—Goodreads tells me I’m over 14k pages (and there’s more piling on even as this post goes live.) As usual, my full reading list along with my favorites will be coming after Christmas. It’s been a banner year for me and books, I read so many that I absolutely loved, so many in fact that it’s going to be nearly impossible to choose.


Last year, in my last photo, I talked about unexpected change—for us, it came in the form of our backyard garden plans being completely upended by a fallen tree. This year, we began to work on rebuilding. After a busy summer and fall, most of the structure is in place for something exciting. I can’t wait to see where we end up in a few years. I think it’s going to be something special. (That enormous beast in the foreground is Willamina, our English Lop.)


This summer, Kari-Lise and I celebrated fifteen years of marriage. I’m forever grateful for a partner like her who stands beside me and supports me, and I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone else. She’s an incredible person, and my days would be empty without her. We celebrated by heading up to Whidby Island and spent a long weekend hanging out and exploring. Read the trip report and see more photos here.


Toward the end of summer, Kari-Lise and I flew to New England to attend her brother’s wedding in New Hampshire. Afterward, we extended out Anniversary celebration and took a small road trip to Maine and Acadia National Park, Lovecraft Country (the area not the book,) and then Salem. It was my second visit to New England, and we saw much more of the country than we had before. It’s really a special place. Read the trip report and see more photos here.


Kari-Lise debuted a new project as part of the Lush Life 6 show during the resurrection of Roq La Rue Gallery here in Seattle. Venerate is an ongoing series focusing on modern women artists working today and the connections to pioneering women artists of the past. You can find out more on her site. It’s been exciting to watch her engage with these themes, and I cannot wait for you to see what’s going to happen in this series.


We traded in our two old cars in for one new car—partially to help reduce our carbon footprint but also because we really don’t need more than one car. It’s our first new vehicle in nearly fifteen years, so it’s been a shift. A week and a half after driving it home, the car was hit by a van while parked in a parking lot. So, for the last several weeks, it’s been getting repaired. Thankfully no one was hurt, and insurance covered everything. Still, that’s not exactly what you want to happen to your new car.


Well, I might as well announce this now. Kari-Lise and I are recruiting a crow army, and they work for peanuts. It started this summer with a family of four—two parents and a few fledglings. But it has grown, considerably. Now when we wake up in the morning there’s a whole murder waiting for us. Things are going exactly as planned. Consider yourself warned 2019. We’re coming.


In Conclusion

I changed the title of this series. I thought “significant” carried more weight than the often overused “awesome” and it hits closer to what this ritual attempts to capture. This is, after all, about reflection.

It was harder than I expected to find my ten photos. Usually, I have an abundance, but this year a lot of my experiences were closer to home. There were many circumstances where I kept my phone in my pocket and skipped photo documentation. Instead, I chose to live in the moment. Overall, I think that’s a step in a positive direction, and it’s something I want to keep encouraging in my life.

How about you? What did you experience in 2018? What are your ten?


Want to revisit photos of past years? Click on any of the links below and check out my photos from that specific year. It’s interesting to watch subtle changes year over year.

2014 • 2015 • 2016 2017


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