personal & miscellany

Zoom out, zoom in

The solstice is upon us: the darkest days of the year and the start of astronomical winter. It sounds a bit gloomy, but after a long stretch of darkness, the light is actually returning. A curious new habit I’ve developed during the months of the pandemic has been a nightly check of the twilight start and end times for the next day. Given this year’s changes to our rhythms of work and life, I rarely need an alarm clock anymore. But every night I set the coffee pot’s timer to finish brewing at the start of the next morning’s twilight (6:20 AM today, where I live), and have felt grounded and oriented watching the days grow longer in the spring and shorten through the summer and fall. 

Today marks our entry into the fourth season of COVID-19, and here where I am we’ll get one more second of daylight than we had yesterday (9 hours, 59 minutes, and 52 seconds). Tomorrow we’ll get six seconds more, and eight the day after that. And so it will go until the middle of June, when we’ll have over four more hours of sunshine daily than we are getting now. By then about 16 months will have passed since the start of the global pandemic. Although we’re currently in the hardest, darkest days of the virus yet, if I let myself zoom out a bit, the astronomical calendar assures me that brighter days are ahead. 

I just didn’t have it in me this year to write and send out Christmas cards, so there’s my attempt at a message of hope for the season. I’m optimistic that we’ll turn things around in the coming months, but even if we don’t, the planet will keep spinning. The blooms and birds of spring will return, and long, sunny days of summer will be shining on us again soon.

Tonight’s Christmas Star – the “great conjunction” of Saturn and Jupiter – will be visible low on the southwest horizon, in the couple of hours after sunset. Image:

Thank you to everyone who’s sent cards, photos, letters, and updates this holiday season. Separation from family and friends this year is sad and disorienting, but you remind me to be grateful for everything that remains. Staying connected this year has been a struggle; I’ve not adjusted well to working alone and in front of a computer screen all day, and the resulting mix of restlessness and lethargy is unlike anything I’ve felt before. I’m slow to respond to emails, and have badly neglected this blog, because the thought of opening a computer back up in my free time honestly makes me queasy. But if these months of isolation have taught me anything, it’s the value of relationship. So please accept this short update (and poor substitute for a holiday letter), with my promise to try and write more often in the year to come.

Maintaining safe distances and covering our faces makes running a little less joyful than it used to be. But Sunday morning runs with friends have been a lifeline.

Marc and I remain healthy, employed, housed, and married. That’s about all I can report, but I don’t minimize any one of those things, or take them for granted. I loathe working from home, but recognize the privilege of doing so, and appreciate the tools and freedom I was given by my CEO and our Board of Directors to quickly move Alzheimer’s San Diego’s community dementia education program online, and work that makes me feel useful, if a bit lonely. Marc rather enjoys working from home, and will likely continue to do so at least half-time even once his office in the Systems Biology Research Group on the campus at UCSD reopens – hopefully by the middle of next year. I continue my part-time studies in the Master of Library and Information Science program, and thoroughly enjoyed a class in Intercultural Communications this fall. I’m signed up for Beginning Cataloging for the spring, after which I’ll have only a few classes remaining before pursuing an internship and then a final, culminating project in 2022. Our condo is in the midst of an enormous renovation of the entire exterior and all of the shared interior spaces – a months-long, very loud, and highly disruptive project that was remarkably timed to take place while we are all stuck inside, but that will ultimately make our early-70’s era building a nicer little place to come home to. (Does it count as “coming home” if you never really leave?) Next week we celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and while we have our moments, I count myself incredibly lucky to be riding out the fear, isolation, and heartbreak of this hard year with Marc’s company, conversation, and humor. The simple act of cooking and eating dinner together nightly has been welcome respite from the pain of this year’s racial reckonings and social upheaval, the election and its aftermath, and the loss of life and livelihoods all around us. 

I took some dips in the ocean this summer, and made a few visits to the forest in the fall – bits of new scenery and sensory stimulation that improved my mood considerably. But mostly our lives have been contained within the boundaries of home this year: a lot of work, a little running and golf, a third of a strange-but-exciting baseball season, and a steady stream of books. Norma’s health is good, and she’s hanging in admirably with us. It’s actually been a gift to be at home with her so much of these last nine months, and to enjoy the sweetness and beauty of her old age together.

Much was necessarily put on hold this year, but as they say: life finds a way. We safely attended lovingly planned weddings, memorial services, and a bar mitzvah this year. We don’t have a backyard in which to socialize, so we picnicked in parks, and figured out virtual workarounds for game nights, birthday parties, book clubs, and wine tastings. We did what we could to support our favorite local businesses and non-profit organizations through this difficult year, as well as performing artists forging interesting new paths: we attended a drive-in performance of La Bohème from the San Diego Opera, and a quirky virtual theater/cinematic performance called Zoo Motel. I appreciate art’s ability to connect people more than ever, as well as the resilience, curiosity, and ingenuity of my fellow humans. Big picture, I think we’re a pretty dumb species, and our future doesn’t look altogether bright. But when you zoom in, individual people – and the artifacts and institutions we create – are astounding. Keep on holding your little pieces of the fabric together, my friends, and we’ll keep doing the same over the here. We look forward to seeing you all again on the other side.

Pandemic San Diego-style: Eating burritos at the drive-in opera, and Norma-spotting during Padres games at Petco Park.

2 thoughts on “Zoom out, zoom in”

  1. So good to hear about your life. And mine is about the same. Norma is doing well! She enjoys you being at home. We did get a little one, well 55lbs of puppy about 1.5 years lab. MJ short for MaryJane or something else and she’s a hoot. Hugs to you and Marc…

  2. Amy,

    That was beautifully written, and you summed up so much of what I have been feeling as well. I have struggled with sending a holiday card this year, and the longer I let it go, it will just resolve itself. I have a mind to wait until after the inauguration, and then we can celebrate LOVE with Valentine’s Day. You made my day a little bit brighter, and I send you a big virtual HUG!

    My Covid silver lining has been Zoom, as it has brought a few incredible blessings; one was visiting with my father’s family each week since April and being with my Aunt in her final weeks of her life from August to October. The other was Zooming with my alma mater Verde Valley School for their alumni engagement, and ultimately sending my oldest to school there (Sedona, AZ) for his freshman year. That was life changing. The universe has a plan for us…will we listen?

    Thank you, and Happy Holidays!


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