2021 in Photos: Beauty’s Where You Find It
Thoughts about this last year are a jangly jumble, but to roll them all into one phrase I quote Madonna in saying: “beauty’s where you find it, not just where you bump and grind it.” This has been a year of embracing change, accepting our impermanence, and seeing opportunity in each day even on days when I would have preferred to stay under the covers.
In January I started a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) because I’m not sure exactly why. I already have a Masters (in something else) but ultimately craved something positive to look forward to in 2021. I applied on a whim, to my great surprise was selected, and started school three weeks later.
It was a tumultuous month in the city, and not because of grad school. I can’t even talk about it because I have such strong feelings so I’ll just put these two photos up and let that suffice. This was how 2021 started in the District.
Despite some chilly (for D.C.) days in February, my friend C and I still made the weekly commitment to meet up for an epic mall walk. I’ve never done as much walking in the city as I have these last two years, and almost all of those miles are with C! During this ongoing health crisis and reduced social interaction, these meetups have meant so much.
Vaccines also rolled out to more and more groups. I think we started to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and businesses began making plans to reopen.
The rest of nature has no idea what’s going on in the land of the humans. If anything, it’s probably been a bit of a reprieve from some of our regular human ways.
As usual, the cherry blossoms returned this March to enchant us and Felkerino and I made sure to do a few laps under their canopy at Hains Point. As a cyclist, I don’t think there’s a better place to spend peak cherry blossom days.
We also witnessed the rescue of Whiskey, a small dog (Yorkipoo? I don’t know my dogs) who had managed to climb up onto the train tracks over the Potomac. Saving little Whiskey was quite the operation, using both law enforcement boats as well as fire trucks and involving multiple responders.
In the end, Whiskey was retrieved from the tracks, wrapped in a mylar blanket, posed for a group photo with the responders, and returned safe and sound to his owners.
We still masked up, but continued to find creative ways to see friends and family outdoors in the crisp April air. Wisteria bloomed and vaccination to the wider population started in earnest.
In May I became fully vaccinated. It felt surreal, it provided relief. I learned about why the mRNA vaccines were able to be developed so quickly. I felt myself imprinted in history.
May was also the month that the BroodX cicadas made their way to the surface of the earth after 17 years of living underground to let us know “Hey! We’re still here!” These strange bugs were just the pandemic distraction the city needed.
They flew clumsily about, mated if they were lucky, laid eggs in tree leaves, and died a few weeks after. Their larvae fell off the trees, crawled into the ground, and there they will reside before hopefully resurfacing again in 17 years.
The cicadas both fascinated and freaked me out. I read a piece in the Washington Post about Benjamin Banneker’s study of cicadas (he apparently documented three emergences) and how he initially viewed them apocalyptically – futilely trying to kill all that he saw on his initial experience of them.
Through his study of the cicadas, Banneker came to understand the BroodX cycles of emergence. I find them disconcerting, but one of my takeaways from the past two years is that there is a lot going on in the natural world so be curious, stay humble, and pay attention.
School continued virtually into June and it was brutal. I had to keep writing “I am lucky/happy/fortunate/insert positive word here for the opportunity to learn new things.” Completing two three-credit courses over six weeks was no joke, especially when the regular job doesn’t stop for school.
Time outside was curtailed although I still snuck out for morning runs and short rides. I started riding my Rawland Nordavinden more over the last year, as I didn’t have a need to carry any commute clothes or food or what have you. It’s such a fun bike and I really love the pink Ostrich front bag. File under glad I didn’t sell this bike.
July was a much-needed break from school, books, and teacher’s dirty looks (kidding about that last one, mostly). Felkerino and I attempted a ride-from-home tour up to Pittsburgh and back, but I got pretty sick on the third day or so, unable to keep any food down, and we ended up on an Amtrak back to DC.
Our tour was revived after a couple days of rest and recuperation. We relaunched in State College and pedaled a modified route filled with snappy hills and quiet roads. Good job coming up with Plan B, Felkerino, and thanks to Amtrak for getting our jumbo-size tandem bike home in one piece.
Similar to last year, I spent a lot of time bringing home local produce from the farmers markets and I continued in the CSA. I have written about this before, but thanks to both of these, my whole approach toward food has changed. While still a fairly terrible cook, I at least have the advantage of eating nourishing tasty food grown in areas closer to me.
I still eat the occasional pepper from Mexico or cherry from Washington state, but when possible I prefer to purchase food from more local growers.
Memory doesn’t always tell the truth, but my memory tells me I loved August. School was just getting going and there were still long days to enjoy.
Riding more had improved my fitness and my state of mind. Imagine that! The heat of August helped me sweat out the toxins of 2021 (and 2020 for that matter) and, while sad to say goodbye to summer, I looked forward to fall.
During fall semester, the university returned to in-person class using specific COVID protocols. This felt weird initially, as I had grown used to operating from home and was completely out of practice with any kind of commute or in-person group interaction.
It didn’t take me too long to figure it out again, and I reveled in rides home from class. Because there had been no need, I had not done much night riding in the city over the last year. They city has a different character after sunset. It’s quiet (especially once the kickball leagues hang it up for the year) with little vehicular traffic. The city takes on a contemplative feel and I just love it.
After two years of steady work, in September the New Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge opened to traffic. That includes both bicycle and pedestrian traffic as well as vehicular traffic. To commemorate the opening, Mayor Bowser hosted a 5K over the bridge and Felkerino, C, and I walked it together. It was such a thrill.
The new bridge is not only aesthetically more pleasing, the walkways along the side are significantly wider (and not crumbling into the Anacostia!).
In addition, cars have to pass through two roundabouts – one on each side of the bridge – which significantly slows down the car traffic. Until these roundabouts were built, crossing that segment of South Capitol was terrifying due to both the speed of the cars as well as their tendency to blast through the red lights.
In October, the Coffeeneuring Challenge returned for its 11th year, and Felkerino and I continued our adventures close to home. During this month, the city closed Georgia Avenue and opened it only to cyclists and pedestrians.
Not only was it great fun, it was beautiful to imagine what our cities could be like with increased spaces dedicated to non-motorized transport.
November was a month of more coffeeneuring, more walking, and more exciting bike infrastructure! I regularly used the new G Street cycletrack en route to school. It was a wonderful change. And then, and then! At the end of the month, the city extended the 15th Street cycletrack south to where it intersects Independence. What a thing of beauty! So much thanks to WABA and the city for the positive changes being made here!
In November I also ran the Rock ‘n Roll Half-Marathon, my first in person running event since October of 2019. I surprised myself by crying as I crossed the starting line. I was so grateful to be able to participate and to feel healthy after a year of having to take it easy and nurse my Achilles back into shape.
December started out tough, as my school mojo went missing. I was a bit worn out from all the virtual work (both job and schoolwise) and the nerve of my professors to keep giving us homework. Just kidding, I realize homework is all part of the game here.
Ultimately I made it through the semester and completed one full year of this program. Big sigh of relief.
C kept my spirits high by encouraging our winter explorations and vivid fall color lingered as if to say no moping allowed.
I don’t remember ever having so much fun looking at leaves and studying plants as I have these last two years. To repeat Madonna, “Beauty’s where you find it, not just where you bump and grind it.”
As I write, the sun has set for the last time in 2021. I am grateful for so many things: my partner Felkerino, my good friend C, to have one full year of the MBA program in my noggin, and to have been alive and healthy this year. My eyes look forward to what lies ahead.
I also want to add a note of remembrance for two coffeeneurs who passed away this year, Peter Baker and Lonnie Wormley. When I created coffeeneuring, I did not realize what a special community would grow. I did not imagine coffeeneuring would still be going after more than a decade. And I also did not grasp how, even though we may not know each other in real life, we still touch each other through our common interest in cycling and even coffee. Small acts connect us. Tailwinds, coffeeneurs.