The Kaleidoscope That Was 2021


(The following was written by Virginia Baldwin, a participant in “Juicy Wordplay”, our monthly writers’ workshop).

Trying to predict the course of the days and weeks of this year was well nigh impossible.  Every turn of the clock created different patterns of information, concerns, and events for us to try and assess, absorb and act on.  It is no wonder that as the year comes to an end we are left with no real idea of what happened or what we might look toward to at the stroke of midnight December 31. The rollercoaster that was this past year beggars description, let alone rational evaluation, acceptance and response.

We learned there were two more Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Misinformation joined War, Pestilence, Famine and Death in the middle of the year and Mother Nature joined forces with Pestilence in the latter part of the year and she was mad! The global cat walk saw the early letters of the Greek alphabet gradually moving off stage, a row of shadowy unclear forms coming into view with a robust and multicoloured newcomer called Omicron flaunting its coat of 37 mutations to a stunned world population. Human beings became political pawns in international relations.  Cast-out rulers who didn’t want to leave created lethal public unrest. Violence became a solution to whatever problem someone or some group figured they had a right to solve in that fashion.  Personally perceived entitlement took precedence over courtesy and public good.  People trying to help were pilloried for their efforts.  It was truly hard to comprehend everything that the instant and constantly-on information sources broadcast on an hourly basis.

British Columbia seemed particularly beset by Mother Nature this year.  The first half lulled us into complacency.  Then the drought and forest fires began with a vengeance, with multiple urgent evacuations across the province and actual total destruction of the village of Lytton.  That still seems hard to comprehend.  As if that wasn’t enough, we learned a new phrase – Heat Dome – when the thermometer climbed and stayed there.  It  was 30* in my house with all the fans going.  My friend  was camping so I was looking after her place and the kitchen was often 45*.  At least the lizard didn’t need its heat lamp! I was watering plants on her deck and used the oven thermometer to record a temperature of 75*C one day!  She had to leave one campsite because of an encroaching wildfire.

In the late fall Mother Nature hit us again with torrential rains that led to landslides, whole valleys flooded and many roads became impassable.  We learned another new phrase – Atmospheric River. Vancouver was cut off from the rest of Canada as all main routes had major disruptions with segments and bridges washed out. Thousands of livestock couldn’t be rescued and more urgent evacuations had to be contended with.  It took weeks before key traffic routes could be made navigable and some of the crop damage won’t be known until next year’s growing season.  Some of that water in the Fraser Valley came from an overflowing Nooksack River in Washington state and it seems Washington liked that idea as they are planning actual flood diversions to accomplish the same thing. (January 2022)

Then, just before Christmas, the coda for the year consisted of a deep freeze with unaccustomed snow in lotus land.  Our building codes don’t plan for this so frozen pipes are the order of the day even with running water 24/7, mine included.  My pipes travel a really long way from the street and back and aren’t buried deep enough to avoid freezing. I am able to keep the incoming water going but the outgoing and grinder pump that gets it up to the street is out of commission.  One adapts and hopes it won’t be too long before the pipes thaw.  It’s a good thing that I live alone ;-). The hummingbird feeders are in rotation on the hot air vent and they are waiting for me every morning. The other birds’ water is in a metal tray above a bullet lamp coiled in a big planter.

I am so grateful the power is on and the furnace works!

And yet – life somehow continued.  Unexpected acts of kindness brightened our days. People sought out and were grateful for the interactions that were possible from time to time.  We regrouped, adapted and did what we could with safety.  There were books to read with challenging ideas and new ways of thinking about things.  Michael Ignatieff’s 2021 book “On Consolation” was especially apropos. A new baby meant knitting projects for blankets and toys.  And Hope dared to raise her head.