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Holiday Letter 2020

I used to do an annual holiday letter. I started this tradition in the 1990s and continued until about 5 years ago. I tried to avoid making it a chronicle of the year's accomplishments. It was sometimes irreverent, sometimes humorous, sometimes dumb, sometimes clever, sometimes snarky. I stopped for two reasons:

  1. Each year it became harder and harder to come up with something irreverent, humorous, dumb, clever, or snarky.
  2. With most of my friends and family following me on social media, it was impossible to share anything I hadn't already shared during the course of the year.
But this year I feel like I ought to revive the tradition. I'm taking inspiration from John Dryden, who published the poem annus mirabilis in 1667 to describe and celebrate the period from 1665 to 1666, which was a year of wonders. Geraldine Brooks also borrowed the title for her 2001 novel Year of Wonders, which is set in the same period of time. Between 1665 and 1666, London lost nearly a quarter of its population to the bubonic plague, and in September 1666 the Great Fire gutted the medieval City of London. Dryden took the view that God had saved England from destruction. 

1666 was also a year of wonders because 23-year-old Isaac Newton made significant discoveries, including the supposed observance of a falling apple that led to his theory of gravitation. He had time to work on his theories because Cambridge University had to close because of the plague.

Brooks's novel is filled with death. But the main character, the 18-year-old widowed housemaid Anna, survives and ends up in Algeria, where she apprentices with a Muslim doctor and offers health services to pregnant women in a culture where that is generally not available. In the end, despite great loss, she has found a better life where she can truly help others.
2020 is also a year of wonders. We are trying to survive a plague that so many have succumbed to, and a despot has duped so many. I don't believe in God, so in my view we are being saved from total annihilation by scientists and medical professionals, and by voters and activists who said no to the "Magats." There are so many heroes in the story of this year. I wish I could somehow thank all of them personally.

My own year was not so much a year of wonders. It was a year of just the regular day-to-day stuff that happens when you are trying to avoid being infected with a serious and potentially life-threatening virus. There was a lot of staying home and watching TV and reading and playing bridge online and Zooming with friends and family. There were a few activities that were a bit riskier: meals out (almost exclusively at outdoor restaurants) and visits with small groups of friends. I guess everyone has found their own comfort level for risk acceptance. I think mine is probably more rigorous than most, but not as rigorous as some. I have some friends who, a couple of months ago, invited me to dinner at their house, but who tell me they are now avoiding all interactions with other people except trips to the pharmacy or the grocery store. 

I think rather than writing about everything that happened (or didn't happen) this year, I'll share some photographic highlights. 

New Year's Eve

With every expectation that the year ahead would be something to celebrate, I welcomed in the New Year with my friends Paulette and Nicci (and a lot of other fun people). 


Before life went in the toilet, I took the first of what I hoped would be lots of trips around Mexico: two nights in Morelia, with the day in between spent visiting the the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in eastern Michoacán, and a stop in Pátzcuaro on the way home.

Cathedral of Morelia, viewed from my hotel room

Plaza in Pátzcuaro 


My friend Margot came to visit in early February. The day she left was the day my friend Cathy arrived. Here we all are at Guadalajara Airport.


Cathy and I went on a tour to Cuba. 

The Havana skyline; the dome is the capital building

More Visitors

In 2017 I went on a tour to South America and met these three fabulous women from Wisconsin who were traveling together (L-R: Mary, Maureen, and Anne). We hit it off, and have kept in touch since then. They came to visit in late February. It was still life as usual, but we knew things were about to change. We talked a lot about our upcoming travels and wondered whether they would happen.

Kitchen Remodel

I was all set to start a remodel of my kitchen when the pandemic hit and the future was officially put on hold. I was unsure of whether to move ahead, worried that everything would shut down and they would be forced to stop working and leave me without a kitchen. But we pushed ahead, and while the shutdown forced the cabinet makers to do the final painting in a secret location so the police wouldn't shut them down, they got everything done with about a week delay.


In April my family started weekly Zoom gatherings.

I honestly can't imagine how difficult it would have been to survive this year without videochat. In addition to meet-ups with my mom and sisters, my extended family of cousins has had a couple of gatherings, as have a small group of friends from high school. And my trivia groups (one here in Mexico and one from Seattle) have transitioned to Zoom. In fact, I had to leave my Seattle trivia group when I moved down here, but now I can play with them again.


Bridge has also moved online. As Club Manager for the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club, it fell to me to get our club online. And because with online bridge we can play together even when we are scattered all over, our many club members in the US and Canada have been able to play in our club games, and I have been able to play in games at my old Seattle club.


Who wants to live alone during a global pandemic and forced quarantine?

This pretty girl came to live with me in May.

I never intended to get a dog, but the prospect of being stuck at home indefinitely convinced me to reconsider. Taco (who is now a year old) is playful, wicked smart, well-behaved, and cute enough to attract attention from neighborhood kids and other walkers on the malecón. She is an excellent housemate.

It does complicate matter once I start traveling again, but I will either board her or get a housesitter.


I live at the end of a row of houses that are all connected. When I moved here, all the other occupants were expats like me. My next door neighbor, Sara, moved to the other end of town in February, and after a couple of months, a group of young Mexican men rented the house. I tried to be friendly with them, but they mostly kept to themselves, came and went at all hours, and other than exchanging greetings when passing, I never got to know them.

In October I find out why. It turns out they were working for a crime family. And one morning the Guardia Nacional raided their house. I was sitting upstairs on my mirador, and I heard the commotion but didn't realize what was going on at first.

The officers spent the day on the street, blocking it off at either end. Apparently they arrested the guys after chasing them across rooftops, and spent the rest of the day investigating. They left the house a mess, the front door and gate broken, window smashed, yellow tape across the front.

And that's how the house remained for weeks. Soon an awful stench started to emanate from inside. And I didn't know what, if anything, would happen to restore things to their former state. I finally contacted my lawyer, and she said she would see what she could find out. Which wasn't a lot.

Finally, as of last week, there seems to be progress underway. A locksmith was there repairing the locks on the gate and front door, and a woman who said she was the dueño was there and said they are getting ready to clean and repair the house, so I'm hoping I'll have new (and better) neighbors before too long. 

It's still nice here

The pandemic has certainly put the kibosh on opportunities to enjoy my newly adopted homeland, but I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to have found this place. And now that we are a Pueblo Mágico, I'm hoping the town will get cleaned up and some infrastructural improvements are on the horizon.

Wishes for the New Year

It's hard to imagine 2021 being worse than 2020, but my wish for everyone is that the year to come is better in all ways. I wish for a quick reduction in the death toll from Covid-19, and for health and well-being for all who read this and for your loved ones. I wish for economic recovery, especially for the small businesses that have been hurt particularly hard. I wish for opportunities to explore new places, experience new adventures, and renew our connections with the places we have enjoyed in the past. I wish for a return to political sanity for the United States and for something even better than the days before the current occupant entered the White House.

And I wish for prolonged hugs among families and friends. 

1 comment:

  1. Sending you a big virtual prolonged hug, my friend! Happy New Year!


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