Here is the photo. If you’re a regular reader, the words are below.
This has been a difficult year. Death and illness and change has hit hard, and too many people close to me are in active, crushing states of grief. They are always on my mind, as is the reality that I can do very little except lurk in the background, waiting to be there if needed.
We lost a huge number of artists this year, and they took a massive amount of undone art with them to the grave. One of them, Carrie Fisher, holds onto life as I type. I check the news every half hour for an update; she’s the embodiment of how to accept one’s humanity and come to smile at it a little, and squeeze what laughter can be had from it — which, if you’ve read her writing, turns out to be a lot. The world needs more of her, not less.
There is instability looming in the country and the world. Some deny it. Some are eager for it. Others of us see something much darker in it.
I said recently that I don’t quite know how to do life anymore; this has been one of those years where the table has been flipped in so many planes. I’ve also heard it said that in order to be useful in this new age, to have the maximum helpful impact, one must pick something to work on, that focus is key. This is a problem for my split personality: I’m half logical lawyer, lover of analysis and order, and half creative, spinner of tales and imagery. I’ve asked myself which half of my self I should inhabit in the coming days.
Fortunately, the answer is what it’s always been, of course: all of it. It’s tempting to believe that logic and analysis has little place in a world where truth is based on whatever animosities are simmering at the time, where teenagers are getting rich pumping made-up stories into the pipeline, fantasies that are wholly without reality but oh-so-alluring to our resentments.
Or, maybe the world needs more of the logical and analytical, not less — as long as we recognize the limits of it.
The other half of me seems equally useless in this age. Wildlife, a source of wonder and the basis of so much of my creativity, is going extinct at a rapid clip. A huge chunk of the country has decided that it knows more than the scientists who would drag them screaming into modernity, and have concluded that climate change doesn’t really exist. So of what use are my stories and photographs about wild animals and nature?
That, also, is an open question. Maybe the world needs more of that, not less, too, but I don’t know. And I’m not sure it matters, because it’s what I can do and it’s what I have. So that’s what I’ll put into the world. Children’s writer Joan Walsh Anglund, in a quote widely misattributed to Maya Angelou, said that “the bird sings not because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”
So that’s the path for me, until I have no more feet or the world has no more trails. One of those things is certain to happen, and the only question is — always — when.