My Top 5 Photos of 2021

Last year, I chose 5 photos that encapsulated aspects of my 2020. I think I’ll make this an annual tradition, because it’s a good excuse to go through the pics I’ve collected and try to sum up the year through images.

I meant to post this before the year ended, but as it worked out I was sick for the last week of 2021 and couldn’t muster the energy to do much of anything. Which leads me right into my first photo…

#5: Languishing

a white curtain is pulled aside to reveal a snowy landscape. in the foreground, a cat rests her head on a blanketed knee.

That was the word of 2021, right? So many of us found ourselves in a state of ennui, lacking motivation or excitement. We certainly felt it around my house, and are still working to come out of it. I don’t think it’s going to happen quite yet; this January will likely be hard and chaotic. But maybe when the season changes, when the crocuses and hyacinths begin to spring up, we’ll find ourselves in a place when we can awaken, stretch, and regain our footing.

Until then, though, this photo sums up the state of serious languishing I found myself in this past week in particular. At least I had a sweet cat, cozy blanket, and picturesque view to enjoy as I whiled away the long hours of boredom.

#4: Bragging Rights

a cake with chocolate frosting topped with almonds. a large wedge is cut out of the cake, and in the empty space is a slip of paper that says "bragging rights."

We love baking competition shows around here – they have been such a comfort to us during the pandemic. Last winter, we even took it a step further and organized several home-based baking competitions. The judge stayed in the basement while the other three of us competed in a timed challenge to create a bake that would win the judge over.

This photo shows my entry in one of the competitions: a chocolate, orange and almond olive oil cake. It was delicious, and earned the judge’s top marks. I won the coveted prize: a slip of paper testifying to my bragging rights. One of my proudest accomplishments of 2021!

#3: Lady Birch

The gnarled trunk of a birch tree. It almost looks like a side profile of a face with prominent nose and lips.

Reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants in the fall of 2021 forever changed the way I relate to plants, and to the natural world in general. Kimmerer often asks her botany students, “Do you love the earth? And do you feel the earth loves you back?”

I hadn’t ever considered that second question before. Do I feel that the earth loves me back? There’s a rational part of me that thinks such a thing is impossible. But all the same, I know that the answer is yes. This comes from a place deeper and older than cognition: it feels true in my bones. I’ve been wondering how it would change the way we relate to the environment on a large scale if we all behaved with this understanding.

There’s a beautiful birch tree in my front yard. It has a willow habit, so it makes an enticing canopy that brings welcome shade in the summer. Though I’ve always found it magical, I never really showed it how much I appreciated its presence in our yard. This year, inspired by Braiding Sweetgrass, I cleaned up all the fallen leaves and branches that have accumulated over the years, and tore away the ivy snaking up the trunk. Honestly, I had never before noticed that she has a face, but she has quite an elegant profile (can you see it?). I’ve taken to calling her Lady Birch.

My relationship with the rest of my garden has also changed. I’ve gone from thinking of it as something utilitarian that can produce food for my family to appreciating all of the plants, tending to them with care instead of a rote sense of duty, appreciating their beauty and fragrance and gifts. And wow, has that changed what I get out of it in return: an additional layer of nourishment for the soul.

It has brought me so much joy to become a more mindful steward of the land I’m fortunate to live on. I love this home of mine, and I know in my heart that it loves me back.

#2: Garden Time

a garden table with blue umbrella beneath a tree, with an orange hammock and lawn chairs in the background

In keeping with #3, we spent a lot of time cleaning up the garden this summer. We built a pond! And an herb spiral! And planted mushrooms!

This photo was taken in June when everything was at the height of its loveliness and the pond was new and clear. It completely froze over during our current week-long cold snap, so here’s hoping some of the goldfish will survive! It’s going to need some major maintenance when things warm up, but we’re glad we resurrected it and look forward to lots of garden time this coming year.

#1: The Cat in the Hat

a brown cat with green eyes models a lime-green crocheted hat

This is the best photo I took of my beloved cat this year! Here, she’s modeling a hat that my son’s friend crocheted for her. I don’t know what our family would have done without this sweet furry mood-booster in the house during these difficult pandemic times. Hats off (sorry, couldn’t resist) to all the pets out there who have made our at-home lives more enjoyable!

Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone a transformative 2022!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Brett

    Beautiful Photos Alanna! Thanks for this 🙂

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