– I am snug in an ocean side room near Cambria. The rain that had been slanting sideways has dwindled to little more than a drizzle, and though the sea and the sky meet in a soft, unbroken expanse the seagulls are emerging from their huddles onshore and drifting past to remind me that I am not adrift in a void space alone. This morning all in the rain we had breakfast at a small coffee shop while huddled amiably with half a dozen other die hard patrons under the three and a half outdoor tables that were mostly dry, walked to the local market for iced tea (which turned into lavender lemonade as I realized that somewhere along the line it had gone completely non-caffeinated in its drink selection), ambled down the Cambria boardwalk but turned back as the wind kicked up – a little too late not to get soaked to the skin, but that’s what the extra set of clothes were for.
– 2016 was the year I tossed out the last of my battered non-stick pans. I can’t stand cooking with floppy plastic utensils so the pans were always scratched to hell by my wooden spoons and spatulas, which rather negated the reason for having them in the first place. I replaced them with cast iron and carbon steel to supplement my smattering of All-Clad and a Le Creuset Dutch oven. It is deeply strange to avoid taking even detergent, let alone Barkeeper’s Friend, to my skillets, but there is an equally deep satisfaction in watching a non-stick surface grow organically through the act of use.
– At the conclusion of the presidential election I had a lot of feelings, or it might be more correct to say a lot of feelings had me. Panic attacks largely kept at bay through yoga and a quiet life roiled my equanimity with relentless ferocity, weakening their grip only when I was too exhausted to stay awake anymore. Now at the beginning of 2017 I feel as if I’m standing on the shore waiting out a tsunami warning. Will the changes in the world sweep me out to sea where I will drown, or roll over my ankles as they are held at bay by countervailing forces?
– Over Christmas my aggressively Christian brother decided with Dickensian flair that he was unwilling to drive twenty minutes to spend even an hour with our widowed, crippled mother while I was four hundred miles away visiting my husband’s family. When his telling me that I had no right to expect anything from him sent me scurrying to make alternate arrangements for his last remaining responsibility, he whipped himself into a storm of aggression and resentment in which he discoursed at great length on what a terrible person I am and then blocked my husband’s (and I assume my) email address. I don’t really know how to feel about that. Except to cherish the people who don’t think I’m a terrible person, I suppose.
– On the way to Cambria the rolling hills along Highway 46 were an electric, emerald green. After last year’s El Niño they turned a tentative, scrubby juniper, but this is the first time in six years that I’ve felt briefly transported to the Irish countryside. Experts say the drought is far from over, but I’m hoping the rain we’ve received will refresh our battered oaks. We humans can make do with less water and survive; they can only sicken and die.
– 2016 was also the year that I gave up on non-rechargeable batteries and invested in a couple of Eneloop chargers. Now I can expend less personal energy carting waste off to a recycling center, and store fewer kinds of batteries in the bargain – Eneloop sells only AAA and AA and cunning little cradles that mimic C and D batteries with AAs tucked inside them. I suppose if the Apocalypse comes and the electric grid crashes I’ll be in trouble, but I assume I’ll have more pressing worries at that time.
– A few months ago, after John Oliver’s scolding about using aggregators rather than paying for journalism, I started an online subscription to the Washington Post. (Why the Post? Partly an abiding interest in politics and world affairs, partly because I get local news from other sources, partly price – sorry, New York Times.) It has been an enlightening experience, and one of the more important lessons I’ve learned is that it’s difficult to speak truth to power if you don’t know what the truth is.
– This year – for me at least – was thin on small, independent movies, but the animated Kubo and the Two Strings and Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic packed emotional punch enough for half a dozen films. It was also the year that the price point for Netflix became something I was willing to pay, driven in no small part by a desire to see their offbeat original programs like Stranger Things and The OA.
– The edible garden has been slowly expanding. This summer in addition to peppers and herbs we added tomatoes, strawberries and tomatillos. The cherry tomatoes provided an impressive yield, the other varieties less so. The tomatillos gifted us with several batches of salsa verde and a handful of tart, excellent stir fries. The strawberries were tiny, sporadic and mushy and will likely be heartlessly ripped out and replaced with cilantro in the coming year. We are considering the monumental step of graduating from galvanized buckets to galvanized horse troughs to grow more ambitious crops.
– In the time that I’ve been writing this the ocean outside the window has turned from grey to brown and back to grey again, and the horizon has vanished completely as the rain continues to fall. I sometimes wish that I could afford to live by the sea and watch its ever-changing moods.
– 2017 will be the year we pay off our mortgage. That is a thing that makes me happy. It will also be the last full year in which my mother will have enough money left to support herself. That is a thing that makes me panicked, but there is nothing for it but to research and plan and prepare for the least worst possible outcome that I can devise.
– I am afraid of our political future but also cautiously hopeful. The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times all saw record increases in subscriptions, and the Post is adding sixty new reporters. The ACLU, Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and others have seen a surge in donations. Perhaps some of us grew too complacent. Perhaps it isn’t too late to change in the coming year.