Notes from the End of a World

Each night in 2020 I wrote a short post because I wanted to etch these strange days into my memory before I forget them. Before the world changed completely. And 2020 delivered more than anyone could have bargained for.

January 16, 2020

Solitude

It seems perverse that a deeper sense of community would come from living someplace remote rather than among the crowds of the city.

January 15, 2020

Retreat

This season is defined by muted Bergman films projected on the wall in the hour of the wolf.

January 14, 2020

Scale

I came across moments in the forest that felt ceremonial, the ancient rites of geology operating at scales beyond my comprehension.

January 13, 2020

Cabin

I stared at the empty cabins along the shore, half-wondering if I was still dreaming about my father.

January 12, 2020

Sermon

I went to a 700-year-old church on Sunday morning and the service was purely tonal because I don’t understand Finnish. It was the most moving sermon I’ve ever heard.

January 11, 2020

Climate

The town’s priest also apologized for the warm weather. “This new climate is beyond me,” he said.

January 10, 2020

Crying

The tears of things. If I squint at this phrase a certain way, I catch a glimpse of how I might better relate to grief.

January 9, 2020

Screens

I want to commune with nature but I do not know how. Some lizard-brained part of me wants to pull out my telephone and look for new headlines, new information.

January 8, 2020

Intoxicated

For years I’ve nursed elaborate fantasies of living in a remote cabin or better yet a double-wide in the Mojave desert. But would isolation make me more sensible?

January 7, 2020

Nostalgia

I remember believing the world would make sense when I grew older. But it never did and it probably won’t.

January 6, 2020

Consolation

I wonder what the effect will be in the long run, bearing witness to so much handwritten pain. “First let this be consolation,” she says. “Then let it be courage.”

January 5, 2020

Information

I try to see the world through my father’s eyes, his sense that everything looked like science fiction.

January 4, 2020

Silence

Today I came across the phrase “algo-seance scene” and realized I’m losing track of not only the future but the present.

January 3, 2020

Bookends

I try to imagine what I would have thought if someone had described the decade to come while we watched Obama wave from his motorcade.

January 2, 2020

Ash

“The bottom line is we’re all prisoners of the universe.” This becomes the coda for Jia Zhangke’s Ash is Purest White, where a dangerous romance downshifts into existential longing.

January 1, 2020

Cathedral

Now begins the season of Arvo Pärt, of private hymns and trees that look like old gentlemen.