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What a year it’s been

By: Adam Edwards + Save to a List

I keep drawing a blank. I type what adventure was in 2020 at the top of the page and then I stare at the screen. A minute passes, then another and soon enough the cursor has been blinking at me for a half hour. Not a word typed. Because it's been such a complicated year. I’ve not been locked indoors the whole time. My work as an arborist and my play as a kayaker and surfer ostensibly allowed me to stay outside, and away from people, a great deal more than most people. I had wonderful opportunities to play outside and create with people I care deeply about. I experienced family in new ways. I gained and let important human relationships. So my experience of quarantine is colored differently than some. 

But we all experienced painful losses this year in our own unique ways. Our victories and failures tallied up inside us for us to know and share as we see fit, as we FEEL fit too.  

So here is a list of things I’ve jotted down over the weeks and months about how 2020 has felt to me. The things I’m ready to face or start facing as the calendar year winds to a close and the promise of tomorrow comes when my fingers leave these keys and my head rests on my pillow.

It’s learning a new skill. 

It’s been trying new foods because the staples are sold out.

It’s reading a new book... the one that's been on your shelf for years.

It’s trying to fix new ways to connect with those we love. 

It’s going for a run... with a mask and a buff.

It’s kayaking with my friends on the same rivers we’ve paddled for a decade. And all of us driving... and riding bikes... and saying bye without a hug or high five.

It’s seeing the privilege in ourselves and our peers that we can still… anything.

It’s still having some access to green spaces even during lock down.

It's trying to grapple with, failing and prevailing, the sentiment that because we can we should//because it's there we should.

It's been realizing that for some of us adventure this year was leaving the house to go to the grocery store.

It’s the heartbreak of losing closeness and intimacy.

It's realizing that this year is going to take a lot of communal therapy to work through. Both paid for and over the dinner table.

It’s heartbreak of all shapes and sizes.  

I touch my face a lot.

This year has been professionally awesome and personally hard.

It's been a dumpster fire.

It's been Ironic, as a proponent of getting people outdoors, having suddenly succeeded. So many people. Everywhere. Spreading nature's love. Perhaps spreading Covid-19 at times too. And also spreading trash. Marring natural wonders. But, what can we do? Like so many things this year, “Which battle do I want to fight today?”

This year has been reeducating myself continually (race, gender, climate change…) the same way I had to unlearn lifting my head when trying to right an overturned kayak.

This year I have realized how much I drive to go kayaking. Wasteful?

This year has been reeducating my friends and community that racism exists all the time. 

This year has been being honest with my shortcomings the same way I have to when faced with hard decisions in the backcountry. Can I do this thing? Is this a story I can tell?

This year has been protecting and strengthening the weakest among us to strengthen and protect the whole. 

This year has been rediscovering things like biking. Walking. Hiking. Dialing back the extreme sports and just recreating. And realizing they’re one and the same for me.

This year a phrase I keep close at hand stings more, both in a good way and a bad way: “Another 'big bad' kayaker *insert your sport or obsession here* grew up and became a human being.”

It's been realizing the preciousness of small parks near home. Of the corner store vendor, of friends nearby.

It's being in the age of the Jetsons so quickly and violently. But without any of the awe and spectacle. Just the sudden cold necessity of video chat.

It’s quarantining for two weeks because you got exposed to Covid.  

It’s waiting in lines at the grocery the same way you used to wait for the ski lift.

It's lines for toilet paper the same way the trail used to be crowded at Eagle Creek.

It's waiting to hear from loved ones who have gotten Covid and are trying to pull through.

It’s folks finally calling out the racism they see on TV on their social media, but not the racism that's reflected in their neighbors and family.

It’s being given the same stink eye and verbal cuffing you’d get for cutting someone off on a wave for standing too close together in line for the bank.

It's figuring out which battle to fight each day, like picking your way through an inescapable trail, river, or route.

It's waking up grateful you're still breathing.

This year was waiting for text bombs about Covid the way you dread the SOS message from a Spot device.

This year was relationships strained and tested the way only expeditions are, and many broke. Shattered on the mounting tide of bad news and poor communication. Some strengthened, changed and deepened their roots.

This year was finding resilience. That grit, dark, hard, soft or pink. This year was finding that reserve to push on. 

This year was that last push to the final hold. That last paddle stroke, the rising whitewater towering behind.

This year was you paddling into your biggest wave, hardest route, largest ride, stoutest rapid, and making it out. Maybe you didn't style it, but this year we’re not here to debate style over survival. This year you strapped up, strapped in, and you held on through the ride. So here we go again. Because in reality, it's you that changes that calendar over to tomorrow. You are the one that rose day and again to make it tomorrow. 

You’ve done it many days over now, and we ride at dawn.


We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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