What if normal is the problem? And other coronavirus questions

The pandemic diaries

Eleven months ago, I flew home to Sea-Tac as coronavirus dug its claws into the flesh of the world. Shelves emptied, businesses closed, panic began to set in. In March 2020, I wrote in my notebook a snippet of conversation I overheard in the grocery store:

“Are we going to die?” A young woman asked.

After a long pause, from behind his mask a man reassured her with two words: “not today.”

In my notebook, I added:

Apocalyptic thoughts rush forward when uncertainty is the only certainty.

Nobody knew how bad it would get. Sitting at the gate for the flight back to Reno, I listened to my pilot talking to a flight attendant:

The media is freaking out about the virus,” the pilot said.

For twenty minutes, he described overreaction that was hurting the industry. On the flight back to Reno, I crouched over the tray table to write a few more anxious pages.

Suddenly, life is no longer normal. How did we get into this mess?

I didn’t share my thoughts back in March. The pandemic felt too fluid, evolving, unknown. My reaction felt too, well, reactionary, to be accurate. Maybe I was overreacting. I needed patience, perspective.

We’re nearly a year in. But looking back at that notebook, I’m shocked by how little has changed:

US leads the world in coronavirus cases by far. We haven’t even seen the worst of it. The virus is underscoring so many pre-existing problems in the country and stressing every aspect of our constitution.

Today, over 100 million people have contracted the virus. Over 2 million have died. The United States still leads the world in both categories.

This irrefutable proof could—should—spread the realization that we can’t ignore our connection to each other, everyone, and everything.

bright orange beach at sunset
Distant strangers on a beach in Washington in December 2020.
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A 2020 success

2021 Conservation Calendars

This year, conservation calendars traveled to 11 states on the path to raising over $200 for Washington Environmental Council. I donated to WEC because most of my calendars went to my home state, helping fund important work on salmon recovery, Puget Sound orcas, clean energy, environmental justice, and more.

Thank you everyone.

I also partnered with my friends at Sierra Institute for Community and Environment. I worked for the Sierra Institute when I took most of the photos in the calendar. SI ordered calendars to give to special donors as end of year thank you gifts.

I hope you enjoy your calendar!

-Austin

This photo is in the Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park, ancestral land of the Chalát (Hoh) Nation. In the photo you can see my father, standing near center for scale. It was taken in a different eon, 2013, when I apparently didn’t think about such things as blowing highlights.

Calendars now ready for pre-order

It’s that season again. Bears fatten up, birds fly south, and Austin stresses about having 12 photographs to perfectly represent every month of the year.

Luckily, I have over 25,000 photos from January 1, 2020, to today, to choose from.

And all you have to do is sit back, pour some eggnog, and reserve your 2021 Conservation Calendar.

Curious which photos will make the cut?

Check out my gallery, Facebook, and Instagram. Leave comments—they may or may not influence my decisions.

Chances are, a few never-before-seen photos will don those magnificent pages. And don’t sleep on those waiting in October, November, and December.

Happy fall!

-Austin