The first time I put on glasses, I saw leaves. They were on the trees, these beautiful little diamond shapes, two curved lines that met at a point on both ends, straight line down the center, tethered there in place to the branch by a tie, waving in the wind. They had lines around the color, every single one, from a distance across the field as we drove, tiny defined individual pieces that made up the amorphous blobs of color I had always known. Leaves.
When we look back: now we know what now we know.
On New Year’s Eve, I like to reflect on all that has happened throughout the year I have just lived. Before I can admit my hopes and start dreaming for the next year, I need to understand all this one year has brought me — the ways I have changed and grown, the experiences I have taken and received, the questions whose answers I have grown to understand without even realizing it. I need to take time to notice that which I have been so close to I haven’t seen it. I need to say thank you.
I think it is especially poignant to reflect this year at the end of 2020, a year that has taught us so much. A year whose digits — 20/20 — represent perfect clarity. The pinnacle of human visual perception. The gift of being able to see.
In this retrospekt, we take note of the moments and pause. We compile. We juxtapose. Knowing what we know now, we recognize and pay homage to the people and happenings that have brought us to today so we can continue, changed, into tomorrow. Here, in this book, three women write letters to their past or future selves at age 20. Three other women stand in to recreate scenes from old family photo albums and exhibit their most treasured possessions to tell us about their worthy lives. And together, we think about how writer Susan Sontag’s prophetic 1977 essay “The Image-World” applies to our image-saturated, social media-driven society today. May this project lead us deeper into understanding our collective and individual selves.
While I think it’s missing the point of it all to dwell in the past, it is important to take moments to remember who we’ve been and where we’ve come from so we might look ahead and know wherever we are going, we can proceed. With confidence and with courage, we can continue on, in faith that both the quiet times when we don’t want to move and the times when we do are filled with purpose, full of growth and new.
Because we saw how we were carried all along until we came to this place, can trace the trail behind us to this point, right here, beneath our feet. Look back and look down. We have been provided for along these straight and jagged and curved lines our footprints draw paths behind us.
Let us look back not to freeze to pillars of salt but to take the courage to turn ‘round again and continue moving forward. To delight. To be grateful.
Those shapes on the trees are leaves.