I'm in the press room at Spokane Print & Publishing Center this chilly afternoon, working on a 2021 card. I'm making two versions. One says 2021: It can't get any worse! The other says: 2021: Shhhh, don't make it angry.
There's some chronological snobbery at play, for sure, but it is safe to say we've just made it through a YEAR. And a year unlike many others. I don't need to recap. We're tired. Not even tired. Weary. Worn out. Fatigued. Much though certainly not all of that can be attributed to COVID: closures, lockdowns, debates, deaths. No words will ever do the entire disaster justice or convey the scale of it all. And right now, they don't need to. We know. But against many different kinds of odds, a vaccine has begun distribution. An election has finally been settled. The beginnings of changes to the circumstances have arrived, but that still leaves a weary populace with a lot of work to do. But for the first time in a long time, I at least feel like the work CAN be done.
So that's what I look forward to: work that matters. Staying hunkered down for the last months of the pandemic, doing our part to maintain the public health (I don't say this with blinders on, but I'm also weary of all the reasons we say we CAN'T do something so we don't even try. I just want to do my part, and have it matter). COVID has caused many problems in our society, but it also laid bare the systemic ones: racism, nationalism, wealth inequalities, political tribalism. That's where the work is, or at least that's where I feel like my work is.
I look forward to waking up one day and wondering where do I want to go, and being able to go there. I look forward to people coming to the print shop again, just to hang out and make art. I look forward to my daughter being able to dance with her team, and being able to sit around the table with my wife and some friends who just dropped by. I look forward to dropping by.
I look forward to community forums and hard truths about who we are and what we value, and how we value it. I look forward to my first drive down Whistalks Way.
Back to printing my cards, which I know are wrong. 2021 CAN be worse, but for the first time in a long time, I'm optimistic that it won't be. ♦
Thom Caraway is a poet, letterpress printer, and professor. He's the editor of Rock & Sling and a founder of the Spokane Print & Publishing Center. He lives in the West Central neighborhood with his wife and kids.