2022 in threes

End of year reflections.

Three moments of 2022

Not dozing in the sun in Munich airport. We flew from Sydney to Rīga via Singapore and Munich, and both transits were terrible, Singapore because it was the middle of the night and Munich because we wanted it to be and it very much wasn’t. But Munich airport has plastic lounge chairs in the airport and we lounged on them in bright summer sun pouring in through huge windows, allegedly fixing our body clocks, or at least, being awake.

Wandering in a daze of pain through Muir Woods. I went to Muir Woods twice this year, on both trips to the Bay Area. The second time I had some kind of digestive upset and ended up in a slightly altered state of consciousness, torn between pain and the somewhat meditiative experience that is inherent to Muir Woods.

Carrying a couch up our street in breaks between rain. We rented office space (former therapy rooms, in fact) near our home in 2021 in order to have a place to work that wasn’t also doubling as a school and 24/7 nuclear family circle of hell. I found it hard to let go of the lease before winter was over since it was difficult to imagine a winter without society closing down.

And then I tore my MCL skiing — the opposite of that kind of winter — and it was hard to give up the lease because I couldn’t help move the furniture out of it. Finally, with the historic spring rains, it was time, and the couch was the last thing out, moved to our porch for a freebie pickup just ahead of a forecast downpour.

Three meals of 2022

Georgian food at Alaverdi, gruzīnu restorāns, in Rīga. Mostly I remember cheese dipped in honey, and wine, and the fact that it was 10pm and not yet sunset.

Smoked pork on rye bread, bread pudding, pickled cabbage various colours, honey vodka among other parts of our food tour of the Rīga Central Market. It started inauspiciously with the guide being (only a little late), but then she was thrilled to meet Australians (“they let you out!” “people from Australia and New Zealand are Latvia’s best tourists!”) and even our picky child was moderately pleased with the idea of an afternoon snack of pork and bread.

Fish at Doyle’s at sunset. I’ve lived in Sydney for 24 years and there’s still a raft of fundamental Sydney things I haven’t done, this was this year’s. The sunset is the key, more than the fish.

Three photos of 2022

Goodbye Culburra: photograph of the photographer casting a shadow onto beach sand, out of focus waves in the distance Uluṟu & Kata Tjuṯa before dawn Fallen log covered in moss in a forest, near the Latvian village of Sigulda

Three pleasures of 2022

Mid-childhood. My children are nearly 9 and 13, They were never not people, but at this stage being a kid of a particular age is a less dominant part of their identity than being particularly themselves. So we have cricket that approaches a part-time job in its commitment level, 5:30am starts to get to cheerleading, sketches in advance of a future fashion label, and someone unexpectedly installing chess apps on their phone alongside TikTok.

Certainty. I haven’t had to tell anyone that their holidays or school or surgery aren’t happening or are delayed or are being replaced with some rushed together home equivalent. I skipped only one family event myself due to illness/contagiousness.

A welcome summer. It rained so much this year and has been so cool that the moderately warm summer days of late December have been quite welcome and joyful, rather than the harbringer of unpleasantness it can be in many years. Watching the sunset from Milk Beach on Christmas Day while a group danced to salsa music from someone’s phone; the morning of New Year’s Eve supervising pre-teen girls squealing in the gentle surf at Wattamolla. Beautiful.

Three news stories from 2022

A year of pundits being terribly wrong about the biggest of big stories. Putin won’t invade Ukraine (Atlantic Council, BBC, Al-Jazeera, University of Melbourne), China will not exit zero COVID (Time, the Atlantic, Bloomberg).

Apparently our former Prime Minister was formerly several other ministers too. The point I, and many others, return to a lot, is “but, also, why?” This is yet to be satisfactorily explained.

Two and a half metres of rain for Sydney. Someone I know lost a friend in the regional flooding.

Three sensations from 2022

Fatigue-and-pain hour. I had COVID at the end of January, it felt like being the last person to get it, but the seroprevalence surveys put me only in the first 40% or so of Australians. Overall I’d put it at worse than most colds, better than influenza, and certainly much better than that time I had early sepsis (which is quite the barometer for bad illness). Its tendency over about the next two weeks to show up arbitrarily once a day for about an hour at a time, fatigue-and-pain hour, was the most distinct part of it.

A plane rocketing down a runway ahead of taking off. Twelve times altogether I suppose but I most distinctly remember the first one leaving Sydney for San Francisco in March, 772 days since my previous plane flight in February of 2020.

The dim shape of chairlifts in the clouds. Our first day in Falls Creek in August was a windy whiteout — they evacuated the mountain at lunchtime — and my daughter gamely skiied down a run with me with neither of us having skied in two years. I was motivated mostly to keep the chairlift in sight for reference rather than find an easy slope and so was very proud of her fortitude.

Three sadnesses of 2022

Tech layoffs and the associated rumour mills, churn, and anxiety. It’s been especially hard since the economic boom that immediately proceeded it was very much a money-boom; during that period folks were sick, sad, and isolated, and do not have an emotional boom-time worth of resilience.

Relatedly, the mid-career exit of women I know in tech continues apace.

Sulking at a hotel window view of Falls Creek’s Summit area during the “walking is very uneasy and requires a lot of planning” phase of my MCL injury. A very winter sport moment, but I had finally found an instructor to sort out my parallel turns this time for sure, just long enough for me to catch the wrong edge ahead of the end of week bluebird days, and it was frustrating.

Three plans for 2023

Both types of NSW beach road trip, that is, north and south, and both in the next four weeks. We booked the southern one, back to the same town where we holidayed in 2019, 2021, and 2022, some of my family booked in to meet us there, and then my son was invited to play in a cricket carnival about as far in the opposite direction as is possible. So, northern cricket tournament first, unpack cricket gear, wash remainder of clothes, head south.

SCUBA. The big hobby of our 20s, but early mornings and babysitters made it so unappealing in our 30s. We’re hoping to dive off Byron Bay, which I have wanted to do for at least 15 years. I don’t think going back to 20 dives a year is on the cards, but, I plan to do a handful of them.

Falls Creek re-run. 2022 was our first extended family ski trip, we stayed in a local family’s hotel full of regulars, with a communal lounge and a babysitting and dining for kids, and of such are family traditions made.

Three hopes for 2023

A narrative of my career that makes sense. My career isn’t bad — it’s highly paid and I get good reviews — but its current iteration is very formed by “just get through this crisis and then” where “this crisis” refers to at least four completely distinct events over three years at this point. A sustainable narrative is what I want.

North American winter, a year from now. I wanted to do this the year my son was 10, it somehow seemed like the perfect age. That year was 2020, so, we did not. I don’t dread the flights or the prices less after Europe in 2022; this may be a case of wanting to want something. But I’ve wanted to want it for a long time!

Catch up on my photography backlog. I’m almost, but not quite, three years behind. I’m not ready to give up. It’s a lot, but there’s a lot of beauty and memories in there that I want access to.

Green rock

April 2022

In utmost naivety, we expected the red centre to be only rock and red dirt. But the whole desert is alive with desert oak and spinnifex (andm if you are lucky, quandong), and Uluṟu in particular attracts and shelters water, and thereby, herds of ghost gum and zebra finches.

The wettest and the greenest is in the near permanent shade of the Mutijulu waterhole. People defecated on the rock when climbing was allowed; Mutijulu won’t be safe for human consumption for 20 more years.

Greenery at Uluṟu Rich green around Uluṟu Ghost gums at Uluṟu Dry grass near Uluṟu Ghost gum near Mutijulu waterhole, Uluṟu Rock face near Mutijulu waterhole, Uluṟu Marching upwards, Uluṟu

All photos.

2021 in threes

End of year reflections.

Three moments of 2021

Wishing a child luck when leaving them in an anaesthetic bay. My children are too old now for me to detail their medical status publicly, but this year featured a major surgery, of which we had had mere hints at New Year, but by February had reached “I’ve cleared my list on Tuesday” urgency. And so.

Coughing so hard that my boss’s boss told me to go and get a drink of water. Every COVID wave this year (both of them) was marked with me getting a rubbish and seemingly non-COVID chest infection. My winter one saw me getting at least three separate PCRs trying to ensure I wouldn’t be spreading COVID at the vaccine clinic and then left me with months long choking coughing fits. The meeting with my boss’s boss was just before I started using Ventolin to manage the coughing, which I needed for a further month.

Sunset at Milk Beach, more than 5km from home and therefore near and then beyond the bounds of the possible. / Sunrise” at The Gap the day that restriction was lifted, and the clouds and misty rain were far too thick for the dawn to be seen.

Three meals of 2021

Self-saucing chocolate puddings from a giant pack of cooking-with-fancy-chocolate guides that my aunt sent at the beginning of Sydney’s lockdown (lots of sympathy inbound in the six weeks or so it took for the lockdown to spread outside the metro region). Hot and incredibly filling.

Enormous fish tacos for Mexican Friday at one of my local bars. It was just a lot of taco!

Bennelong again, as we wanted to go there again and sit in the main restaurant after Andrew’s 40th. One of the rare times I don’t remember the actual food well (possibly I ordered the duck?) but the occasion. We had cocktails at Maybe Sammy prior, which I remember rather better: gin, and huge cubes of clear ice.

Three photos of 2021

Nobbys Beach from Fort Scratchley Last light off Sydney City, from Milk Beach Raindrops on jacaranda

Three pleasures of 2021

My parents’ beautiful farm. I was confined to Sydney by health order for four months and then caught in the whirl of rebooting my life, so we didn’t visit between Easter and Christmas. It has rained immensely, all the teenage trees from the first years of their ownership are thickening and even the ancient established gums look fatter. The steers can’t be seen in the tall grass and the lawn is springy and needs mowing most days.

All the ways that my children aren’t like me. For example, flexibility is very important to A. She can do the splits in every axis and one of her lockdown skills (they’ve happened enough that she believes that a “lockdown skill” is a sort of fact of life) was one handed cartwheels on both sides.

A commute. I had to rent it; I have office space near my house. But 2 minutes of space between me and the morning chaos at home has made a huge difference to my mornings, when most of my important and high stakes conversations take place. Now, behind a door that locks.

Three news stories from 2021 (not COVID)

The missing children who were found: “they found AJ Elfalak!” “they found Cleo Smith!”

French-Australian diplomatic tensions over the cancellation of a submarine order. This is memorable mostly because of the number of times I girded myself to finally, properly, understand whether the level of resentment was justified, and the number of explainers I diligently began reading only to realise at the third paragraph that eyes moving back and forth does not constitute reading things in and of itself. Bouncing off a news story so hard is itself memorable.

Gladys Berejiklian’s resignation as NSW Premier. I rarely watch things like this (I can’t stand to watch concession speeches at election time), but I had spent months watching her 11am winter COVID wave press conferences with Kerry Chant and others most days, following bushfire press conferences a year and a half before, and so somehow had to be there for the end as well.

Three sensations from 2021

The inevitable sore arm from three COVID vaccinations and counting. A funny tasting headache with it, just on the edge of perhaps being imaginary.

Walking backwards off a cliff, abseiling on our camping trip. I hadn’t abseiled as an adult and expected this to be extremely confronting, but the best way to walk backwards off a cliff is to do it nice and fast, and to jump as much as you can. On a slightly harder course, I ended up smacking into the cliff and needing to do a minor self rescue before flying over a cave in one bound.

Being squashed by V, now reaching an adult weight, once the lockdown grumps had abated a bit. And the view of the top of his head, all the other times he believed that lying face down next to me constituted a hug.

Three sadnesses of 2021

The narrowing vision around the pandemic. The world shuddered at the Indian disaster, and then you had to look carefully to catch the Tunisian and Indonesian disasters, the latter particularly a repeat of India. This has been happening since March 2020, but getting worse, the pandemic horizon gets smaller all the time.

This last few years, whatever horrible sympathetic magic happens to parents about tragedies and children set in for me, and so, I spent days in hazes of horror after the Werribee house fire (recalling the Singleton fire of 2019) and the jumping castle tragedy in Davenport.

The tail end of Sydney’s lockdown and the re-entry were very hard on my kids. Not easily distinguishable from age-appropriate grumping at times, but with some distance; a lot of it was the lockdown.

Three plans for 2022

Wall-to-wall travel, apparently.

Beach holiday, why not try this again? We were in the end able to head down the coast last year in January for our bushfire/pandemic-deferred beach holiday, and we have booked another one at end of this January. Even more so than last year, it’s a long time away in public policy terms.

Uluru. As the Australian border opened, I was musing on trying to put together a trip to Japan for their spring, but got lost in a maze of their restrictions, our restrictions, and incoming immune-evasion variants. Then I saw Peter Carroll’s photography of Uluru in the rain (via some non-crediting Twitterer who will therefore remain unlinked) and we booked a Uluru trip for autumn instead.

I have never seen Australia’s deserts before. I have no expectation it will rain.

Family snow trip. We got really close, one family got as near as having the car packed before the government pulled the plug; 2021 was the first year we’ve missed since 2013.

Andrew and I have better gear to make up for our deficiencies, V is keen to try snowboarding, A is way more adventurous than she used to be, and also has nearly a year of acrobat muscle built up. This could be our year.

Three hopes for 2022

Had to work to avoid wall-to-wall travel.

Visiting the US. This has at least been legal for me to do for a month (and I was invited to do so almost the second it was), quite when I will consider it either useful (other people need to be at the office) or sensible I am not sure of. 2022 is the hope, perhaps even early in the year.

Roadtripping Highway 1 with Andrew seems a bit much to hope for within the year.

Sailing in Queensland. This is a repeat hope, but eastern Australian border closures seem finally done for with pan/endemic COVID everywhere. Springtime nights under the moon on a catamaran, I’ve been trying to get this together for nearly four years. “Hopefully by spring…”

A full year of schooling. It’s been about five months of virtual schooling in two years, somewhere between the US and many European countries. It’s been enough and more.

First dawn

October 2021

The 11th was the date when NSW stopped having a 5km travel limit, so I left home before sunrise and drove to The Gap to watch the first far-from-home dawn.

Of course, it was damp and cloudy and dark, no dawn to be seen. There’s more variety in the transforms on the photos than I usually do, because the light was so average.

It was great.

Gap bluff Pool at the foot of Gap Bluff Watsons Bay on a rainy dawn day, first day out of lockdown Stairs up to Gap lookout Gap Bluff and North Head