Well, we have almost made it through 2020. In many ways, this has been the worst year of my life. It's been filled with tragic loss, anxiety, and filled with unknowns. More importantly, though, it has also been filled with learning and growth to survive these troubled times. I'm thankful for the opportunities to grow our business in a different direction and grow my relationship with my life partner Jennifer.
I've mourned the loss of my mother. I have accepted that she is on a new journey and was chosen for a reason. I've evolved into a new way of life, learning to deal with the constant threat of COVID-19, as we all have. I have hope for 2021 but know that things are not going to magically get better as we go into a new year. The first half of 2021 will be brutal; it may be an even bigger struggle than 2020. These challenges define us, and how we react to these hardships determines our character and brings meaning to our lives.
Like everyone else, I did not get out much for photography this year. Still, I'm incredibly thankful for the times we were able to escape into nature. The first two months of the year were spent in Death Valley and were very productive pre-COVID. The future seemed bright. We were coming off of 2019, which we thought was challenging with its own ups and downs. However, little did we know what lay ahead. Below are some of my favorite images from January and February in Death Valley.
In March, we traveled to San Diego, where we planned to photograph dolphins and enjoy some beach time and craft brews with our friend Jimmy. We spent a couple nights out at a local watering hole, and that's when we first started hearing talk of COVID-19. It was unbelievable at first and seemed like something that couldn't happen in the US. We carried on like normal for a few days thinking it was just another flu. Each day, the stories became worse, then Jennifer was sick with fever and a cough. She was able to fight it off, but looking back, she might have caught COVID as these were not usual symptoms for her. She isolated for about twelve days and slowly got better.
I noticed the shelves at the grocery store were empty each day and getting worse. I became alarmed that we couldn't find the food we needed, which triggered our panic. We decided it was time to get out of California and head back to Colorado, where we had a stable and safe place to stay to shelter in place. I looked at the weather before leaving California and realized that a significant snowstorm would hit the Colorado mountains the next day. We had to leave immediately to beat the storm and drive twenty-two hours straight through. We managed to make it home on sheer adrenaline and anxiety.
We then hunkered down in Denver until June, where we did nothing but work. Most of our workshops were canceled for the year, and we had to find a new way to make income. Finally, in June, we were able to visit the Tetons and Yellowstone. The trip started out horribly, as you would expect in 2020. The dump valve for the black tank on our RV broke, and it was stuck in place in the Gros Ventre Campground in the Tetons. My first task as we arrived on our vacation was to disassemble said valve to replace it. Not a pretty job when you have a half-full tank that has been sitting for months. I'll spare you the details, but I spent four hours under the trailer in my own filth. It was a bad day, to say the least. We didn't take too many photos in the Tetons, but here is a long exposure of a tree blowing in the wind that I quite liked.
We then went to Yellowstone, where we were greeted with fantastic conditions of fog and interesting light. This time around, we were hyper-focused on photography. We spent every day doing as much as possible for some needed creative relief.
After this, we came back to Denver, where we spent July and August working away again. We didn't get out until September where we taught at the Out of Moab conference with a small group. There were COVID precautions in place, and we were careful. We had a blast doing what we love; teaching, connecting, and being out in nature. Life actually felt somewhat normal for a week.
Next, we headed to Southern Colorado to prepare for our first workshop since the pandemic started. It was a small group, and we were only going to be teaching outside with them. Then, the call came. My mom was dying. She had been diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma a few weeks earlier. Still, everyone thought she had more time, and we could visit her in South Dakota after the workshop, but time was now unexpectedly running out. Our workshop was set to start the day I received the call, and I was given the news that she was going downhill fast, and I needed to visit now while she was still lucid.
Two hours before the workshop started, we called up our clients to meet us early to deliver the bad news. I explained the situation while trying to hold back the tears, and thankfully our clients were very understanding. We then began the 1000 mile journey that we needed to do in a straight shot, besides a brief stop in Denver to get some sleep. We arrived late at night, and my mom stayed up and did not take her pain meds because she knew I was coming, and she wanted to be awake. I was able to spend several hours with her, which I will cherish forever. The remaining week was a blur. She was moved to Hospice and was less present each passing day. Less than a week after I arrived, she was gone.
We were numb and exhausted. We had reservations in Yellowstone and decided it was what we needed to heal; to get back into nature and focus on photography. It was very cathartic, and I was able to come away with images that I poured my emotions into.
We then spent much of November and December in hibernation again. Only this week did we get out hiking in the snow in Rocky Mountain National Park. Our workshops continue to be canceled due to California's lockdowns. We had to cancel one in Death Valley in December, and we just canceled another at the end of January. Rather than mourn, we have decided to make the best of our time in Denver. We will explore and photograph the winter wonderland around us in the mountains. We don't know what the future holds, but we have hope and faith that next year will be better.