Last year, when the word ‘pandemic’ split our world into the before and after, I headed to Lake Ontario to watch the sunrise – my attempt to find an anchor, something to hold on to in the face of uncertainty. Last week, I found myself on the same spot at Humber Bay Park, next to an uprooted tree trunk, stripped and polished by water into a work of art – a foreground for many of my Lake Ontario pictures. A few of its roots and branches had gone missing since last year – a big triangular shape that had worked so well for framing the CN Tower was now gone. Other than that the scene looked no different from last year – the same fiery orange paint spilled along the edge of the sky in anticipation of the big star’s entry, the same comforting lull of the lake…
Same spot, two images a year apart
Of course, everything is different. We’ve lived through a year filled with tremendous collective loss and pain. A year of seismic changes, sacrifices, isolation and endless grief. So as I watched the red orb inch its way into the sky, I thought of the past year reminding myself that behind all those COVID numbers are actual people, something that is easy to forget as I quickly scan through new cases every morning. I thought of all the front-facing workers – doctors and nurses, personal support workers, migrant farm workers, grocery store clerks, cleaners and bus drivers – who have been putting their health and lives at risk to make sure we could keep on living ours. I thought of all those who have been impacted the hardest due to inequities in our system and have been dealing with economic hardships, job loss, homelessness, isolation and loneliness.
I also thought of all the stories of people coming together to support each other in new, ingenious ways. Of my family, friends and coworkers who have been there for me throughout this year – to share tears, listen to my silences and help create moments of light and joy.
After a few moments of hesitation, the sun catapulted into the sky with all its life giving, darkness banishing force – a familiar, yet no less miraculous act it performed the morning before, and the one before that, and a year ago when I stood in the exact same spot feeling the world collapse around the centre of gravity that was COVID. A never-ending cycle of sunsets and sunrises, a constant reminder that time isn’t linear. That no matter how much we want to put this challenging year behind us, it has become a part of us like a ring in the tree trunk now basking in the morning light on the shore of Lake Ontario.
The pandemic isn’t over, and its impacts will linger well into the future. And even though, after a year of holding our collective breath, we are all eager to exhale that massive sigh of relief, now is not the time, not yet. What we can do is continue to support each other, share the grief and eventually start the healing, learn from the past year and get to building a better future.
P.S. I took a walk along the beach and found some new driftwood frames for the CN Tower photo shoots.