Dear 2020 

This seed is /buried deep /for /sprouting deceptively-perfumed blooms
/where nobody /expects: //if you are /not cruel, /if
//you strive to /do well/by //your fellow Kapwa, /if you /still
//believe in ethics, /I am /here, //grizzled, snow-haired, unafraid.
/“Happy New /Year!” *

Dear 2020: Many would rather erase you from memory. As for me, who long ago, claimed to Not be a Time being, calendars (especially Gregorian) do not mean much except as reminders of human-centric concepts that have dominated the Anthropocene.

Dear 2020: Even before the pandemic, I had already settled into a semi-solitary, silent, and small way of Being. I made a promise that I would migrate inward and go deeper to get to know my Heart. My mind is in my heart—though this hasn’t always been true. 

Dear 2020: I apologize for what I call the ‘tyranny of Hope’. There are so many in this culture who go overboard on positive thinking and being bright-sided as a way to convince themselves that Hope is a substitute for faith in Unknowing; a substitute for Grief.

Dear 2020: In some villages in India, the virus is a Devi and Corona Mai. People make offerings to the goddess of contagion and pray for protection. In the U.S., the virus is the enemy and we are at war. What is the difference? What and who is cruel?

Dear 2020: What are the seeds buried deep and now sprouting deceptively-perfumed blossoms? Two thousand and twenty years doesn’t make for depth. Try 10,000. Try 14 Billion years.

Dear 2020: In this culture, people are Hopeful for things to return to “normal;” I guess they mean returning to the habits that may have caused the virus to emerge in the first place. So many people do not believe in foretelling. Cassandra is always weeping.

Dear 2020: I wish the news media would stop talking about …2020 and its “disruptions.” As if disruptions haven’t always been with us. Just a simple turn of our perception towards the global south will tell us that these disruptions have finally arrived on our doorsteps. 

Dear 2020: HOPE, for a word-dreamer, is an invitation to turn to non-human voices. To fall into reverie and see how we might live differently if we could hear the voices of the creek around the bend; the lichen on the wooden redwood fence; the fungi on the floor of the redwood forest. 

—Leny Mendoza Strobel

*from “HOPE: First 2021 Poem,” by Eileen R. Tabios