Are there words that can describe 2020? Plenty of negative ones come to mind, like “Why can’t you wear a mask?” But I am staying positive and sharing images of hope and healing—and planting more trees.
The presidential election is over. Vaccines to treat the virus are on the way. There’s a vaccine for racism—the Black Lives Matter movement. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been abandoned. Virginia passed the most sweeping environmental laws in its history.
In this post, I list some memorable quotes, share some photos, and reflect on this most unusual year.
Quotes of the Year
“If you have been to Wuhan, China, report immediately to your health care professional.”—Monitors at the Houston International Airport on our arrival from Trinidad, January 19
“Not guilty.”—US Senate, on President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment articles, February 5
“The trail is not land.”—US Forest Service lawyer before the Supreme Court of the United States in the US Forest Service v. Cowpasture River case, February 24
“People don’t make that distinction in real life.” —Justice Elena Kagan, responding to the above statement, February 24
“It’s going to disappear. One day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.”—President Trump, on the coronavirus, February 27
“I can’t breathe.”—Final words of dozens of people under police restraint and now an international rallying cry for police brutality. It started with Eric Garner in 2014 and this year, they were George Floyd’s final words.
“The well-funded, obstructionist environmental lobby has successfully killed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”—US Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, July 5
“Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature.”—Chief Justice John Roberts, on the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, September 19
“Stand back and stand by.” —President Trump, in reference to the Proud Boys militia group while refusing to condemn White supremacy at a presidential debate, September 29
“I’ve been talking about mail-in voting for a long time. It’s—it’s really destroyed our system. It’s a corrupt system. And it makes people corrupt even if they aren’t by nature.”—President Trump, November 5
“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.”—Christopher Krebs, director of US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, November 13
“America is back.”—President-elect Joe Biden, November 27
Pictures of Hope
I’m old enough to remember when Ruby Bridges, a 6-year-old Black girl, was escorted by US marshals to an all-White school during America’s desegregation in 1960. Pictured below is Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to be elected to the office, walking with Bridges’s shadow. Thank you, Bria Goeller for this brilliant image.
En Pointe in Black Tutus
Richmond, Virginia, was the capital of the Confederate States of America and hosts Monument Avenue, where five statues of Confederate heroes once stood. Four were removed in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. His murder reignited the Black Lives Matter movement that seeks to remove symbols of hate and racism. One Confederate statue remains, that of Robert E. Lee. Its removal is in legal question. Two 14-year-old ballerinas, Kennedy George and Ava Holloway, made history at the statue on June 5 as the world watched the American reaction to Floyd’s murder and the fate of symbols of hate.
My COVID-19 Pandemic Picture Pick
My father turned 96 this year. His assisted living facility has been in lockdown several times because of the coronavirus pandemic. My brother, Charlie, arranged for the Virginia Tech Hokie bird to visit outside Dad’s window and took this picture. My father served our country during World War II. After the war, he returned to Virginia Tech to finish his degree. He was a cheerleader in 1950 when the school was all-male and all-military.
The Appalachian Trail May Not Be Land But the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Is Dead
We lost the US Forest Service v. Cowpasture River argument in the Supreme Court of the United States because, according to the court and Dominion Energy, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail “is not land.”
We lost that argument, but on July 5 Dominion Energy abandoned the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. They still lacked eight permits and, claiming “unforeseen legal challenges,” the bullying, billion-dollar, corporate giant gave up. Our long-awaited miracle had arrived.
Virginia Passed Sweeping Renewable Energy Laws
The Clean Economy Act was passed in March. It sunsets coal-fired power plants by 2030 and puts Virginia on track to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
Virginia Passed the Bovine Bill
Big news for water quality. If the waters of the Chesapeake Bay are still in violation of the Clean Water Act in 2025, Virginia’s Bovine Bill goes into effect.
Beginning July 1, 2026, any person who owns 20 or more bovines in the Chesapeake Bay watershed shall install and maintain stream exclusion practices sufficient to exclude all such bovines from perennial streams in the watershed.
—From VA HB1422
Pictures of Healing
This year was a big year for us in farming. We are involved with three farms in Virginia. One along the Middle River, another we call the Swoope Cattle Company Northern Division, and the one we bought in Churchville. We left Hoffman Farms last year in September, moved our herd to the Northern Division farm, and waited for the right farm to buy. A miracle appeared—the former Galen Back farm in Churchville was for sale just 9 miles north of our home.
The new farm in Churchville is along Whiskey Creek, a tributary of the Middle River. Jeanne liked the barns, I liked the soils—it has two of the Shenandoah Valley’s best soils, Bookwood and Shenval. Find your soil here.
These are our heifers enjoying the pastures on our farm along the Middle River and getting a kiss from the Princess of Swoope.
Pictures of Fun
In January we had no idea that our trip to the Caribbean would be our last travel adventure for the year. I had never heard of COVID-19. We flew to the British Virgin Islands, chartered a 44-foot catamaran sailboat, and circumnavigated the island of Tortola in seven days, logging 126 nautical miles. Crew: Jeanne, Bill and Gaye Reid, Margot Taylor, Jane Hruska, Philmore Francis, me.
Trinidad, Port of Spain
After our sailing adventure, we flew to Trinidad. One of the most spectacular birding experiences I have ever had is seeing a roosting site for the Scarlet Ibis in the Caroni Swamp of Trinidad. At dusk, thousands of these birds come to roost for the night.
“If you save your own backyard, then you start to save the world,” wrote the late Winston Nanon, the man who saved the Caroni Swamp and the bird that became the national bird of Trinidad—the Scarlet Ibis.
Our last place to visit was the island of Tobago. Here, we hired a guide to take us to the uninhabited island of Little Tobago. We hiked to the top of the mountain to see the nesting site of the Red-Billed Tropicbird.
When the pandemic is over we will visit family and one day return to the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
We flew back to the United States from Trinidad to the international airport in Houston, Texas, on January 19. As we walked through security, the messages on the monitors overhead read, “If you have been to Wuhan, China, report immediately to your health care professional.” Little did we know how serious that message was.
Hope For Us All
In 2021 the pandemic will be over, and Joe Biden will become the president of the United States. Let’s hope that unity can be restored and the flames of racism extinguished, that people get back to work, and that we can once again enjoy the company of our family and friends.
Many thanks to the nurses, doctors, and hospital workers on the front line of the war on the pandemic. Thanks also to the election officials and poll workers who kept our election free from fraud and abuse.
Happy New Year and may it bring you good health, prosperity, and a more sustainable environment.