Happy New Year from Christine Mahler

January 21, 2021

Every January I sit down to pen a New Years note to you, our partners and friends. This year is no different in that way, although it’s different in just about every other. I look back on the last year and I cannot believe it was only 12 months… it feels more like 12 years!

During that year, I missed seeing family and loved ones, prioritizing their health—and our communities’ health—over my desires. During that year, I came to hate my small apartment—probably because I have spent WAYYYYYY too much time in it, although the 2” of water we had flood in right before the holidays certainly didn’t help either! And during that year, I’ve lost loved ones, to COVID and other causes, but have been unable to gather to grieve with family.

However, I want to remind you all that it wasn’t ALL bad, despite what comes first to mind as you think back. During that year, I caught my first salmon on my first fishing trip but failed (yet again) to harvest a turkey. I also relearned to knit, waged a semi-successful war with critters in my garden, shared my long-time passion for sourdough with friends across the country, and grew closer to my partner and step daughter. I’ve also prioritized my growth and education in equity and social justice, learning to recognize my privilege and both check it and leverage it, as dictated by the circumstances (although I still have MUCH work to do here!).

And, during that year, we’ve seen more people than ever heading outside. And while you might at first feel a sense of frustration when there was no parking at your favorite trailhead, I choose to see that as a positive sign—look at all those people enjoying the great outdoors, living happier and healthier lives because of it! And I took it as an opportunity to explore new (to me) and different options. Instead of heading to Mount Si or Mailbox Peak just outside Seattle, I left those for folx exploring them for the first time. Instead, I visited my local community greenway, or headed more remote or far afield locations, taking advantage of my privileges that allow me to do so. And because of this, we’ve also become first-hand witnesses to the healing power of nature—I wonder if there is anyone who didn’t gaze at a flower, at a tree, at a forest and feel the weight of their emotional burdens lighten just a bit this last year?

Unfortunately, the last few weeks also highlighted the dangers of division. Our country—and our state—are more divided than ever. And while terrorists and insurrectionists must be held accountable and punished, that is not the end of the story. We, as a people, must also must find ways to heal. We must find ways to work together—left and right, East and West, Democrat and Republican. These are the founding principles of the Coalition, and they’re principles I’ve worked towards my entire professional life. They are principles I invite you to all remember today, and in the year ahead. They are critical to the success of our mission, but more importantly, to the success of our nation.

In closing, I invite you to revisit the words of Amanda Gorman, inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate, during the inauguration earlier this week. Whatever side of the aisle you are on, I invite you to set aside politics and preconceived notions, and listen closely to her words—I think we can all find inspiration, hope, and wisdom in them.