Ann Arbor, MI

Reflections of 2020 -- Finding the Beauty in an Ugly Year

Tracy Stengel

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However you look at it, 2020 will be a memorable year. With all the sadness, I have to force myself to balance somber thoughts with ones filled with simple joy. I find that comfort through nature. All these pictures are views from our deck on the outskirts of Ann Arbor, Michigan. I am thankful to have a beautiful spot to hunker down as Covid-19 destroys life as we knew it.

No matter where we live, there’ll always be a sky. It never ceases to surprise and delight me.

I try to be conscious of my perspective. I can either choose to see darkness and despair or I can embrace the light. I will always celebrate the light. I hope you will too.


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Sunsets are so beautiful that they almost seem as if we are looking through the gates of Heaven. ~ John Lubbock

This is one of my favorite pictures and an omen for what was coming in 2020. Everything is turned upside down and it’s easy to confuse what is real and what is merely a reflection.


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With every sunset, a new hope is born, and an old expectation dies. ~ Noor Unnahar

In February, we fear our foundation may be cracking underneath us, but many of us looked on the bright side and felt the virus would not wreak havoc on our lives. Covid affected the world, but we must continue to focus on hope lest we get sucked under by the fears.


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Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty if only we have the eyes to see them. ~ John Ruskin

In March, I don’t capture a beautiful sunset. Maybe I am focusing on the wrong things. When the world comes to a halt, I’m afraid I’m going to be flung off the earth. Everything feels off-kilter and askew. This picture of everything perfectly still stabilizes me.


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Softly the evening came with the sunset. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Trailings from two airplanes remind me life is still moving. While I don’t put any miles on my car or rack up any SkyMiles, the odometer in my head is spinning constantly as my mind works hard to understand that everything I knew has changed.


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The water was glassy and calm, still candy colored in the afterglow of sunset. ~ Stephen King

The days are warming and tulips are blooming in Michigan. Gorgeous nights like this make me grateful for the things we still have and I worry less about what we are losing.


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It is almost impossible to watch a sunset and not dream. ~ Ben Williams

As summer begins, I fantasize about what may be on the horizon. I pray it’s more glorious than we could ever imagine.

We eat outside whenever the weather permits and linger on the deck well into the evening. Fresh air, sun rays, and moonbeams combined make an intoxicating cocktail.


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A sunrise or sunset can be ablaze with brilliance and arouse all the passion, all the yearning, in the soul of the beholder. ~ Mary Balogh

Sam and I are married July 3, 2020, in a small ceremony in our yard. We got creative to be able to have our closest friends and family surround us … safely at a distance. In days filled with forecasts of a bleak future, we choose to believe in each other and trust God. May the rest of our lives be filled with abundant sunshine and gentle rains.


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Sunset is still my favorite color, and rainbow is second. ~ Mattie Stepanek

More than ever, I am in awe of nature’s beauty. I try to adhere images like this onto my mind and have faith there will be plenty of sunny tomorrows. We stay outdoors, soaking up the balmy days and cool evenings.


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A sunset paints the sky as if there were no tomorrow. ~ Anthony T. Hincks

I am trying to learn to enjoy the present and not worry so much about what the future holds. This isn’t always easy for me, but instead of questioning, I am choosing to believe in the good. Life is unpredictable — that’s what makes it an exciting ride!


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Enjoy the beauty of a sunset — nature’s farewell kiss for the night. ~ Sharon Rene

This year, we’ve lived a very simple life and I’m beginning to appreciate the lessons it’s taught us. No restaurant, club, or concert is needed to create a special evening. We do that on our own and we’ve discovered we are getting pretty darn good at making our time together meaningful and memorable.

Hopefully soon, we will stroll Ann Arbor's quaint shops and dine at our favorite restaurants. It will be like revisiting old friends.


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When the sun has set, no candle can replace it. ~ George R. R. Martin

I learn we can give thanks with our loved ones in different ways than we are used to, and they are more heartfelt than ever. We join hearts from afar and eagerly await the day we can gather again. Our time with loved ones is precious and priceless.


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Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storms, but to add color to my sunset sky. ~Robindranath Tagori

As the year comes to a close and the Christmas season ramps up, I am focused on the positives. I’m am a more grateful, appreciative, and spiritual person at the end of this year than I was at the beginning.

Our home is wrapped in lights we hung with care, but the brightest lights of all radiate from our hearts.

In reflection

As we begin March 2021, we mark a full year since the Covid lockdowns and restrictions began. Although I think back, I strive to continue looking forward, determined to search for the beauty in even the ugliest things.

May your world be full of fresh air and stunning sunsets. I hope you notice them all.

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Tracy explores the world with a positive eye, an open heart, and a sprinkling of humor. Without laughter, she would be lost.

Onsted, MI

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