The American flag is framed inside a window at the historic courthouse in Halifax.

2020 — what a crazy year! I know that we are all eager to say goodbye to this year on New Year’s Eve. I bet more of us will stay awake to see 2020 vanish into the horizon at midnight, as we toast safely at home with great hope for health and happiness in 2021.

When I have thought of 2020 in the past, I have thought about 20/20 vision. In thinking about the past 12 months, I would definitely say that this year has opened our eyes, in some good ways and some not-so-good. We see many things with much more clarity (or we should) — how precious life is, why we need to take care of our own health, how we should look out for our neighbors, the value of our employment, appreciation for schools and teachers, how although there are many differences that we are all human beings, the true blessings of family and friends, the dedication and sacrifice of first responders and those who work in health care, even the importance of the little things like toilet paper (all jokes aside).

I love photographs and images with portals. A portal is an opening like a door, a window, a tunnel that provides a frame of some sort and naturally draws the eye deeper into the picture or painting. Portals offer points of focus, a means of tuning out all the other distracting details of an image to find moments of clarity.

Every day at work when I walk to the copier room, I look up to see a window in the stairwell leading to the second floor of the historic courthouse. Through this portal, I see framed the American flag, stirring gracefully in the breeze or resting stars layered upon stripes against the flagpole. Unless I am in a hurry, I almost always pause briefly to gaze upon the flag, which I feel is a beautiful and honorable symbol. You may find it silly, but sometimes (to myself) I recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which fills me with pride each and every time, or I may hum The Star-Spangled Banner. If I am in a hurry, I will at the very least say God bless America aloud.

I know that America has great challenges. No country is perfect. But I still feel that America is a land of opportunity and freedom, a shining star of democracy when compared to the rest of the world. There is work to be done, but only by setting aside our differences and embracing the good that we want to achieve for all people can we fulfill the potential for our nation.

I miss being in church right now. Yes, I know that I can (and do) worship God wherever I am, but I look forward to church and having that special time set aside where I focus solely on God surrounded by other believers. When I am seated in my pew, I love looking at the beautiful stained glass windows, each depicting a different image from the Bible. Almost all of the glass in these windows is opaque with swirls of color and pattern. However, there are two small circles of clear red glass in each window design. Through these two clear portals, I don’t have a large view, but I can see tree branches and leaves.

For me that serves as a reminder that while I am indoors praising God as our Creator, that He is not present just inside the protected confines of the church, that He is not only all around us but also within us, in the breezes that cool us, the sun that warms us, the trees that offer shade, the air in our lungs, the blood in our veins, and the beating of our hearts.

I pray that this year, despite the struggle and strife, challenges and heartbreak we have experienced, will become a portal for our lives, our nation, and our world. This year will provide a framework of lessons learned for clarity and perspective. 2020 will draw our attention to the deeper meaning of our lives on Earth and our relationship to our fellow human beings. With a focus on that which is truly important — goodness, truth, health and happiness — I wish all of you a blessed New Year!

Christina Wells lives in Halifax with her husband Bruce and their dog Sunny.

Christina Wells lives in Halifax with her husband Bruce and their dog Sunny.