Acoustic Music, Best Of..., Family, Heritage Travel, Monday Musings, The Times We Live In
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Best of the blog: Top ten posts of 2021

December is when “Top Ten” lists spring up in all sorts of places. For instance, last year’s listing of the top ten posts on More to Come as selected by reader views. It was a hit, so we’re back for 2021.

What follows is your selection of the top posts for the year, and I want to begin by simply thanking you for reading this eclectic mix of observations. I write about experiences, people, and things I enjoy; issues that are important to me; and topics I need to hear. Not exactly your single-focus blog. However, readers keep checking in, providing feedback through the choices of what’s of interest to you. The list of your 2021 favorites includes one music post from the Saturday Soundtrack series; pieces on history, preservation, and art; updates on family celebrations; and in-the-moment responses to the dramatic events of January 2021. And yes, you have to go all the way to the end to see what’s #1 (and to find a small bonus)!


Music and miscellany

The hot and sassy swing of the Avalon Jazz Band — Because I featured this post in both the New Favorites and Top Saturday Soundtracks of 2021 lists (the latter to come at the end of this week), I’ll be brief. We are in a period of time where we can use some happiness. As lead singer Tatiana Eva-Marie explains, that’s why this music was created in the first place and why it has such resonance today. See if you don’t find some happiness in Sunshine.

Pay your doctor bills / throw away his pills / you can cure your ills / with sunshine.

Digital declutter — Well before pandemic-forced quarantines, much of my time was spent in voluntary self-seclusion. How? By staring at my phone or tablet instead of making real connections with people. Cal Newport‘s 2019 book Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World was recommended by a friend and former colleague, and it immediately resonated with work I’d been doing during 2020 to address the love/hate relationship with my smartphone. It was time to make permanent the digital declutter I’d struggled to adopt throughout the year. Many of the MTC readers evidently agreed.


History, art and architecture

Grove Arcade in Asheville, NC

Architecture, art, and craft in Asheville — As more people begin to put their toes in the water to travel this fall, National Trust Tours brought twenty-five hearty souls to western North Carolina in October. As the educational expert for the exploration of this small gem of a city, I suggested our travelers look for three key elements as they toured: stories, vision, and action. Why? Great communities don’t stay that way by chance. Those that survive connect people with place, know where they want to go, and work tirelessly to make it happen. My edited remarks to the group were captured in this popular post.

Les Colombes installation at the Washington National Cathedral

Les Colombes — My May post from the nave of the Washington National Cathedral — where Candice, Andrew, and I were fully enthralled with Les Colombes, the multimedia art installation of German artist Michael Pendry — was a big hit this year. Andrew and I captured photos of the exhibit from several perspectives and in different light. It was a night for optimism and hope in a new year.

An October view of Lake Mohonk and the Mohonk Mountain House

For beauty, nourishment, and the celebration of life, Mohonk is one of our special places — This last post in the history, art, and architecture section is a nice segue to pieces celebrating family. Our entire family — including partners — spent the Indigenous Peoples Day weekend at one of the great places on earth: Mohonk Mountain House. We gathered for the celebration of a significant birthday, and I wrote about the experience and posted pictures from family members in this October post. It continues to draw views at the end of the year. To put it simply, I love Mohonk.


Family celebrations

The family enjoys a birthday celebration dinner at Mohonk Mountain House

Our year in photos – 2021 — During the Thanksgiving season, when so many are thinking of the love of family and friends, I continued my annual tradition of posting family photographs on More to Come. This practice began back in 2008 but has grown through the years so that the entire family now participates in the creation and curation of this particular entry. This is shameless family promotion, so you’ve been warned!

Reminders — Personal reminders of what matters can help as we seek to regain our equilibrium. My list shows up on the computer screen each morning. We were all looking for our way through and beyond the difficulties of 2020 and I found that I had written — in one way or another — about each of my personal reminders, or life rules, over the previous twelve months. This post featured eight of those stories from More to Come, given in the hope that they would help readers think about cardinal rules. It was a very popular read.

Tending the heart — The last weekend in May, our family celebrated what I called a “significant” birthday for my wife. When Andrew, Claire, and I began to think of ways to recognize this milestone, we settled on something called a Boombox. Through the wonders of the internet, we invited others to join us in sending best wishes. More than 100 of Candice’s friends and family members responded with cards, notes, poems, photos, newspaper clippings, and anecdotes. This post captured some of those well-wishes, and only something pretty momentous was going to knock it out of the top spot for views this year. As one commentator simply said, “Wow!”


The times we live in

“The Bridge” cartoon by Mike Luckovich that hangs in the office of Senator-elect Jon Ossoff

Heartbreaking and galvanizing — Our emotions were whipsawed in early January between heartbreak and elation. Our country is still making the choices that will help decide which one wins. Two things happened that week, both of historic proportions. On Tuesday night, January 5th, during a special election, Raphael Warnock was chosen by the voters of Georgia to be the first African-American to represent the state in the U.S. Senate and the first African-American Democrat elected to a senate seat by a former state of the Confederacy. His victory was shared with Jon Ossoff, who became the first Jewish Senator elected from Georgia. The wins by Warnock and Ossoff meant that with a 50-50 tie in the Senate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s vote gave Democrats the effective majority. It was an uplifting moment for democracy after a bitter 2020 election season. On Wednesday, a mob of white supporters of Donald Trump, incited by the sitting president, marched and overran the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to disrupt government and overturn the certification of the presidential election by Congress. It was a terrible moment for democracy in this country. I wrote about both of those things, shortly after they occurred, in this post.

The Hill We Climb — And the top post of the year was another “in the moment” piece of writing. In an inaugural ceremony full of wonderful moments and historic firsts, Amanda Gorman’s recitation of her six-minute poem The Hill We Climb was among the best. I snatched a video and some text and had it up online. The post quickly outpaced all other pieces on MTC for the year.

“History has its eyes on us,” as Gorman said. But as she ended her powerful call, it requires bravery for “our people diverse and beautiful” to “emerge battered and beautiful.”

The new dawn blooms as we free it

for there is always light

if only we’re brave enough to see it,

if only we’re brave enough to be it.


Bonus: The wisdom of fathers

The two posts which fell just outside the top ten in views both had to do with the wisdom that can come from our fathers. In Lessons Jamie Raskin learned from his father (February 16th), I turn to the eulogy our Congressman, Jamie Raskin, gave at the funeral for his father, the remarkable Marcus Raskin. In The practice of breakfast (May 3rd), I write about how my father’s morning practice of centering, and then cheerfully making breakfast, was the example I needed all along. I hope you enjoy them both.

Thanks again for reading.

More to come…

DJB

Image: Mohonk Mountain House as an October day turns to evening by Claire Brown.

by

I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.

1 Comment

  1. Larry Horwitz – a good personal friend and the Executive Director of Historic Hotels of America – wrote on my LinkedIn posting the following comment, which I want to capture here:

    “Tremendous David. We can understand why Mohonk Mountain House is a favorite. In addition to more than three decades in Historic Hotels of America, it is a frequent Historic Hotels Awards of Excellence winner, (was) awarded a commendation by the United Nations Environment program for generations of stewardship and designated a National Historic Landmark by the U. S. Secretary of the Interior.”

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