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2020 — A year when only a few good things happened

2020 — A year when only a few good things happened

What we wouldn’t give to be hugging you right now.  


Instead we are pretty much confined to our house since our county just went on a second lock down that extends until mid-January 2021.  When it gets lifted will depend on medical statistics over which we have no control.  While we are just a few days away from January, we have become accustomed to a whip-sawed way of life as we adhere to Covid-safe restrictions.  Maybe we’ll be able to get our hair cuts on January 9th.  Maybe not.




This blog post is Bruce’s and my 2020 Year in a Nutshell, an end-of-year summary I’ve been writing every December since 2002, when I officially retired from Stanford, and our first granddaughter, Catie Cryan was born.  Next fall Catie will be a freshman at Scripps College in Claremont, California where her older brother, Connor,  will begin his second year at Claremont McKenna.   Both schools are part of the Claremont five college consortium. 


Connor (20) Catie (18) and their Cavalier Pups


Year in a Nutshell has served as an annual diary of our frequent trots around the globe, my biking determination and stamina, and the importance of family in our lives. At the same time, our past year-end letters have documented Bruce’s relentless search for far-flung adventures as he scours itineraries to take us off the beaten track.  I’m now at 76 countries and Bruce is over 90


What we wouldn’t give to be hugging you right now.


Year in a Nutshell records birthdays, anniversaries, high school and college graduations, family vacations, high school and family reunions, and a week every summer spent at Club Med with the grandkids.  For 18 years the Nutshell has served as a compendium of my many bicycle rides and multi-day bike trips, with thousands of miles on back roads and hundreds of new friends on Facebook.   At every year’s end I write about our trips taken, in an attempt to intrigue you with stories about first time experiences.  Take India, for example, when in 2006 our senses were overloaded with the aromas of burning incense mixed with the fragrance of sizzling curry leaves, or in 2014 when we took an early morning hot air balloon ride over the temple-dotted Bagan Plain in Burma.  Perhaps my favorite was seeing and smelling 500,000 King Penguins on South Georgia Island as we made our way to Antarctica.




Travel inspired me to take a deep dive into photography, a passion pursued with the same intensity as riding my bike.   Hoping to improve my skills in both areas, I count on high tech equipment.  This year I added another Sony GMaster lens to my camera gear, and I bought a new Trek Domane that was named 2020 Bicycle of the Year.  



Bruce spent more time working at home this year and less time at his office in Palo Alto.  As a task-oriented person, Bruce took on a number of time-intensive projects.  Often long days were spent in front of his computer importing hours of video that he took in Iran and West Africa.  The importing part was easy.  It was the editing and adding enhancing background music that’s intense.  I’m always amazed when I see the precision with which he accomplishes this. He goes over and over each transition so that the flow is seamless. Bruce estimates that it takes an average of one hour of editing for every finished minute of a 40-minute video, and you would think you are watching a professionally made movie.  It’s this kind of detailed work that only a person with enormous patience can undertake.  But along with his patience comes creativity, and the end result is a fascinating adventure chronicle.   

Now that he’s completed two travel videos, Bruce is undertaking another monumental project.  He’s inventorying all our art and artifacts, including photographs, measurements, country of origin, etc., etc.  There’s a chance we will recover from the pandemic before this project is completed, since so many details are aggregated for each of an estimated 200 pieces.  Again, like everything Bruce does, take the occasional New York Times crossword puzzle for example, he  draws on his amazing patience.   I, on the other hand………………….


To break up the monotony of these intensive projects, Bruce golfs weekly with his octogenarian friends, where there is a friendly hole-by-hole competition for quarters. At 81, Bruce is only the third oldest among the regular players; the oldest is 90.

Bruce has a new sequester-induced hair style, which we all love


What we wouldn’t give to be hugging you right now.


The biggest event in 2020 was the birth of our grandchild, Sophie Marion Summerfield, who arrived on July 12th.  Mom is Nikki, Bruce’s middle daughter, and Dad is her partner, Zach.   Until this little healthy one arrived, we sat on pins and needles while Nikki continued working during the pandemic as an emergency room nurse.  Fortunately she got through it unscathed, and just last week Nikki received her first-round Covid vaccination.  Bruce and I have not settled on what we want Sophie to call us, but for now I’m Grammy Pammy and he’s Grandpa Bruce.  With four sets of grandparents for this child, we are running out of possible names.  Maybe, like naming hurricanes, we’ll have to turn to the Greek alphabet.




We are grateful for one magnificent travel experience this year, even though Covid meant cancelling booked trips to Club Med, Bahamas, a European cruise, and a photography trip to India.  The memorable trip last February was to Cote d’Ivoire, a West African country that was once a French colony, now known to most English speakers as Ivory Coast.  During the two weeks we spent traveling with good friends in Cote d’Ivoire, we explored remote northern villages where many different ethnic groups (there are 64 in Cote) still practice symbolic tribal rituals. We watched villagers perform ceremonial traditions that identify with the spiritual aspects of coming of age.  Cote was our 14th country visited in Africa.  One month after our return home, Covid came barreling into the U.S. like a tornado.  We never ever imagined anything like this.


Goli Mask Dance of the Baule Tribe 


What we wouldn’t give to be hugging you right now.


Over the last 9 months new words entered our vocabulary — social distancing, unprecedented, pods, contact tracing, PPE, and voter fraud.  Instead of buying tickets to the theater, we renewed our subscription to Netflix and bookmarked Amazon Prime.   During the summer our patio became an extension of our dining room where we entertained masked friends who often brought their own food and utensils.   What we’ve learned during this restricted time is that we can no longer rely on reading lips, something we didn’t know we did until everyone was masked up.


What we wouldn’t give to be hugging you right now.


Zoom became our connectivity touchstone, a lifeline to what used to be our normal world.  This website, previously unknown to us, morphed from a virtual conferencing platform to becoming an overused verb.  Weekly Zooming replaced face to face gatherings with friends, where we continued to discuss politics (with a vengeance), books to read, new TV series to watch, and how long the lines were to buy toilet paper.   Even my camera club (Friday Foto Fanatics) Zooms twice a month and surprisingly the attendance is almost as good as if we were meeting in person.  For the first time ever my family, the Perkins Women (Susan, Karen, Betsy and Judy), convened regularly via weekly Zoom.  We developed a closeness and a bond we’ve not experienced before.  We Zoomed with Bruce’s clan for Amy’s birthday, and Bruce’s too.  Every Tuesday at 5 o’clock I pour a glass of red wine and  Zoom with some of my closest girlfriends, where we share new recipes, outings with the dogs, new projects around the house, and calamities such as a water leak.  I never thought I’d say this, but Zooming is awesome!


Our nine months at home have not been as difficult as one might consider, given our intense travel history these last twenty years.  To the contrary, we love spending time in our art-filled house where every unique piece has a memory along with a wonderful story.  We even embarked on some household projects which heretofore were tucked in a “to do” folder filed under  procrastination.  Trees pruned, vegetables planted, furnace filtered,  skylights and windows washed.   Our list is long.  Eventually we’ll replace the rotting fence, install a back-up power generator, and mount a porcelain tile mural on an outside stucco wall.  Not a day goes by when we don’t say how much we love our house and how much we love each other.  As we get older, these love words are more important than ever, especially during Covid.

This image I took in Colombia will soon be a porcelain tile mural in our patio on the stucco wall



What we wouldn’t give to be hugging you right now.


In 2020 two of my images were accepted for a juried show at Foothill College, one of which was selected for the illustration on the printed invitation, and the other photograph was awarded first place.  Since we don’t know when we’ll travel again, finding photographic inspiration in other ways has challenged me.  As most of you know, my passion is photographing people from different lands, who have different perspectives, beliefs and customs.  With my camera I am able to capture memories of people and cultures in many places around the world where most people I know would never travel.   


The Lady in Pink, Shiraz, Iran (used for the invitation)


The Fruit Seller of Shiraz, Iran (first place)


California’s wildfire season was the worst on record with 9,639 fires covering the entire state in 2020.  Those flames burned 4,359,517 acres and cost taxpayers more than $2 billion.  Although there were fires closing in around us, we were spared, as nothing burned in our immediate vicinity, but we knew what to take if evacuation orders were in place.  The smoke, on the other hand, was extremely heavy with record-breaking pollution numbers. Purple air was a stay-indoors warning, something we were pretty used to doing, but even in the house, the smell of smoke was evident.   With all the smoke there were some amazing sunsets, but one day we never ever saw the sun, just an orange sky that gave us an eery feeling almost like the world was coming to an end.  Street lights stayed on and birds slept.   Given ever-rising Covid deaths, the interminable fires, and the outrageous behavior of our president, our world did feel sort of apocalyptic.


8/8/2020.  No sun all day.  Photo taken at 10 o’clock in the morning in Redwood City


We made two visits to southern California to see our little Sophie and took a couple of extra days to take pictures and explore the Central Coast. The scenery was beautiful, but the sky was smoky from the fires and almost all businesses and many restaurants were closed, except for outdoor dining.   No matter how I spin it, it has been a very sad year.    We mourn with those who lost loved ones, like the passing of our close friends, Fred Firestone and Gary Reber.  We are heartbroken for the thousands of people who lost their jobs or had to close their once thriving businesses because of Covid.  My mother used to say she hoped our generation wouldn’t suffer the way her family did during WWII and The Depression, and up until last March I figured we’d lived in the best of times.  But in so many ways I still feel we have lived in the best of times; we feel very fortunate because we love where we live, have plenty of food and so far have stayed healthy.  We are careful where we go and who we see, which is practically nowhere and nobody.   Although I never considered us immune from catastrophe,  I had no idea what a pandemic of this magnitude would unleash around the world, but I know we’ll get through this tragedy and with it bring along the benefits of change.  But let’s face it.  What I wouldn’t give to hug you all right now.   


As we turn the corner and greet 2021, we anticipate a much better year.  There’s a bumpy road ahead, but the roll out of the vaccine has begun, and we will keep our fingers crossed that it works to restore normal life.   And finally, after four politically very disruptive years, our country will soon be in competent hands with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at the helm.  In closing this year’s  In a Nutshell, we send our warmest wishes to all of you for 2021 and beyond.  We can’t wait to hug you again, but let’s make it real soon.


Love, Pam and Bruce


P.S.  Here are some of my 2020 photographs I like, and I hope you do too.












Pam Perkins

  • Phil Kidd

    December 29, 2020 at 2:04 am Reply

    Thank you Pam! Happy New Year 🎈

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      December 29, 2020 at 7:28 am Reply

      Phil, Happy New Year to you and Dana. Thank you for all your support of my photography on IG. It’s fun
      and as you always say, “every shot is practice.” Pam

  • Michael Devine

    December 29, 2020 at 2:10 am Reply

    Thank you for another great read. Let us hope for a better 2021.


    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      December 29, 2020 at 7:26 am Reply

      Oh, Mike. That’s so sweet of you to write. Thank you very much. I send love to you and Lydia.
      And yes, we are finally having the generator installed next month. They were on high demand.


  • Candice Stein

    December 29, 2020 at 4:59 am Reply

    Amazing photos. Beautiful writing. You’ve done it again, Pam. And, yes, looking forward to those hugs.

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      December 29, 2020 at 7:25 am Reply

      Thank you, Candice. I miss our rides and chats, but it was wonderful to catch a glimpse of your face on our BB Zoom call.
      I look forward to a real face to face get together. Hugs to you and Carmen.

  • Don Craigie

    December 29, 2020 at 5:48 am Reply

    Happy New Year Pam!

    I have thought about you from time to time and I’m so glad to know that you have weathered the storm.

    I remain in envy of all your talents,

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      December 29, 2020 at 7:24 am Reply

      Thank you very much, Don, Your thoughts and mine have mingled, but I miss your words and hearing your voice. I alsomiss your jokes and your prescient view of life. I hope you and Sharon are well. Pam

  • carla newton

    December 29, 2020 at 6:40 am Reply

    Dear Pam,

    With your many wonderful descriptions and stunning photographs, you made 2020
    seem memorable in a good way. May those hugs be just around the corner! Here is a toast to travel in the new year! Carla

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      December 29, 2020 at 7:22 am Reply

      Dear Carla, Thank you so much. We’ve had so many good times together over these many years, and to see how we both
      evolved in our photography has been fun. You have been the backbone of a lot of our great adventures and for that we
      are most grateful, as well as your friendship. I hope we have at least one adventure together. Pam

  • Cecilia Menard

    December 29, 2020 at 7:06 am Reply

    Pam, You have snared the whats, hows, and whys of 2020. Your photos are always a moment captured forever. Your writing is a gift from your mind to your pen to my heart. Give Bruce a hug and remind him that I will be 83 1/2 come January 5.

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      December 29, 2020 at 7:19 am Reply

      Cecilia, Oh, it’s so wonderful to hear from you. It’s been so long. I hope you are doing well. Thank you for your thoughtful
      comments. I so appreciate it as it means a lot to me. Happy Birthday, next week. I will be having one the week after. I’m
      catching up with you. I will never forget our exciting trip together to The Galapagos in 2005. We had such a good time. Love,Pam

  • Nela Goldenbergg

    December 29, 2020 at 9:13 am Reply

    Even in the “Time of COVID”, your life and experiences sound amazing. We miss our times together and look forward to next year!

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      December 29, 2020 at 11:51 am Reply

      Thank you, Nela. We still have a credit at Club Med so anything is possible. We just
      have to be optimistic and positive. Love to you and Paul for the New Year.

  • Mark Savignac

    December 29, 2020 at 10:08 am Reply

    Pam, A beautiful and heartfelt read. 2020 has been impactful in ways we wouldn’t have wished for, but it has also opened our eyes to the beauty of our immediate surroundings and the people who dwell there. Cheers and best wishes to you and yours in the new year, Mark

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      December 29, 2020 at 11:53 am Reply

      Mark, Your support and comments on my writing and photography is so much appreciated by me. Even though
      we’ve never met face to face, our respective notes let me know that a friendship has already been established.
      Until we can get out of this mess, take a plane and make to back to your neck of the woods, I look forward to staying
      in touch virtually. Happy New Years to you and Lauren. Pam

  • Jacquelyn Brown

    December 29, 2020 at 10:29 am Reply

    Beautiful thoughts and memories, captured in brilliant words and images! Here’s wishing you a truly happy new year. Love, Jackie

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      December 29, 2020 at 11:54 am Reply

      Dearest Jackie, my friend. Thank you. I miss seeing you in person, and I hope the next time you are here,
      you won’t have to bring your own food and utensils. xoxoxox

  • Diane Riviere

    December 29, 2020 at 12:35 pm Reply

    Beautifully written, I enjoyed reading this from the first word to the last. I always learn so much from your amazing pictures and talented writings. Keep up the good work; we will all soon
    be free.

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      December 29, 2020 at 1:10 pm Reply

      Oh, Diane, your sweet words are so appreciated. Who would have ever thought when we were kids playing at Rewick Park that
      we would one day be traveling around the world. Thank you for writing me, and for staying in touch. Pam

  • Don Christie

    December 29, 2020 at 12:38 pm Reply

    Pam, thanks, so much, for the newsy, informative, and enlightening holiday letter with its superb illustrations.

    ‘Hard to believe it was all of 53 years ago this very week that I was headed back East after a two-month cardiology externship at Pacific Medial Center (the former Stanford U. Hospital, then at Clay and Webster Streets) in San Francisco, and you were “down the Bay,” soon to be caught up in the publicity whirlwind following Norman Shumway’s “first” (heart transplant). I share your optimism for 2021, when I won’t feel the need to apologize to my “foreign” friends for our administration’s shortcomings AND when we will all be able to travel again.

    Happy New Year!

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      December 29, 2020 at 1:12 pm Reply

      Hi Don, I’m glad you enjoyed my reminiscing about what a crappy year this has been. But we have
      much to look forward to. We just need to be patient. I’m afraid we have many months ahead where we
      wonder if it will ever end. Hard to believe that I came to the Bay Area in 1966 and you were just
      up the road not long after. Stay well and stay in touch. Thank you for supporting my writing and
      photography. Pam

  • Anne Cowan

    December 29, 2020 at 2:18 pm Reply

    Pam, What a delightful read! Thanks so much for sharing your year, in words and with wonderful, moving photos. This year has changed us all in ways that we won’t even know for a while.

    One of my close cycling friends made a post asking for people to post GOOD things in 2021 and it was enlightening. Your post covers all the bases here, good and bad. Happy New Year to you and Bruce. Hope 2021 is MUCH better than 2020!

    • mm

      Pam Perkins

      December 29, 2020 at 2:27 pm Reply

      Thank you, Anne. Yes, only good posts for 2021. Things will improve on and after January 20th.
      Hugs to you and Ben and all your bees!

  • Jim Baldassaree

    December 29, 2020 at 3:55 pm Reply

    So many beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing them.

  • Sue Mackey

    December 29, 2020 at 5:11 pm Reply

    Hi from Australia Pam 🐨
    What a year indeed…
    We’ve been following the US events closely this year and are heartened by the promise of a Biden/Harris government. We’ve also had a year of harsh lockdown but are so grateful at the moment that the second wave is under control in our state. Disappointed that our trip to California for a conference in December became an online event and it’s likely that overseas travel will be off the agenda until 2022. In the meantime we look forward to exploring Australia some more. Love and virtual hugs in the meantime and Happier New Year
    Sue 🤗

  • Julie

    December 29, 2020 at 11:00 pm Reply

    Travel may connect us Pam but your words resonate for this year.
    May we all have a year in 2021 that sees us enjoy those simple things things that make us smile.
    Happiest of New Years to you and Bruce. Xxx

  • Mary Reber

    December 30, 2020 at 8:14 am Reply

    Pam, Thank you for such an interesting letter and wonderful pictures. You really captured the year. Thanks, too, for your mention of Gary and Fred. For those of us who have lost our life’s partner and best friend the year took on an even more insidious meaning. So it helps to know that others are thinking of them . I am so anxious to travel again and experience new things with friends and family. Love Bruce’s haircut or lack thereof. Love, Mary

  • Susan Gutterman

    December 30, 2020 at 9:24 am Reply

    Loved reading your synopsis of the year, Pam, and the pictures are lovely. A happy, healthy new year!

  • Cindy Lougheed

    December 30, 2020 at 3:37 pm Reply

    You summed up 2020 perfectly Pam. We too, have not traveled this year, but we have found ways to still have fun by hiking and biking. We are hoping for a better 2021 so we can visit Australia, our last continent. Thanks for this article…your photos are amazing!
    Happy New Year!
    Cindy Lougheed

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