2021 lessons we're taking into the New Year
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2021 lessons we’re taking into the New Year

Bridget in front of Arrigetch Peaks, Gates of the Arctic National Park.

We asked everyone at Trustees , what did you learn in 2021 that you intend to carry into the New Year? What dud folks share? Well, friends and family matter. A lot. The little things matter, too, and good humor, attention, intention. Also, animals and babies and the land teach us things we need to remember. Most of all, we learned that we need to tend to our hearts even when we feel disheartened.

Appreciation and mindfulness

Bridget Psarianos, staff attorney

2021 taught me about being patient and appreciating the people and places around me. After a totally frantic 2020, my partner and I promised ourselves and each other that we’d take more time in 2021 doing the things that make us happy. That meant a lot of time spent outside in Alaska, time travelling to the lower 48 for adventures and to see loved ones, and in a big way, prioritizing quality time at home as opposed to just being at home — a lack of mindfulness at home was an easy habit to slip into when work, kids’ school, and life were all happening in that same space.

I learned to appreciate more things that I’d taken for granted.  In 2022, I’ll strive to keep my connections with the outdoors, travel and my family and friends front of mind every day.

A rusty wheelbarrow

Rachel Briggs, staff attorney

One thing I have learned is that even an old and rusty wheelbarrow is truly fantastic and makes all tasks achievable.

Garden harvests

Brook Brisson, senior staff attorney

Reflecting on my garden this past year, I was reminded yet again that certain things do really well while some others struggle for reasons we haven’t figured out and probably never will, but regardless of what does well and what struggles, we always end up with an incredibly bountiful harvest overall and get to enjoy the veggies of our labor deep into winter. It feels like a good metaphor for 2021. 

Shooting for a solid B

Tracy Lohman, development director

The chaos of the world has been getting to me lately. And the frigid cold bites, too. Self-care was a 2021 resolution—you know, exercise more, read for pleasure, and put kale on the menu. I give myself a C minus.

But I have been giving myself permission to escape and unplug by walking the trails near my home alone. The quiet and stillness of the woods grounds me. Though I rarely spot them, I listen for the call of the chickadees. The little tschick-a-dee-dee makes me smile. At a fraction of an ounce, I wonder how these little creatures don’t freeze to death. The chickadees give me hope. Self-care is still a goal for 2022, and I’m aiming for a solid B.

When less is more

A winter walk.
Because sometimes less is more.

Katie Strong, senior staff attorney

What can you take away that will leave you with more?  

Living the moments that matter

Suzanne Bostrom, staff attorney

In 2021, I learned more than ever to cherish every moment we have with our loved ones. Here’s a photo from the road trip I took up the west coast with my dad during my sabbatical, where I got to see my brother for the first time since COVID.

Smiles, smiles all around!

Lifelong bonds

Joanna Cahoon, legal fellow

In 2021 I learned there was no need to worry about whether my son would form a bond with his much younger baby sister. Looking forward to watching their connection grow in 2022.

Finding common ground

Vicki Clark, executive director

I’m finding it very hard to write something reflecting my 2021 and my future outlook. I work hard to remain positive and caring, and I generally succeed.

I’ve learned to not focus so much on the divisiveness and to look for what I have in common with people.

I’ve tried to ignore most of the political nonsense, but I can’t ignore that it is a real threat to democracy.

Loki chilling out.

I’ve felt isolated and stir crazy because the pandemic has kept me from scuba diving for two years, and still the variants surge.

I’ve been reading a lot about the history I was never taught, and learning we must acknowledge and rectify past and current inequity and injustice to have true democracy.

I’ve been wishing that leaders would listen to the planet that is screaming at us to rein in our consumption and greed, but the fires, flooding, tornadoes, rain bombs, melting glaciers, and sea level rise are drowning that hope.

In 2022, I’ll still be struggling with these issues, and working to change what is in my power to do. And Loki will help me!

The quest for cute hats

Ashley Boyd, administrative director

In 2021, I learned that the secret to accepting the cold and darkness for me is cute hats!

Baking does a body (and heart) good

Brian Litmans, legal director

2021 was another challenging and stressful year. I’ve learned that baking is a great stress reliever and that sharing the treats with friends always brings a smile. 


Fannie Dock, administrative assistant

After such a stressful year with so much happening I learned it’s OK to reach out and talk to someone.

It has helped me to look to a brighter future with my family and especially my two grandbabies who bring happiness beyond measure!

Adorable puppies in the snow always help.

Striving and growing

Lang Van Dommelen, legal assistant

I am striving to live, enjoy the process of living and growing, and not get bogged down by dwelling on things that have happened in the past or how things might have turned out.

Routines without the “should” self-talk


Lauren Sherman, legal fellow

It is crucial to find joy in daily routines. Also, “should” is a terrible word; it is time to stop bludgeoning myself with it.

Strumming along is just fine

Dawnell Smith, communications director

I learned to play a few tunes on a used mandolin that a neighbor gave to me by watching short videos. Notes and chords and strumming done in a particular order, a certain pace, can make something knowable, soothing on the ear, and singularly fleeting.

I guess I learned to strum and pick away to my heart’s content, no matter the missing notes and squeals along the way.