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Breaking Ground

from 2020101 (2021) by Shannon Curtis



When I asked people about their experience of 2020 for this project, I tried to make my questions as open-ended as possible. I didn’t want to direct the questions in such a way as to lead people to answers that I thought were relevant to the time — I wanted to hear their own genuine expression of what their experience of 2020 was, without my influence. And so I was genuinely surprised when so many people shared stories about experiences I hadn’t anticipated would be so common in 2020: falling in love, getting married, and having babies.

There were so many stories about these topics in our story collection that I simply couldn’t not make them a part of the project. And as I thought about them more, I realized what a powerful contrast each of these experiences was against the backdrop of a year in which the whole world seemed to be on fire: each of them seemed to me to be like an audacious act of hope in a time that was in so many ways despairing.

Like the act of falling in love …
One of the most vulnerable things we can do as humans is to open our hearts to the possibility of love shared with another person. It’s vulnerable because it requires us to bare our innermost selves, and the outcome is never guaranteed. It is an act that is dependent upon an opening of the softest, most delicate parts of our hearts — and in a time when the chaos and uncertainty in the world provide endless reasons to harden up and protect ourselves, opening oneself to the fragile possibility of new love is a downright bold act.

Like the act of getting married …
In a time when pandemic restrictions meant that we couldn’t safely gather together in groups, events like wedding ceremonies — where, often, dozens of family members and friends come together to witness and to celebrate — were forced to change dramatically, if they weren’t postponed altogether. But we heard in the stories that a lot of people got married in 2020! We heard from one newlywed that the large wedding of what she referred to as her “so-called dreams” was transformed into a small event that "was wonderful beyond my wildest dreams.” When the more extravagant trappings of a ritual like this fall into the category of public health hazard, being able to shed them and embrace the elemental core of what it means for two people to begin a life together is an utterly devoted act.

Like the act of having a baby …
It’s hard to think of a starker contrast to a time marked by so much hardship and suffering than bringing a brand-new life into the world. Into a world where a global pandemic was raging, authoritarianism was on the rise, injustice was fueling major social unrest, and literal fires were burning significant parts of western North America … that new, pure, tiny little person was
… a reminder … that life is a miracle,
… an affirmation … that humanity can be breathtakingly beautiful,
… and a promise … that we will keep building something better here, for ourselves and for each other.

So, this song is for all of the flag-planters of this last year.
To all of you who, against the odds of the current moment, raised a banner that said …

The world is burning.
But there is a future.
And it starts here, today.


The whole damn world is burning down
But you and I are breaking ground
To see if we can’t get something to grow
Falling in love is worth giving a go

The glowing flicker sets a mood
What do we really have to lose?
A growing sense of running out of time
Maybe an everlasting dream will rise
Maybe an everlasting dream will rise
As the world burns

This is the moment, it’s now (or never)
Braving the odds, breaking ground (together)
Bury a seed like a vow to forever as the world burns
As the world burns

Don’t want another day to pass
When any one could be our last
To say to you “until death do us part”
There is a future and today it starts
There is a future and today it starts
As the world burns

This is the moment, it’s now (or never)
Braving the odds, breaking ground (together)
Bury a seed like a vow to forever as the world burns
No certainty this will stand (as ever)
Let’s take a chance and dig in (together)
Bury a seed like a vow to forever as the world burns

The whole damn world is burning down
But you and I are breaking ground
These little hands and these little feet
Will make the world whatever it will be
They’ll make the world whatever it will be
After the world burns


from 2020101 (2021), track released April 7, 2021
written and performed by Shannon Curtis

produced, mixed, and mastered by Jamie Hill
at Department of Energy Management, Tacoma

co-produced, programmed and recorded by Shannon
additional programming and recording by Jamie


all rights reserved



Shannon Curtis Tacoma, Washington

Shannon Curtis is an artist who works as a songwriter, storyteller, and author. Shannon lives in Tacoma, WA and makes artpop music with her husband, producer / mixer Jamie Hill (deptofenergymgmt.com/work).

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