Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Peace, uncovered

So Big Ag and I are officially in our 12th week of Confinement In The Time of COVID (which would be a great title for a novel if I didn't think 120,000 people were already working on their own novel under the same working title, since so many of us are now home and have the time to pen their Great American Novel).

We've got enough miles in the rearview mirror now that I feel like I can look back, in retrospective fashion, on the evolution of this whole weird, endtimes-ish experience, and see my progress from the beginning until now. Not to imply that it's over. Oh, not by a longshot. At best, we're at the end of Act One of a play of unknown length (and genre). 

Month One I was afraid. It was that feeling of going up that long, first climb on a rollercoaster and knowing you're on the ride -- the steep downhill drop coming up -- for the duration. I stayed up too late (too keyed up to sleep), drank too much wine and was subject to trap-door depressions that were very hard to get out of. 

In the midst of that first month, my eldest son got a probable case of COVID and we had to watch from afar while he rallied and relapsed over about a month's time. 

Month Two I was angry. Angry at the deniers, the "open up" protestors, and angry at the President and almost everything that came out of his piehole during his so called press briefings on the crisis. Also, I fell slightly in love with Andrew Cuomo during this time. But mostly I was just irritable. Andrew would not have been impressed.

So here we are in Week 12 of a global pandemic where we've lost a quarter of a million souls who were all alive on New Year's Day. And I'm not sure how, but lately I find myself going about my days and into my nights with a strange new, weird kind of peace. Not feeling at peace with the lives lost or damaged, of course. But at peace with my place in the world, and the knowledge of my own personal limits to change the course of this virus, or others' behavior. 

The trap-door depressions are gone, as are the feelings of helplessness and frustration. 

But where is all this peace coming from? 

I think it's a combination of adjustment and acceptance. And also, a forced scaling-down of my life to a very easy and undemanding place. To use a cliche, I've noticed I do "stop and smell the roses" more. Without regular lunches out on the town with new friends, I have living room zoom cocktail hours more with friends and family. Bit Ag and I sit and have breakfast, lunch and dinner together almost every day now, which we've literally never done except on vacations. And it's all been great. 

The garden is producing plenty of great, fresh food right now -- onions, broccoli, strawberries, spinach and peas, so there's more on the menu. I've also gotten better at just living without whatever the store seems to be out of on any given day.  I do plenty of home improvement projects, but on a more relaxed timeframe than I used to hold myself to. I guess I've realized there's no point in the projects if you don't stop and enjoy what progress you've made already.

Somewhere through all this, the house was able to become less of an ongoing makeover and more of a home, to just be relaxed in and enjoyed.

And, somehow, the repetition of the days, instead of being a source of frustration, is now a comfort. Tomorrow I will rise, I will work and then I will rest. All without artificial deadlines -- without a calendar or a clock to take me to task. The calendar and clock don't means as much as they used to anymore.

And what doesn't get done this week will get done next week, because there's nothing on next week's calendar either. It's a strange time to be sure, but within the strangeness, what a sense of quiet and peace, if I only remember to seek that out instead of my to-do list.

Gabriel Garcia Lorca may have found Love in the Time of Cholera, but I seem to have found Peace in the Time of Pandemic. Hope you have, too.  But if you haven't I wouldn't worry, because the playbook for what we're going through is literally being written as we live it. There's no correct or incorrect response to it all.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Mother's Day

Well, I'm guessing this is probably going to be the most...uh...different Mother's Day any of us have experienced en masse, ever. Oh sure, we've all had Mother's Days that were a bit off. Maybe you had a sick kid, or were sick yourself, or you had that first strange Mother's Day after your own mother had passed.

But these days whenever they say, "we're all in this together,"(which is pretty much all the time now; somehow this became the official hashtag of 2020) on this weekend that fact holds especially true. We're all in this strange, new, slightly uncomfortable place -- together. But also apart.

Including some moms and kids.

I haven't always had all my kids (two steps, one bio) with me on Mother's Day since they all grew up and spread their wings; but I often had the option to travel to see one or more of them. Or sometimes they came to me. Getting to celebrate Mother's Day with your adult kids is a pleasure not to be missed, in my opinion. All the pleasure and none of the secret work. 

Secret work, you say? Oh yes. Secret work involves eating the undercooked eggs and overcooked toast your nine-year old brings you, smiling like it's the best thing you've ever had. And then cleaning the scalded egg pan afterwards, because no one gets it clean quite like you do, including your husband. Secret work is finding the right gift to suggest to them (usually homemade) because you know just how much they can actually afford to spend and don't want them to exceed that and deprive themselves of anything. 

But once they're grown, it's all up to them. I flew down to see my oldest son last year and we went to brunch at The Sagebrush Cantina in Calabasas, a place I spent many, many nights when I was younger and have absolutely no memories of. (That's how good those days were.) 

But over time, the Sagebrush, like everything else in Los Angeles, has gentrified. Now the sawdust on the floor is gone and the Sagebrush does an amazing brunch, so my son and I ate our fill of waffles, shrimp and crab's legs, and perfectly done eggs benedict, then moseyed up to the special tequila bar they'd set up just for Mom (a.k.a. me!). And my son and I shared a celebratory shot of tequila sweetened with something delicious and watermelon-y. New memories, and ones that I will actually remember.

And I thought, "this is the day I was waiting for, all those years ago." That's right, that day when he grabbed all the cat turds out of the litter box and drew little brown cat-turd portraits all over the laundry room wall while I wasn't looking. The day he took a magic market to my favorite quilt while I was grading papers. The days he came home from first grade crying and I realized the best thing would be to hold him back another year to reduce his stress levels and let him catch up academically. 

Those days, I dreamed of some future day I could raise a glass, smile at him and think, "well, we made it." Ditto for my stepkids. Stepmoms usually need to earn the right to be called "Mom," and that's not always an easy road. You're the third or fourth wheel the poor kids got in the divorce game of Parent Roulette, and you not only have to worry about instilling discipline and order, you also have to worry about being liked. That's a tough road to travel, and the day your stepkids start spontaneously telling you they love you is a day of honor, believe me. 

So to the parents of adult kids, moms, and anyone who is like-a-mom to someone, let's look forward to future brunches and a time when the family can all be together. And to the moms of little ones, your day is coming, too. Smile and throw those undercooked eggs in the microwave for 30 seconds, scrape the soot off the toast, and just know that you're loved. 

It won't always be cat turd pictures and magic marker-ed quilts, luckily. Time will fly, and before you know it, it will be all about the watermelon tequila shots and eggs benedict. And if they're well into their 20's, you won't even have to worry whether they have enough dough to pick up the tab. 

Happy Mother's Day, all!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Endless Summer

So for some of us lucky ones who aren't struggling with unemployment or home schooling, 2020 has turned into the year of Endless Summer. (Note: This is also the title of my all-time favorite Beach Boy's album, dealing with the same archetypical idea). 

We always used to dream of this back when we were kids; no getting up and going to school or work, weekdays running into weekends then back into weekdays again without skipping a beat, and long, long days when anything you didn't finish today just got moved to tomorrow's agenda.  

Even the revolution of the planet is cooperating at this point, yesterday I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to find it was already getting light, and last night it was still dusky after 9 p.m. So the White Nights of summer are on their way, too.

I have to admit that in my childhood dreams of Endless Summer there were more hamburger stands and beaches open. There were parties to attend, clothes to be bought, and new haircuts to try out, too.

But other than that, yes, this is Endless Summer. Sure, it's actually still spring, but I'm hoping we can get away with just renaming it Early, Early Summer. It seems appropriate that once the weeks start blending into one we may as well just throw in the seasons along with it and call it our endless summer vacation. 

So Early, Early Summer is currently in all its glory in our parts, and once again I'm stunned by the vibrancy of color that comes out of my garden. I didn't plant all of these plants, but I'm willing to take credit for the difference proper fertilizing, pruning and mulching can make in a landscape. 

As I mentioned, we planted a tree out back the other day, a Dogwood called "Cherokee Brave." And while it is something of a commemorative tree for this current time, it's also a practical planting, because a good shade tree is key to Endless Summer, too: A place to sit with some iced tea and a garden journal on a hot afternoon, or maybe even a strong Cosmopolitan and a bad novel a little later on in the day. Or reverse the order and have your cosmo at 10:00 am. Because Endless Summer, you know?

The vegetables are all up and growing madly, the way they do in Oregon once it stops raining every day. Honestly, I've never grown plants in a place so amenable to the plants themselves. Stand still long enough and some mystery vine or grass will begin covering your feet. It's inspiring and also scary at times, how well things grow here. 

I'm currently having way too many virtual Happy Hours with friends. But in Endless Summer, if you're over 21, there must be libations and friendships both new and old. There's a lot of things I'm going to worry about "once this whole thing is over" (favorite phrase of Planet Earth right now). Things like my waistline, my alcohol consumption, and my master-level ability to put things off until another day. 

But I think, for now, I'm just going to be thankful I'm here to enjoy Endless Summer. I don't know what the future holds, but for now it's good in our home, where there is more boredom than worry, and more anxiousness to get out and about than fear of going out and getting sick.

Gotta take your Endless Summer wins where you find them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Screen Shots

In case anyone is wondering, if you click on any of my personal photos here within my posts, you will see they will come up as screen shots, and have for the last few months. 

This is not because the photos are not mine, but rather that Google, who hosts Blogspot sites, will no longer interface with iphoto files on my computer. So in order to upload them to a post, I have to screen shot them off iphoto to my desktop, then upload those screen shots to whatever post I'm putting them on. 

I saw some kerfuffle on another blog where someone's screen shot photos were suspected of not being genuine, and I get why. 

I hope Blogger sorts this issue out, as I've seen quite a few photo blogs I used to follow get abandoned over the last several months, and I'm wondering if this is the reason why. Unless it's easy for you to screenshot your photos, this new lack of interface would make uploading anything irritatingly multi-step and time consuming.

Anyway, just wanted to clear that up in case anyone is wondering. 

Occasionally I will also screen grab for other things I've written, but I assume if you see a screenshot of the President or photo of the world from space, you probably already know I did not take it.

Hope that clarifies the issue, just in case there's anyone wondering. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Groundhog Day

Apple blossoms!

We are now past the 30-day mark for quarantining, and Big Ag jokes each morning that it's Groundhog Day again. The days do kind of blend each other, and the weeks even more so. This has positives and negatives, like anything else. 

There are times when quarantining around the house and yard feels peaceful, safe and very insular. And there are times when it drives me nuts and I feel I have GOT to get out and just see some other landscape, some other horizon than the one in our own yard and the street we exercise on (like pet hamsters on their wheel). 

That's usually when I head to the grocery store an hour south of here (in a county with far less COVID cases than the one I live in) or to the home improvement store for things we need. We go out a lot less than we used to; back before COVID ( Before COVID --BC?) I hit the grocery store a couple of times a week and it seems like we always were in Lowe's or Home Depot on weekends. 

Our new Cherokee Brave dogwood we found on a trip to Home Depot. Brave seems to be the goal for this season so it seemed appropriate.

Now the grocery store run happens every three weeks -- and the Lowe's or Home Depot run, once a month or so. Especially since they reduced their hours, which makes the stores much more crowded during the hours they are open.

But I've never come back from one of those trips feeling any better psychologically; in fact I generally feel worse. It's a combination of things: 

     First, the number of people who refuse to wear masks or socially distance is appalling and kind of makes me lose my faith in humanity. 

     Second, there's the disappointment when the store is out of something I need or want and I know I can't/won't come back tomorrow to see if they have it. (Although it's been fun to experiment with substitutions. And by fun, I mean 90 percent epic failure.) 

     And third, it's hard because of the tangible tension between people. You can't smile at someone when you're wearing a mask. And you can't leisurely shop when you know lingering makes you more vulnerable to a virus. 

Virtual Seder a couple of weeks ago.

Zoom and FaceTime have been godsends, because they allow us to see friends for virtual dinners or cocktail hours sans masks or any danger of contagion. Sure, it's not as good as being in person, but as we have many friends and family all over the world, it's allowed us to see people we might not normally see as much.  

There are other things that always make me feel good, on a daily basis. Starting seeds and transplanting them into the garden has been very rewarding. I've got tomato starts, baby lupines, more snap peas, plus summer cukes and zukes in my mini-greenhouse on a heated mat, and plenty of stuff already out in the garden, growing like gangbusters. My asparagus, strawberry plants, broccoli, onions, spinach and peas are already looking great.

Flowers are starting to bloom all over the property now: azaleas, forsythia, candytuft, daphne, plus apple, cherry and pear blossoms. By the way, is there any worse smell than pear blossoms, other than maybe a baby's diaper? No, I don't think there is. But I'll put up with pear blossom smell to get pears, any day.

Some new color in front of Big Ag's shop.

I'm hoping COVID cases begin to level off in the next month or two to a point where we can begin emerging  from our burrows a little more often, like sleepy, slightly shy...wait for it...groundhogs. Yes, we are the groundhogs, and these are our days -- until the time comes when we can go fully topside again, we organize our nests, we secure our food supply, and we occasionally scurry out in search of stuff we need. 

Wishing everyone some happy groundhog days, and some fruitful scurrying. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

"Essential" in the changing world


This is one of those moments when the universe re-shuffles the deck and when everything that comes back down will be in a slightly different place than it was in The Time Before. Pre-pandemic, if you will. 

How different remains to be seen. If you've lived long enough, you've probably experienced this kind of thing in a local or regional way, say, after an earthquake. Or even a national way, like after 9/11. 

But this is the first time (in my lifetime, anyway) when the reshuffling involved almost every human inhabitant of the planet. 

In the midst of it all, the word "essential" has taken on a whole new meaning, hasn't it? Who is essential these days? Certainly not the same people who thought of themselves as essential in 2019. I'm looking at you, life coaches, social influencers, talent management agents and nail salon operators. 

My husband is essential (and not just to me). He's in agriculture, and if there's one thing I'm sure we can all agree on, it's that food is a good thing to have around, especially during re-shuffling times. 

Right now, he goes out and checks on the fields once a week or so, driving around alone in his truck. But mostly each morning he eats breakfast with me, kisses me goodbye, and then heads upstairs to his home office where he does all the fertilizer requests, leases, insurance, legal stuff, and personnel issues that arise from growing a lot of food at once.

The people we always gave scant, polite "thank you for being a helper" lip service to in the past -- nurses, respiratory therapists, and hospital check-in clerks, are now regularly saving our lives, just as they always have been -- we just failed to appreciate them much until now. Along with grocery store clerks, pharmacists, the garbage truck men, and mail carriers (ours was just diagnosed with COVID and is down for the count, so we are praying for her).

There's also the people who still have to come to your house and fix stuff, no matter what's going on, like plumbers. (Social distancing everyone! No congregating around the clogged up sink!) If you think re-shuffling is hard now, trying attempting it with no hot water or a backed up septic line.

Who is essential in the retail world? Not Ashley Furniture, not Hobby Lobby (they'd argue against that though wouldn't they?), or your local gift shop. No, in a strange turn of events, it will be the much-loathed, behemoth big-box stores -- which oddly enough are the great-grandchildren of the old rural general stores -- that will make it, because a long time ago they decided to sell groceries along with dry goods, generators, underwear, garden plants, mattresses, and dishes. So WalMart, Costco and Fred Meyer get a pass, no matter how you feel about them personally. The local economy we so adored and touted -- the nail salons, pricey little boutiques and comic book stores, it turns out, were only considered essential in ideal circumstances, economically-speaking.

Also completely essential are the IT/computer types, who hold in their hands our ability to stay in touch with those we love, and those we do business with. How can we ever thank them enough for that, as we go through this? 

Without virtual cocktail hours, I'd be drinking with my chickens. 

But I kind of hope at the end of this we have a resurgence in kids wanting to go into medicine or study agriculture; that there's a generation of youngsters sitting and watching these heroes on the nightly news and that they're going to ask their parents for an anatomy book from Amazon, or a six pack of strawberry plants the next time they're at Fred Meyer. 

Or maybe they'll find trades for themselves that will always be necessary, like plumbers and electricians, once they see their Life Coach parents try and get unemployment for what we strangely, have always been able to live without (and just never thought about enough to realize it). 

Frankly I'd just be happy if everyone wanted to get out into their gardens and grow some of their own food, play their own music or make some art. There are a lot of both essential and non-essential life skills that we all may be learning to do for ourselves in the next few years as this pandemic waxes and wanes, and anything that makes you more self-sufficient, and beyond that, just happy, is a good and useful thing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Pandemic Playlist

These days old songs rise to the top of my consciousness, unbidden. Music has always factored heavily into my life, as a soundtrack, as a comfort, and as a statement of the times.

Here's what I'm listening to these days. 

1. Life During Wartime -- Talking Heads

2.  Too Much Time On My Hands -- Styx

3.  Keep Yourself Alive -- Queen

4. Nothing but Flowers -- Talking Heads

5. Nobody Told Me (there'd be days like these) -- John Lennon

6. The Best of Times -- Styx

7. It's The End of The World As We Know It -- REM

Got any end of the world favorites? Might be time to dust 'em off and put 'em on whatever you're using to hear music these days.