Eight months and counting…
This week marked the 8th month of the beginning of the quarantine here in Maryland. Although things have ebbed and flowed – restaurants were open, then closed, then open only outdoors, then inside but limited capacity and the same for shopping and other stores – wearing masks has been a constant. Groceries are more available now than they were six months ago, although I hear toilet paper and paper towel availability is wearing thin again. I think of poor Elaine, sitting in the stall during a Seinfeld episode hollering, “You can’t spare a square?” I am giggling.
The longer the pandemic goes on, the more of an introvert I am becoming; the pandemic has reinforced my love of being alone. If I want to go for a walk at 2:30 in the afternoon, through the woods and down to my neighbor’s pond, I can do it. Alone. Or with my kids. Doesn’t matter. On a beautiful day, that’s what I choose to do.
Or go hike a new trail. We did it often this past Spring and Summer.
We hiked and smelled the wildflowers. I planted lots and lots of flowers in pots and around our yard. Watching them grow and fill in was so much fun. My son created a fairy garden, with a “river” of rocks and a bridge and little gnome in a canoe, meandering through the flowers. By August, the fairy garden was buried under foliage and still remains lost.
I filled our porch with flowers because it is where we lived, eating all of our meals there, reading, playing games, napping, and chatting long into the evening. The photo below shows the porch at the beginning of summer, when all the plants were small and new. By August, the elephant ears in the lower left of the photo were as tall as my son and the creeping jenny in one of the hanging pots was almost to the ground. Even when I am as close to nature as I can possibly get and still indoors, I have to bring part of the outside in.
The deer had their babies this Spring and Summer and we laughed watching them play and grow. We had one momma with twins who loved to turn our woods out back into a race track. Momma would stand in our yard and eat while her babes literally ran huge circles around her, through the woods, into our yard, around her, and then back into the woods to start again. She was a good momma and let them run, never once chastising them. She’d move on and eventually they’d follow.
Many babes have left their mom’s sides already, wearing their winter coats and joining a larger herd. In the spring and summer it’s just the mommas with their babes but in winter, their herds grow as they look for food and huddle together for warmth. Sometimes there are over 25 deer in our yard.
This fall we have done less hiking and less exploring, due to online school and for me, online teaching. More hours of our days are spent in front of a computer than out among the trees. My body and mind and soul literally ache while sitting in front of a screen all day. I yearn to get out there.
While everyone else in my house does their work and school indoors, my office is our back porch. So far, there have only been a few mornings where I needed my winter coat and gloves…and a few others where I tried but could not stay. The porch feels naked without all of the greenery from this summer. It was warm and nice enough recently for my Xmas cactus, so the two of us enjoyed the morning.
This fall we crafted and cooked, did school and hiked when we could. Found a salamander, saw some fox, and on occasion lost our minds.
The fall mornings have recently been full of fog; when little man and I take our dog Lucky for a walk, the fog makes the sunrises spectacular.
There have been a few mornings of frost, making our walks through the grass crunchy. Lucky likes to lick the frost from the leaves.
After I showered this morning, Mr. Blue and some friends came to sit on our roof. As I brushed my teeth, he was feet away. The blue of their feathers is unlike any blue I have seen in any crayon or marker or pen. When I see that flash of brilliance, I want to never forget that it makes me smile. Every time.
Sometimes we walk Lucky in the late afternoons as well and then we get the sunsets. It’s nice starting and ending the day a same way.
This one was taken from a friend’s backyard. What you can’t see in the distance but is there, are the mountains in Catoctin and beyond those, is Gettysburg, PA, about an hour away.
I have to remind myself often, that this is where I get to live.
Where my drive to Target looks like this…
And this fall, when those trees leaves were yellow and orange and the line of cars behind me was growing because I was driving slow so I could enjoy the view? I could have cared less about the honking and I’m sure the hollering. This view makes me BIG smile.
This fall arrived ever so slowly, kind of like how I drive to Target. Just easing it’s way in, dropping a few cooler days here and there. A rain shower once in a while, yet warm enough recently, for Sweet Pea to play with Lucky in the rain.
Getting Lucky this past June was the best thing this family could have ever done. Her little spirit infects us all with joy and makes us laugh when she sings with the police sirens and makes us mad when she steals our clean clothes and slobbers all over them but most of all, she makes us live in the moment.
My son and I walk her every morning. Usually he trudges along about 10 paces behind me, chattering away about a dream he had or the movie he watched the night before or some crazy thing he’s been thinking about. We both walk in our PJs and slippers. Not really exercise for us, more just our time. He talks. I listen. I think even if I wasn’t there, he’d still talk. Lucky would listen.
We’ve cooked meals and crafted and hiked and walked and swam and planted and grown and cleaned and grilled and drank and read and watched and listened and played. Now we’re schooling and cooking and baking and drawing and wrapping and shopping and getting ready for the holidays.
For 20 years we have lived far enough away from family that holidays are usually spent with just us. We’ve made it back to family or they’ve come to us a few times, but most years it was just my husband and I, and then when our kids were born, just the four of us. This year will be more of the same; doesn’t feel much different from all the rest.
The plan is for myself and our kids to head back into school at the end of January, in time to begin quarter 3, face to face again, yet hybridly. Positivity rates are low here in Maryland, compared to other places, but as everywhere, they are rising. Heading back in January feels a bit like a dream unless things change.
Despite everything – the lock-down and the mask wearing and the hand washing and the not being able to dine out when/where/how I want and virtual school and virtual teaching and virtual working and spending more time than ever with these crazy people and our crazier dog and some stress along the way – despite all of that, we have remained healthy, our kids are doing well with school, we both have jobs, and our lives are truly good.
To say that I am grateful for this house, for our jobs, for this yard and our location, for this precious time we have spent together over the past 8 months seems so small. Despite everything, we truly are blessed.
So maybe a few more months and then the vaccine will begin taking its effect and then, the big question – will our lives return to normal?
For now, I will take not waking to an alarm and eating breakfast with my kids and spontaneous afternoon hikes and dog kisses at 11:26 a.m. I will cherish the delicious meals and softball practices and board games. I will embrace the extra pounds I have gained for I know they come from delicious cookies and brownies and homemade shakes my kids and husband have made.
As much as I miss “normal” I know myself well enough to know I am enjoying this “new normal” too. When the time comes, there are some things – long walks with my son early in the morning, cooking with my kids, hiking and exploring in the woods, being present – I will carry with me. These are the things which have become our normal and we love them.
For now, my friends, please be well and stay safe.