Monday, May 11, 2020

There is a balm

I keep thinking I should tackle a blog about this time of the coronavirus, these weeks of sheltering in place. How will I remember it? And what effect will it have on my family and me in the weeks, months and years to come? How will the world change because of it? I find it nearly impossible to capture this era in words, mostly because my reaction to it changes from morning to bedtime, from bedtime to morning; a loop of uncertainty and fear followed by hope and charity. But here's my attempt...

I am keenly aware that my circumstances are about as good as they can possible be. Ed and I are healthy. We are not out of a job. We have 38 acres to wander around and tend to, with food from our garden and edible plants along our wooded paths. We have each other.

I do worry a bit about the kids – Mary, Brian and Saltie (their dog) in Brooklyn and Jack and Kasia in Berlin, even Maggie, Nate and Hazel just across the state line in New Albany. But I know that they are as good as they can be, each resilient in face of adversity, creative in resources, and hunkered down with those they love. They worry about us too, calling far more often than usual, just to check in on their elderly parents.

I worry about my 89-year-old dad, obliviously going about his life in a memory-care facility, wondering why his four daughters don't come visit, but otherwise seeming in good spirits. I know he misses our hugs.

I worry that Hazel will forget how much I love her and how much we adore her visits to Farm Dover. Already she gets frustrated when she has had enough of FaceTiming, putting up her little hand over the camera and demanding No No! when she wants her mamma's full attention. I don't take it personally, but lament the time we are apart.

Having said all this, I also can say with certainty that I have loved being at home for days and days on end. Ed and I never were much on leaving the farm for social eventing, so being here is easy. It is comforting and safe.

All things considered, the timing was good for us. We had just gotten home from a week in Mexico and the farm was beginning its springtime revival. Before this intense time of watching the day-to-day changes in our landscape, I would have thought about the passage of a year on this place in terms of the four seasons. Now, I've come to realize that we have 52 micro-seasons, each week bringing change to flora and fauna.

And we've been here to witness it. Every day we've spent hours  outside – working in the gardens, combing through the woods in search of invasive plants, mulching the tiny trees, walking out to get the mail. We've seen the first of the daffodils bloom in late February, the middle ones in March and the very last ones in April, all offering up their sunny faces for our delight. Then, one by one, we've watched their blooms fade.

We've seen the pussy willow and viburnum bloom, followed by the magnolia, the service berry, wild cherry, crabapple, peach and apple trees. We peer down at the mayapples unfurling their umbrella leaves and discover morel mushrooms pushing up from leaf debris on the forest floor.

We've watched as the bluebirds and tree swallows have taken up residence in our bird boxes and the red-wing blackbirds, robins and brown thrashers have built exquisite nests and hatched their chicks. Nearly everyday we spy the dreamsicle-colored orioles feeding from the hickory blossoms. They even showed up on our back porch earlier this week.

In our big garden, I've planted fava beans, peas, onions, beets, chard and shallots. This week, I'll add pumpkins, squashes, cucumbers and tomatoes to the mix. In my herb garden, the mint and lemon balm, the lavender and the sage, the rue and tarragon are all spreading tuffs of green. The bees have found the nectar in the bee garden, drinking freely from the blue blossoms of wild indigo and eastern bluestar.

Because we were here and paying attention, we saw the praying mantis cases release hundreds of baby mantises. Seems like every time I'm out and about, I see an interesting bug to photograph to send to Hazel (as part of my ongoing mission to help her love bugs).

While new life bursts forth on every square inch of Farm Dover, heartache comes with it. Just outside our study window, robin eggs are smashed in their nest by an unknown predator, hungry rabbits chew down to the quick the coreopsis in the back garden, kale plants are uprooted and absconded in the big garden, and cruelest of all, a May freeze turns the buds crisp and black on the big-leaf and cucumber magnolias, hickory trees, sassafras and tulip trees -- and most tragically, the pawpaw flowers.

When I am saddened by the current state of the world, I go for a ramble along our patchwork of paths. Walking these green pathways is my balm; it heals my soul and replaces my despair with hope. Paying attention to the miraculous unfolding of the seasons, cures my wounded soul.

When the children were young, we rotated who said the blessing before dinner. Mary, our youngest and fiercest, would always include a blessing for "anyone sick or not well." Jack would challenge the sense of that category, arguing that it was redundant. Mary would adamantly explain that it was possible to be unwell, even if you were not sick. That's how I think about these days. I ask blessings on all who are sick or not well. May we all be healed.