We have been at home, in home, home, and confined to home, for one year. We have ventured out only to make sure our car battery was charged, to make sure the gas tank was full, and, well, that's about it. We are now 72 and 79, having each, of course, celebrated birthdays. I make an apology here for all the commas. But life is full of commas, semi-colons, and full-stops, and we just have to deal. We have been dealing.
When I was very young and couldn’t get to sleep, or was bored, I would imagine that I had found a little house that was very shabby and very dirty. I resolved to clean it, and the only tool I ever imagined I needed was a washcloth and some water. But I felt that if I were just careful enough, diligent enough, I could by sheer intent bring the house back to itself.
I had this fantasy for many years. In fact, I’ve always approached a new challenge that interested me with that same attitude. Just go carefully, take your time, pay attention, and you’ll get there. No matter if you have the right tools, or the basic understanding of the task. Pay attention and you will figure it out. The key to this approach has always been the word ‘interest’. And there are a lot of things I really have no interest in. Like how a telephone works, or how to solve a calculus problem, or the granularity of computer programming.
I had the good fortune to participate in a meditation via Zoom yesterday. It isn't easy to access a meditative state in today's world, much as I know it's good for me (my blood pressure actually dropped 20 points) and that it is a practice that is not only personally beneficial, but like a pebble dropped in a pond, has ripples far beyond our knowing.
I understand from wise women I have known, that sometimes what looks like an unfortunate and inconvenient experience, is, in actuality, a sign of good luck. For instance, if a seagull happens to drop something on your brand new sweater, that's a good sign. Or, if you find a lemon seed in your apple pie, that's an indication that you are special. Or, if you are holding a baby and the diaper leaks, you have received a blessing. These were not easy lessons to learn as a child, but they have certainly made me into an annoying grandmother.
Responses to such occurrences, or similar ones, by the person who has had her sweater soiled, or bit down on a lemon seed, or had to change the baby AND her own clothes, is not likely to be kindly to your declaration of "Oh but that's good luck! Or a blessing!". In my long years of experience, I have found that those assurances of good luck, or blessing, are met with a grimace or a hollow laugh.
Daily ablutions are undertaken carefully once one passes 70 years of age. Still necessary, of course, and certainly still required for those with whom one shares a living space. Never more important than now, in these times of excessive restriction. Changing the sheets comes under this category, as well. It's not as easy as it once was, in either case. But work that must be undertaken and effectively completed.
What isn't necessarily expected is a failure of one's assistants in the act of performing the same tasks for one's dishes or one's sheets. We have had a failure of assistance in both of those instances in this time of 'sequestering'. Our washing machine gave out early on -- I think it was in March or April of this astonishing year. Since it lives in the garage, there was no need for a repair person to enter the house, which was somewhat comforting.
My trust is rusted, and it continues to flake and crumble at a more alarming rate every single day. Went out for a short drive to the US post office today. And it really is a very short drive. Just under 3 miles. Traffic was pretty busy, too. At noon on a Wednesday, during a pandemic, nothing looked different. Very few people were actually wearing masks as they were out walking. Same old irritation also evident by drivers who were held back by others actually going the speed limit on a city street. But a new, more alarming, rush of fear as some young driver in an expensive, black Infinity, slashed in and out of traffic like he was playing a video game. There were the old corrosive fumes, the weariness accompanied by frustration; but a new kind of fear. I can only tell you why I think this is. For me, this new fear, this new erosion of trust, comes from a general lack of control over anything in life.
These days I feel more like a groan up than a grown up. You know what I mean. Our times are tough. Very tough politically and environmentally for sure, even before the pandemic hit us. Now in my part of the world we are grappling with heat and wild fires as well. So many burdens to carry, and so little chance to talk it over, face to face, since we have been social distancing for months; especially those of us who are older. No spur of the moment coffee hours, or lunches. No family entertaining. If we have a visitor or two, it's from a distance and always outside. They bring their own food and drink. It's a bizarre way to host our guests. When we do connect, we have to spend a certain amount of time saying how bad things are, how impossible everything seems to be. How powerless we feel.
Vegetable soup is simmering in the crock pot. It's a summer day, and it's hot outside. But I am in an air conditioned house, where I have been sheltering since March. I do go outside, but not when it's too hot or too windy. I'm lucky. I have a wonderful garden where I can putter, or walk, or sit. Occasionally a few family members come to visit my husband and me there and we keep a safe distance from them. I used to venture out for a walk around the block, but I have stopped doing that. Too many people are out without masks, and with no care for keeping safe. So I stay home. Everyone who can, should stay home to stay safe.
And, perhaps simmer some vegetable soup. Do you have a good recipe?
There is in interesting pheomenon that can happen at night, just before sleep, when you close your eyes. You may be treated to a kind of behind-your-eyes light show, with patterns and colors. I've had this happen to me on and off for many years. But lately I find my brain making actual pictures out of what it 'sees' there. It's like looking at the patterns in marble, where you see a definite outline of something that shifts, suddenly, and then disappears if you move your gaze or turn your head. You might not find it again. Sometimes if I've had a particularly busy day, or used my eyes for more screen time than is healthy, the effect of this light show can be quite detailed. Maybe it's a brain that's aging, sorting through other remembered scenes, and projecting what it finds for my entertainment or attention. The first time I saw actual pictures of people, or vivid cartoon characters, I told myself I had better cut down on the chocolate, or the wine, or the combination thereof.
Sometimes, when I can't get to sleep, I tell myself to count things in my mind's eye. Like the trees in my yard, twenty of them. Then I might try to remember their names: two fern pines, silver maple, juniper, apple, blood orange, fig, Meyer lemon, lemon, other lemon (sorry you two lemons, can't remember your real names), navel orange, grapefruit, two albezia, pomegranate, magnolia, two tulip magnolias, crepe myrtle, bottle brush. And then, if I still can't sleep I could think about the roses. But I'd have to get up to count them, so I could estimate there are about twenty of those too. I could try to see each one in my mind's eye, but at this point, hopefully, I might be drifting off.