The first grapeleaves are the sweetest, unfurling delicately all along the thick, knarled vine in my garden. I love this time of year. I love watching nature explode into color and texture after so much grey.
Every day something new breaks the surface of the earth, send shoots and tendrils, opening like a smile spreading across a face.
This vine is so special to my heart. The original vine was my grandmothers and grew lush and vast across her back yard. I took clippings from it each time I went to take care of her that last year, hoping to be able to keep some piece of her and of our family’s traditions.
I loved the smells of her kitchen. Always something cooking just like my mom’s kitchen. My mom is a warm, vibrant and passionate woman, forever rushing to welcome and feed people.
I remember feeling increasingly anxious with each failed attempt at transplanting as if I might run out of time before she left us. Her hospital stays increased even as her time home between them decreased.
I stuck bits of vine in water, in soil, in every conceivable combination of location and light and season. Eventually some took root and I carefully planted them and nurtured them like a new mother hovering too much, filled with joy and pride and relief as my baby vines thrived.
I learned to cook at her side and my mothers. I learned to prepare the stuffed grapeleaves as a child, first running to her backyard to pick the number of leaves needed for dinner, carefully selecting the ones large enough to hold the stuffing, and still small enough to be tender and sweet.
Hospitality is sacred in our culture. You can’t refuse food that is offered to you anymore than you can forget to feed any guest who appears at your door. I see the faces of everyone I love in those vines, and the ones I have yet to meet. Those unexpected guests. The ones that send you racing to the garden to pick as many leaves as you’ll need for the feast. Suh’tein❤
My heart broke wide open and became the universe, infinite, thrilling, exquisite and unknown the moment I became a mom.❤
❤Happy mother’s day to all “moms” the world over, the tummy mummies, the foster mummies, the adopted mummies, the step mums, the heavenly mums, and the dads who are “moms” too. Many blessings, much love, and great strength for your journeys.❤
It’s exhausting. Day to day life is exhausting. There are blessings. Countless blessings to be sure.There is so much goodness that comes out of difficult times. Kind strangers, selfless acts of generosity, extended, slowed down time with loved ones, every day heros being cheered nightly on their way home by grateful communities.
This doesn’t erase the battle fatigue, the anxious moments, the bills, the suspended lives, the tensions that rise. These things are all too real and its ok to acknowledge this unwelcomed uninvited guest’s presence in our lives. Its ok to flip it the bird and tell that mothuhfuckah EXACTLY what you think of it.
Benjamin Franklin famously said that guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.
Well its been 56 days for our house. The kids came home for spring break and never got the chance to go back. By that next weekend, we had emptied dorms in a matter of hours and handed in keys for the semester. We resembled a refugee camp for a couple weeks before organizing the chaos into smaller clumps of chaos and storing the rest in the basement with the other chaos.
Classes moved online a week later, I started emergency FMLA, zoom meetings filtered in from every available work space. We broke down the dining room and set up an extra bedroom for our expanded family. We eat at a camp table each evening in our living room that gets folded up and slipped behind the recliner along with the folding chairs. We laugh, play games, and yes, take lots of walks.
When all of this started, and I mean really hit the fan we decided as a family that we would strictly limit our exposure to public places, and to just the parents once every two weeks. No one is taking any chances here. We have a family member we love too much to risk their suppressed immune system to this insidious virus.
Apart from daily walks for exercise, and hanging out in our yard, the hubs and I take this one long, tiring day every 2 weeks and make bandit runs to all the stores to gather everything we’ll need. If we forget something once we’re back at home, we make do, get creative, or go without until the next officially sanctioned bandit run.
Don’t get your hopes up, by the way. That’s a FIRM 2 week rule here. Ive tried to beg and plead but each time have met with stern refusal. No quickies to grab cream for your coffee or more “good” snacks. You’ll drink your damn coffee black and have another apple and you’ll like it like you liked staying in for recess because “some people aren’t following the rules so now everyone has to stay inside”.
In other words, you’ll choke down the dark, bitter but caffeine laced drink and plot revenge on Billy and Janey for talking during reading time. Oh you’ll have your day in the sun, but baby, it ain’t any time soon.
Today is our bandit run. Shopping for 6 adults for two weeks worth of food and supplies is exhausting. It requires thought, and planning and lots of lists. Our youngest and I stayed up in my bed together until 2am, planing out 2 weeks worth of dinners, and creating the shopping list from the menu.
We drank stout cups of coffee black enough to sprout hairs on my chest, stashed antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer in a small backpack, along with water bottles and asprin and headed for the car.
We started at 10am and finished at 4pm, hitting four different stores and stopping home twice to offload before stripping down, showering and donning clean clothes. Thank God for the four strong young adults who met us in the driveway each time to act as sherpas.
I was so tired my lips were numb and my legs were trash. I felt like I was dragging cinder blocks on my feet. Hubby lay stretched out on the floor, foam rolling his back and I think possibly drooling.
But now I’m in flip-flops, sitting on a swing with my dogs, staring at my chickens and turkeys and ducks and goats. One in particular (Cookie, the littlest) happens to have become the resident escape artist, leaping over the fence to graze on oak leaves despite an ample supply of hay and feed. When I turn around, there he is, munching an oak leaf right next to me and looking like the picture of innocence. I’ll catch him in a bit but for now its sunny and breezy and perfect and I think I’ll stay right where I am.
I know this won’t last forever. I know eventually we will all be back to the rush and press of high speed life. I also know I’m grateful for the unexpected gift that slowing down and staying home together has given us. Slowing down is really quite wonderful. There is time. Time to watch the sun set, the kids bump a volleyball around after dinner, and one naughty goat leap gloriously through the air and over the fence for the millionth time today.
Every morning when my brain begins to realize I’m awake and that yet another day of quarantine is beginning with its seemingly endless hours to fill, I try to think of how I will stretch simple tasks to bridge the gaps. How I will find ways to feel calm, to experience some small meaningful moments when all of time has begun to feel like one super long uninterrupted and lackluster moment. To keep anxiety, depression, and fear at bay.
My mother often cautioned me to be careful not to ask for patience, because life does not GIFT you patience. Life gifts you opportunities to LEARN patience and to PRACTICE patience. And who wants to learn and practice THAT??
This also goes for self control, strength, inner peace, you name it. Everything requires us to actually and actively invest in its pursuit. Not super high on my wish list if you get me. I’d much rather actively pursue foolishness and other such delights.
Be that as it may I’ve clearly asked for patience and inner peace an awful lot in life without meaning to, and been gifted a crap ton of opportunities to try to learn them.
Try being the operative word here. Try. This latest and rather massively global moment has rather uniquely bound us all together in common pursuit. I am trying. You are trying. We are each of us trying and sometimes succeeding and sometimes stumbling.
Like life itself, this experience is both terrible and beautiful. I feel alternately lonely and worried, and then comforted and elevated by the sights and the sounds and even the mess of my family all crowded together.
Tonight for dinner I planned fettuccine, marinara and meatballs. Usually a quick crowd pleaser. Throw it together, let it cook while I tackle other things. But there were no other things to do, and the kids online classes would be going on for a while.
I stood in my kitchen feeling like I was walking under water. No where to go, to be, not much to do. I decided to lean into the feeling. Instead of sinking, I decided to use the preparation of dinner as one long mindfulness practice.
Yes. Practice. It’s the best I can do since I’m no where near pro status. I slowly and deliberately selected spices, only one at a time. I walked back and forth grabbing one, using it, and returning it before selecting another.
I slowed the twisting of the can opener breathing in and out with each rotation. I cut the onion so damn slow my eyes were faucets and my nose ran like it was at a track meet.
I started rolling the meatballs. Usually the more rushed I am, the more gigantic my meatballs become as I hurry to throw them in and be done with it. Halfway through the very large tray, I decided to roll the tiniest meatballs possible, like marbles, to top a pizza I had going on the side.
If you’ve ever rolled marble sized meatballs you’ll know it’s a maddeningly slow and tedious process. Except for tonight. Tonight I just leaned all the way into the tedium, let forming each tiny ball be the end in itself. I breathed slowly and deeply. I watched my hands as I rolled each ridiculously small morsel. I tried to keep my mind empty. God knows my mind could use the rest. I stretched it to an hour until I had a whole pile of mindfully miniature meatballs.
A few things came of this exercise. The first obviously was a delicious dinner shared with my family. The second was the surprising level of zen I enjoyed throughout despite my prickly and initially reluctant start. The third, and for me, where I am right now inside this journey, for me the most important part was that I had managed to bridge what felt like an insurmountable chasm of time and come through it feeling ok. Really really ok.
And nice and full of mindfully miniature meatballs.
It’s pretty late and I’ve been lying here trying to slow my thoughts, to focus on my breaths, to let myself feel the warm comfort of the dogs tucked around my legs and under one arm. It’s been hard to sleep at night for a while now. This “new normal” feels so uneasy in my bones. All things pass in time, but the passing of the time itself is challenging.
I am reflecting on the beautiful moments from this latest day in what has felt ike a string of endless anxious sameness.
It was supposed to rain but instead the sun slipped in and out of clouds while I walked around the lake with the dogs. It was a welcome and unexpected release of tension.
The goats and chickens and dogs ran all over the yard, getting into everything, eating everything. For some reason the chaos was comforting. Maybe because this kind of chaos feels safe and happy and acceptable while the chaos everywhere else feels like just…chaos.
It was Liam’s birthday. My oldest (one of two living away in apartments who I’ve been aching and missing) surprised his brother and all of us with an unexpected outside short visit. He wanted to drop a present off for his brother and in doing that gave me the best gift of all. Even if we had to stay 6 feet apart and wear masks. I got to be NEAR him.
We converted our dining room into another bedroom to accommodate our swelled household. Each evening we set up a camp table in the living room, put on a pretty tablecloth, crowd chairs around it and share a meal together with all of us. Nothing matches, the ceiling tiles are unfinished, we are seated a foot away from the couch and yet somehow it’s all beautiful.
It’s even later now than when I began this reflection. I know its past time to close my eyes and rest and honestly I am trying. These sweet moments are the things I am working to keep in my mind as I listen to the sleep sounds around me and push against the worry in my heart.