Thanksgiving 1944, France
This afternoon was a “Thanksgiving Day.” It was cloudy with the sun shining just now and then, the threat of rain, and tolerably cool. The air was full of fall. So I lit out all by myself for a walk thru the woods. For what I call “morale and spiritual rehabilitation.” Cause that’s just what it is. It’s so easy to forget the war, the Army, the worries, even the homesickness – strange as that may seem. I walk along mostly just daydreaming…with my mind a total blank, enjoying the air and the solitude.
Pandemic school was hard this week. Nothing new there. We’re all waiting to know if Seattle schools really will reopen on March 1; and if they open how that will affect our family; and when will we each be on the vaccination schedule. I’m taking a break on the page from all of that.
I’m also taking a break from the World War II novels I’ve been obsessed with for the last couple years (but not the family letters), they are too close to current happenings; and from the racial injustice books that languish on my library hold list or get returned unread. I know knowledge is important (and I’m gratified that there are many names on the hold lists), but I can’t do it right now. I should take a break from the news, but I’m kind of glued to it for now. As my friend Dori wrote me this week of current events, or of the past eleven months: “This seems to me like there is so much unsorted laundry all over the floor and bending over to pick up each piece and handle it according to Care Instructions feels too heavy.”
And so I am just taking care of me; and the grandchildren, of course. A widespread power outage in Seattle shut online school Wednesday—the virtual equivalent of a snow day—and they went home a day early. Monday is a holiday, so I get a good long break for self-care.
Two books came in the mail this week: “Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs,” by Heather Lende, which I mentioned a couple weeks ago; and “Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World,” by Isabel Gillies. I’m reading “Cozy” alongside another one from the bibliothèque: “How to Catch a Mole: Wisdom from a Life Lived in Nature,” by Marc Hamer, a lovely little book by a Welch gardener, which is kind of making me fall in love a little bit with the buggers.
My impulsively bought steel tongue drum finally came. I’m starting slow, determined not to set it aside because I “can’t play it.” Nothing can be accomplished without practice: not writing, not yoga, not playing a musical instrument, not knitting, not learning the land under our feet, not standing still and paying attention.
After telling myself for a week that I don’t have the bandwidth to take the new online course Joanna Powell Colbert is offering, I stopped thinking about how I would fit it into my life right now and signed on. Because I need it for me. “Rooted: A Field Guide to Home, Place, and Belonging.” Hard to resist that promise; and it cozies right up with “Cozy” and with my new year intention of becoming one with this land and learning to pay attention to the cyclical changes.
I’ve already started: I’m taking a page out of my father’s playbook for “morale and spiritual rehabilitation.” I’m tracking with the weather and moon cycle, keeping a phenology log; I’ve been in my woods every day, rain or shine, since January 3, and additional walks with Adrian, my little naturalist-in-chief. (He adopted a pet worm this week, christened it Wormy, and took it on a tour of the house.) I’m trying to learn to forget the presence of myself on the trail—a practice of the mole catcher (who no longer catches moles, by the way)—and be attuned to the forest and the mystery it holds. It’s not easy to silence the mind, especially in these times.
I went for a foggy early morning walk at Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge in Olympia last Saturday. I practiced walking slowly and mindfully; “courting the wild” as Joanna says.
I stopped at Panera Bread after my walk for a Cinnamon Crunch bagel for Sunday breakfast. Turns out it really is the ritual of weekly cafe writing time that I miss, not the bagels. They are nothing without the regulars I haven’t seen in nearly a year, without the coffee bar, without my laptop. Without the ritual of cafe writing time, established over the past 20 years. So what is it about the things on my cozy list that brings comfort?
Cocooning, warmth, memories, relationship, being in control of what I can be in control of, boosting endorphin and dopamine levels, a feeling of well-being, ritual.
And what is home? What does it mean to be rooted in a place? I’ve lived in three other states and ten houses since I left Washington in 1976. The only house that really felt like home was the one I bought myself and lived in alone for the five years before I returned to the Pacific Northwest—which is the only place I’ve felt a sense of belonging. I’m looking forward to the dive into being rooted in this land. The course begins tomorrow, just in time to get centered ahead of what’s to come in the next days. Trying to live in the midst of the waiting.
May the bigness and mysteries of Nature
carry our hearts through all concerns.
Let us trust the stones, the waters, the trees, the fungi.
Let us befriend the birds, the fishes, the animals, the plants.
Let us befriend one another.