March 27, 2021
For the past seven months—to the day as I write this—I have spent four days of nearly every week with my younger grandsons. (Visit here for post #1.) Now school buildings are about to open and one mom and one kid will be back in the classroom instead of teaching and learning from my home. The other grandparents are flying out to visit for half of May and will do pretend stories with the other kid with stuffies and dinosaurs and paperclips, and make it possible for the other mom to work. Maybe with two of them and just one child to look after, she can actually go to her office for the first time in over a year. I won’t sugarcoat it, one of me looking after two children has not been a bed of roses. Or maybe it has been: beauty and thorns.
I felt a lot of feels when they drove out of the driveway this week for the last time in this phase. Grief and relief. Emma and the boys will be back next week, but without Wynne. After that, we’ll see. There will still be weeks of togetherness either at my house or theirs, but it will look different.
While other bloggers and friends on Facebook have mused on how they have spent the past year in isolation, I’m wondering if I still know how to live alone, to be quiet, to observe my surroundings. And prepare my own dinner seven days a week. Truth be told, I’m a little anxious.
I’m gobbling up blog posts like Katrina Kennison‘s to help figure out what I want my life to look like next, how to be intentional and not just fall back into what was.
Now, I have nothing but time, and for months this is how I’ve spent it – observing and wondering at and falling even more deeply in love with a place. After years of practicing yoga, counting my breaths, sitting in meditation, I’ve finally begun to understand what it really means to be fully present, noticing everything.Katrina Kennison
Katrina goes on to say: “And, too, I look back at this long string of unscheduled days and ask myself what, exactly, I’ve accomplished here. The first answer, which came immediately to mind, was a big fat ‘Zero.’ While friends have written books, created beautiful artworks, taught classes over Zoom, and worked from home while presiding over their kids’ online schoolwork, I was standing under a tree.”
I am wondering what I might have accomplished had this been an ordinary year. It’s so easy to tell ourselves we have accomplished nothing when it all is so “same ol’ same ol’.” And what might have been different in this extraordinary pandemic year had I not been kickass grandparenting? Would I have treated it differently because the outside world was different, even though my quiet life might not have been? Would I have stood under a tree?
These loud and wild seven months since Three of Earth School opened have been a gift in many ways; but one gift—still to be unwrapped—is an opportunity to reset normal. Not return to the normal it was, but find a better normal.
Katrina doesn’t feel bad about herself for long. She writes of an article she read in the New York Times in which seventy-five artists were asked seven questions: including: “What is one thing you have made this past year?” (You can read it here, if you don’t have a paywall.) The true question in the story, when I read it, was “Did you make anything that mattered?” But I like Katrina’s take on it better—just “what did you make?”—and I like her blog post more than the story too. Define “mattered.” What does it matter if it mattered? Mattered to whom? Anyway, here is my list.
In the Year of Corona, I have made:
A new home for this cat.
These home improvements.
This garden produce.
These muffins, before I closed Three of Earth Farm Airbnb and opened Three of Earth School.
This space for family.
This fire (the power was out).
These family adventure times.
Also this list.
And this one (after life at Three of Earth School got real).
Seventeen hikes plus nearly daily walks in my backyard woods, alone or accompanied.
This pie with this guy, beginning with picking the apples.
This gecko creature power suit with a sticky tongue.
This jackfruit sandwich and this one-thousand piece puzzle.
These collaborative paintings.
This birthday cake.
Eleventy-hundred pretend stories with this kid, including this mandala one.
136 blog posts since my first 2020 adventure log on February 19, just before we knew what we know now. The shrimp and grits at the Tokeland Hotel was also my last meal in a restaurant. I am eager to go back, but the hotel and restaurant, which closed down shortly after I was there, are still closed.
This soup and many other kinds for the family on Soup Sunday.
This laser beam trap.
And this memoir, to be published by She Writes Press in Autumn 2022.
After several professional edits and target audience readings, the manuscript is about to head to the publisher for the final proofread, then it will be out of my hands. It is fitting that the story, and the book, began the year I turned sixty, was completed in the midst of another time of caregiving, and will be published the year I turn seventy. It has been an interesting decade of closing out midlife and entering elderhood (by my own definition).
“May you live in interesting times.” It might be a Chinese curse, but it’s not all a bad thing. As a friend wrote me of an upcoming cross-country move: “The difference between ordeal and adventure is attitude.”
I am experiencing the end of this adventure together the way I have big endings in the past. I had the same mix of grief and relief when my mother died, when I left my home in Raleigh, when my children left the nest, when my marriage ended. Maybe everything that’s really important—everything we invest our whole selves in—is like that.
As I look at this list, I think I can say: I made things that mattered to Emma, Wynne, Elliot, and Adrian. It is more than enough.
What did you make this past year? Share one thing in the comments section on this post by May 1, 2021 and be entered into a drawing for a copy of my memoir. Be sure to include your name. (Yes, you will have to wait a while.)