Faking It

I am able to walk an extra lap around the house or drag a few branches out of the garden these days, but my real skill these days is corralling the boys into believing that all of the work they’re doing to get our house ready for summer is fun.

This morning I got Thing2 to believe planting 125 seeds was fun. Later, after catching up on some homework, I got him to believe that seeing the weed pile slowly vanish was a good reason for a high five. And when Thing1 came out to try out the new blade on the trimmer and clear away some stubborn raspberry canes, the Big Guy and I swore we heard him say, “This is a good way to spend the day.”

Score one for the parents.

I Got This

Sometime last weekend Corona arrived in southwestern Vermont. The place where nothing ever happens, suddenly had something happen that’s happening everywhere.

Our school and most of the schools around here are taking common sense precautions and outlining new policies. There is talk of some people being quarantined as a precaution. And, even though most of the strategies still center around good old-fashioned soap and water, our conversations at home have included a few inquiries into whether or not we could handle a quarantine of the type being instituted in the Lombardy region of Italy right now.

But the Green Mountain prepper in me isn’t thinking about how much TP is left in that giant skid we bought before the winter or if we’re running low on canned soup or firewood. stocking up for tough times – weeklong power outages, blizzards, occasionally hurricanes, and, more frequently, economic downturn‘s – is a way of life for most people in rural areas like ours.

For most of the last twenty years since we moved to Vermont, I’ve had a veggie garden big enough to fill my freezer and keep me out of trouble for most of the summer. The last few summers it’s languished as I worked toward my teaching certificate. The first warm sun this weekend, however, got me mentally mapping paths and raised beds in the overgrown plot next to the house.

So, as spring and bad news, all I could think was, I got this.

I got my gym for the summer.

I got our backup grocery store.

I got my broken foot physical therapy.

But, most of all, knowing there is some dirt and sweat in my near future, I’ll get the calming kind of mental health therapy that usually ends up being the most important element in getting through any crisis.

How are you taking care of your mental health in this era of endless crises?

Running Over

I planted this pear tree about three years ago, and a monster thunderstorm promptly bent its slender limbs to the ground, turning it into an arch. I thought we would never get any fruit from it, but this year our little survivor is bowing even lower as baby pears appear along its branches.

The babies are the same color green as a pair of earrings bearing an Arab proverb my sister brought me from Egypt this spring. The proverb goes, “Patience is the key to prosperity.”

The little surprises growing on our survivor reminded me patience isn’t just about toughing it out when things get rough, it’s about being patient and understanding of others during their tough times. In the end, the patience will bear fruit.

 

Baneful Beauty

Ladybugs are amazing little creatures. Somehow they can crawl all over the blooms of Wild Parsnip that have emerged on the borders of our yard and don’t seem any the worse for it.

Like any dedicated photojournalist I navigated through the garden zone to get the  day’s news. Crawling between the feathery, yellow blooms to get a shot of a nearby day-lily, a mere drop of the venom from one of these beauties somehow hit my finger. It’s now making the skin on my finger look like a soap bubble, and I am now finding out that, not only am I no lady, I’m not even as ladylike or as tough a a ladybug.

 

 

Pie in the Sky

I went out for a treasure hunt after work, sure the entire blueberry crop would have been poached by Japanese beetles. Fortunately, the heat that every Vermonter has sworn they won’t complain about and the humidity we will gripe about seems to have produced a harvest big enough for us and the bugs. I should be happy with enough for a few desserts, but, this year, I want more.

 

This time most summers we’re planning a trip out to Lake Michigan for an almost annual, unofficial family reunion near South Haven, Michigan. We’re not this year.

 

I’ve been going to that spot in Michigan since I was a fetus. My grandparents are buried there. We’ve solved the world’s problems sitting around the table on the porch there, watching the sun set over the lake, noting how much the wind in the trees sounds like wave lapping the shore. We’ve forgotten the answers before bed and celebrated the fact of family there for almost every summer of our existences.

 

But It holds another meaning for me.

 

Eighteen years ago, the Big Guy and I missed Michigan for the first time. In April, my job had moved us to Germany while I was six months pregnant, and Thing1 was due at the end of July. There would have been no travel that summer.

 

Thing1 refused to vacate my womb until the last possible minute. The extended family had convened along the lake. Early in the morning the first week in August, the Big Guy phoned th gang in Michigan. They huddled around their speaker phone, as the Big Guy, Thing1 and I took turns talking, crying and babbling about the newest member of the family.

 

The next year we were all together along the lake.

 

We celebrated Thing1’s first birthday there.

 

We celebrated his second birthday there and, because his birthday falls smack dab in the middle of blueberry season, we celebrated with blueberries and cake.

 

Thing1 has celebrated almost every birthday there with his parents and grandparents and cousins, always with blueberries, and for the last four or five years, blueberry pie.

This summer when Thing1 turns eighteen, we won’t be in Michigan because the Big Guy is getting ready to get a new knee. It’s a good reason to stay home.

 

As I write this, however, we’re getting ready to take Thing1 back to the hospital for the second time this week to address his anemia, to talk about a new medication and possibly stronger measures to get his auto-immune disease under control.

 

He is barely eating. He is getting winded after short walks. He is not looking like his normal almost eighteen-year-old self, and we need for him to get at least a little of his own back before he flies our coop.

 

Last summer, just before we left for Michigan, Thing1 marked his birthday with a hike up the back of Equinox Mountain. He texting us updates of storms and bears on the path until his cell phone died and shortly before he home announcing that he felt truly alive.

 

We don’t know what the next few weeks or even months hold, but, barring a miracle in the next few weeks, there will be no 10 mile hike. There will be no blueberry festival or typical 18th birthday bash.

 

There will be a celebration, however. Even if it’s just our family of four cuddled on the couch, we will make sure he knows that, no matter what the circumstances, his being part of our clan for the last eighteen years, his having made us a clan, is something worth celebrating. And, if I have any say in the matter, it will be with blueberries.

Fall Colors

Ironically, the first pile of firewood in the driveway is still a sign spring is still springing. The day-lilies still so brilliantly blooming announce and celebrate summer, but for me, the Black-eyed Susans are the first color of fall.

They open just after the middle of summer and the orangey yellow is a reminder to stop complaining about the heat, but take the time to enjoy it because it won’t last.

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