Tuesday, July 7, 2020

July and the Simple Life—A Pandemic Journal

Reflecting on how to reinvent, to conjure new dreams within the framework we are living, is pandemic life. I prize solitude, but some days, I feel weariness as time hangs heavy like the humid air outside my window. Friends tell me they also grapple with finding meaning. Independent as they are, this time challenges their self-sufficiency. I feel very isolated, one woman said. Another walks in the woods by herself, calling it her outdoor church. 

Purple hydrangea, blue-green hosta. When I cannot garden, I write. When I cannot write, I read. Before the heat of the day, I take Lily for a drive. A goal, a purpose, a little adventure, anything, consumes my days. At the park, Lily and I follow the path leading to a church cemetery. Small American flags by granite tombstones flutter in summer breezes. One headstone reads. You left us far too soon. Ours is not to question why. Only God knows.
When I return home, my copy of Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, author, aviator and champion of women's concerns, catches my eye. Its cover of sea water and sand appeals on a hot summer day. I page through it. One passage stands out. Lindbergh writes: I mean to lead a simple life, to choose a simple shell I can carry easily—like a hermit crab. But I do not. I find that my frame of life does not foster simplicity. She goes on to lament the endless commitments, duties and errands of wife, mother and friend. Although the book was written more than sixty years ago in another time and place, the words resonate with philosophical meditation. 
Now, with this pandemic, many of us face fewer commitments. In Julys past, I traveled. Now, my dream to see the world is on hold. Publishing my new memoir feels less urgent in a Zoom-world. I taught in public libraries and held workshops. Not such a good idea right now. Virtual lacks intimacy. 
Simplify means to breathe easier, reduce stress. Buying clothes? Not needed except for the basics. Doing more with less. Lilies on a pond and sunlight in green water offer reflection this summer. My simple shell and its bare beauty tell me to cherish this strange time. As Lindbergh writes: "In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life."

July is bittersweet. I was born in July and memories abound. I remember childhood July 4th celebrations. We kids decorated our bicycles with red, white and blue crepe paper. Playing cards attached by clothespins to the spokes of our wheels made a neat flapping sound as we pedaled in parade to the elementary school playground and open fields of Queen Anne's lace. Potato sack races, awards for the best decorated bike, my mother in her bright yellow sleeveless dress, all pass in the rear view mirror of time.
This July a friend emails. I want a refund on 2020, she jokes. Haha, me too, I respond. Except, there are no refunds on time. Time is what we make of it. If ever there was a moment to carry the simple, bare shell, this is it, I suppose. The neighbor and I chat about our love for dogs and her longed-for getaway with family, coming up this week. I don’t care if it rains. I just need to get away, she sighs. No restaurants, no beach, we have a pool at the house, we’re cooking each night. The simple is bliss.
Each day brings new challenges, new relationships, new memories. I look up at a summer sky with billowy clouds and take it in. Family, friendship, faith, moments of being. The tides shift and change. Nothing is permanent. I carry my simple shell. I remind myself to appreciate its bare beauty with gratitude and acceptance.


ShirleyHS said...

I want a refund on 2020 too! Thank God for humor. This was a lovely set of reflections as I start my day by facing the mountains, Susan.

The gardening, walks with Lilly, and connections with friends will see you through.

Love the quote from Ann Morrow Lindbergh. Gift from the Sea is a beautiful book, but I have pondered it differently after reading about the appalling anti-Semitism of Charles Lindbergh. What are your thoughts on that one?

kathleen pooler said...

Susan, I love Anna Morrow Lindbergh’s Gifts From the Sea. I read it after being inspired by long, quiet walks on the beach at Cape Cod in my 20s and recalled being soothed by the simplicity of it all, away from the frenetic life of a 20-something new nurse. This is another beautiful reflection where the words flow seamlessly and strike at the heart of what so many of us are experiencing. Shirley is right. Walks with Lily ( playing with the pups!), family , friends and faith will see you through.Be well, my friend.

Susan G. Weidener said...

Hi Shirley, So glad the reflections struck a chord and how lucky you are to be facing the mountains. I did think about it, actually, and wondered whether featuring her writing in a blog post was the best choice, but Gift From the Sea is such a beauty, I come back to it time and time again. Hopefully, readers will see my writing in the post, more than hers. Anyway, I guess I separate her writing from him and see it more as support to women. Apparently, her relationship with her husband was quite complex, almost repressive, as he tried to take her away from her grown children and have her all to himself, while also encouraging her literary endeavors. She misread him, warned him, remained silent and stayed with him. It's sad that her marriage may tarnish her literary legacy.

Susan G. Weidener said...

Thank you, Kathy. I take it each day at a time and the writing is such a gift, as are the comments here and the support of women everywhere. I can just see you as that young nurse, walking the beach and becoming a writer.

Sherrey Meyer said...

I'll take a refund on 2020 too. We were to travel to Scandinavia next month. The trip is on hold for a year now. Like you and many others, I struggle with this confinement when we've been so free to move about since retirement. But my writing is suffering some days, and others it brings comfort. I've been knitting a Christmas gift for our daughter, and a birthday gift for our newest great-granddaughter in January. That is a comforting activity for me. Had hoped to be gardening this summer but due to a recent fall which set me back a bit in my recovery, gardening is out. Day by day, life is simple here with the two of us. And the cats. I think you have the right ideas in this post, and I love that you drew on Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gifts of the Sea. I found a copy I had given to my mother and now I have it. It is a comfort indeed. Her support for women whatever crosses they may bear. I love reading your posts.

Susan G. Weidener said...

Thank you, Sherrey, for keeping us up-to-date with what is going on in your life during this time. Scandinavia would have been wonderful, but, hopefully, next year. Knitting sounds pleasurable and are gifts to treasure. As time goes on this year, I am sure we will all be sharing and reflecting on how keeping things simple help in the day-to-day stress of a pandemic, the likes of which none of us has ever seen. Stay well and thank you for your kind words about my blog posts.