Keeping this quarantine head above water...

In a pandemic-less world, one where large groups are still allowed to gather for entertainment, I would have headed out last Friday, to work my dream job. I’m fortunate enough to know it’s my dream job because I got to work it last year, meet my love, work alongside amazing people, and smile deeply every day.

However, in this pandemic reality, the dream job has been canceled and I am home, with my love, breathing! Healthy. And simply for that, I consciously practice gratitude daily.

During this time of #StayatHome, I have seen myself do things I never thought I would do nor have the opportunity to do. I have applied and been granted unemployment, at least for two weeks. I have made loaves of bread with my hands that have made my heart smile. And I have cried. In several different ways, for a multitude of reasons.

Each day takes a new focus, a flow. Some days I am so deeply sad. I see and hear ill words froth from the mouths of humans I walk this Earth with. Other days, I feel jazzed to rearrange the den, to move a Buddha statue from the bedroom to the space in front of the fireplace in the front plant room, and feel the space that move has created.

During these quarantine days, no matter what ills I hear or joys I feel, I keep a running tally of what I know will make me feel. Feel joy. Feel loved. Feel supported. And feel like keeping hope alive. Because right now, we simply have to keep living. Breathing. For those we love and for those we have lost.

During this time, my joy is found simply. Small scale. A reminder that when we brush away all the puff and fluff, the human made stress of life, there is simplicity, waiting for us to catch it.

Are you there joy? It’s me! Five ways I have found to keep my quarantine head above water.

Numero Uno: All the small things...outside!

It’s spring and that means new growth, amongst the slightly chilly, cloudy days of Nashville. Each morning, as the sun has been up for hours, I put the kettle on to boil, tend to the ritual of a pour-over coffee, and head outside to get a little sun on my face and to see what has grown, maybe just ever so slightly, over night. Last year in June, as I was returning to a friend’s house after dinner, we came across a fallen paddle from a cactus. Being one who has a soft spot for dying plants, I grabbed the paddle, took it home while being pricked and poked, and looked up how to propagate a paddle cactus of the Prickly Pear variety. Put it in a pot on its side, water sparingly, and see what grows. Little baby paddles! That’s what grows! After two paddles grew, I transplanted the whole plant to the backyard earlier this spring. Again, while being poked and pricked! Now, there are three baby paddles growing from the top of the two original growth paddles. Each day, I look to see how much each new to-be paddle has grown.

We have also planted 6 vegetable plants! In the back garden bed along the house, we have an eggplant, kale, and sriracha pepper plant. A tomato plant is growing in a pot next to the ground plants. On the front patio, a mole pepper plant in a pot. And as a true experiment, a potato has been buried deep in a pot. The potato plant has sprouted from the soil, so I have covered it with more dirt. Potatoes are growing under there!

I have sprinkled herb seeds all around in various locations as well. Each day, as I take to watering these plants, I investigate deeply for new growth. A tiny green pepper growing from the dying blossom on the mole plant. A yellow flower budding on the tomato plant. A new leaf coming unfurled from the center of the protected older leaves of the eggplant. Growth!

Seeing spring take hold, the earth shift and grow, and the ground come to life brings me simple joy. By taking these moments to slow down, to observe nature and its beauty, I physically feel my chest loosen and my shoulders relax, releasing the tension from my neck.

Breathing and watching the plants grow is a kind reminder for us to act slowly, with grace towards ourself and others.

New paddle growth on a Prickly Pear propagation.

Numero Dos: Outdoor cats!

Sometimes I feel like somebody’s watching me. Oh-because they are! Currently while I sit at the kitchen table and glance to my right, there she sits, looking in. Sometimes Sweet Violet! When my older neighbor, Jonathan, passed away in October of 2018, I began luring his outdoor cats to my property. I procured a cat house and a feeding hut from a local woman on a mission to help stray cats, or cared for cats without an indoor home.

I had three black cats, falsely assuming they were all male until two gave birth. I went to feed one morning last spring and next to the feeding hut were four little kittens, eyes still not yet open to the world. The three adults and kittens were collected. Spayed and neutered. The mother, Woody White Paws, remained with a foster along with her kittens to be domesticated. When at the veterinarian, it was noticed that Eyes was lactating, with her kittens being hidden somewhere on my property. She was returned that next morning after being spayed, but no kittens were to be found...until several months later when two lovely angels came to feed with their mama! Young Pearl passed away last fall. Violet is now a teenager.

Eyes, Violet, and #2 remain to bring us such joy each morning and laughs all afternoon as they hunt, clean themselves, and snuggle up in a blanketed chair in our backyard. Violet has warmed up to the occasional petting, especially with Nik in the mornings when she is expecting a feeding. They typically hang in the yard all day, with a bit of “catploration” throughout the day. To know that they feel safe in our yard, cared for, and knowing they will be fed brings such a calm joy to us. Simple creatures reminding us to slow down and be grateful for what we do have right now: Health, Love, Shelter, and Food.