Pandemic Winter

The morning sun on a winter Amaryllis.

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey than the work of the stars—Walt Whitman.

It has been a long winter and I struggled to find inspiration for a blog post for February.  But, this morning I saw this lovely quote by Walt Whitman and it seemed to reflect the winter. Currently life is not about the big things but the small world I currently inhabit during the pandemic. I’m starting to dream of travel and lunch out with friends but it still isn’t yet time. So, I will continue to focus on the leaves of grass, wild birds and dreams of coming wildflowers for my inspiration during this quiet and dark time of the year. 

My winter has been filled with housework, paperwork and care for my elderly mother.  Not the things that feel inspiring or exciting but what needs to be done as part of life.  Winter is that hunkering-down time.  Every morning I would start “my assisted living job” and help my mother with breakfast and medicine, dressing and bathing. Throughout the day, I would tend more meals and turn on Mom’s favorite YouTube channel, a Russian piano prodigy Alexander Malofeev.  She would watch Alexander play Rachmaninoff and Bach on an endless loop.  Mom is very deaf now and any kind of narrative or conversation is difficult, but the repeated melodies of her favorite music lull her into an afternoon nap and I could go about my errands or day’s work.  This became the rhythm of the day and somehow we made it work.  By the end of February, it was time to move Mom to the assisted living building in the same complex as her independent living apartment. I packed up all her cherished memories and favorite furniture for the move to a smaller place with more care.  It was a challenge for her emotionally and a challenge for me physically and psychologically.  I am not sorry to see dreary February go and be replaced by the winds of March blowing in the spring.

We did take time for a few adventures in February when weather allowed.  Valentine’s Day always encircles Caroline’s birthday, the next day, and we celebrated with fondue and a homemade funfetti cake, because sprinkles make everything more fun.  Hamilton’s birthday the next week arrived with bright blue skies so he and I took our annual pilgrimage to Hot Springs, nearby on the border of North Carolina, to soak in the mineral water.  Individual hot tubs are filled with the naturally warm water in private outdoor enclosures with a lovely view of a little river. This day I enjoyed the cloudless sky and the waving bamboo trees along the river’s edge.  I always sleep well the night after a soak in the mineral water—a way to help release the burdens of the world.

One more small adventure in February brought back happy childhood memories for the family.  Alexandra wanted to go to the local zoo as a way to safely be out of the house and enjoy the animals. She loves animals.  It had been well over a decade since I had been to the zoo so there were new things to see and old memories to enjoy.  We loved the lions but also the less exotic armadillo and bat-eared fox. Hamilton and Caroline loved the owls. I enjoyed being with my family and seeing all the young families with excited children.  The girls recreated a photo on a bronze turtle when they were just toddlers at the same zoo—it seems like yesterday.

February 1992
February 2021

Here in Tennessee, when you get to the first day of March, winter starts to lose its grip and beautiful days start to outnumber the cold and dreary ones.  The dark days of the winter begin to recede and the spring frogs and willow leaves foretell the next season’s arrival.  Our world is a beautiful combination of life in the small, insular worlds of our pandemic pods and microscopic virus but also reaching for the stars as we see the dramatic, red world of Mars for the first time.  Our lives are enriched by holding the paradox of the opposites, large and small, joyful and hard, soft and harsh, earth and universe. 


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