Sunday, May 31, 2020

Things I took for granted: Notes from my quarantine journal

At Cranbrook House & Gardens / Cindy La Ferle


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"We never know the worth of water 
until the well is dry."
~Thomas Fuller, 17th-century English author
May 31, 2020
Businesses around the country are opening up, slowly but surely, and many of us have started moving past the restrictions dictated by the pandemic. The promise of summer -- just three weeks away -- is coaxing us back outside.

Doug and I are riding bikes, working in our gardens, and hosting "social-distancing BBQs" in the back yard with our family. We've even tip-toed out of confinement to shop at local nurseries and hardware stores -- though we still have our groceries delivered. We're patronizing the businesses that offer senior shopping hours, as well as those requiring protective masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines. 

At the advice of every health professional we know, we're mindful of any potential virus exposure we might encounter. Doug, who's in the final healing stages of his hand injuries, has visited his surgeon's office for follow-up several times, and I've had to visit my hip surgeon for X-rays. 

These baby steps feel more like major leaps, given that the risks of COVID-19 are higher for our age group. Even so, continuing to live in total confinement seems unhealthy and impractical, for anyone. 

But what occurs to me more often lately is how many not-so-mundane tasks and pleasures I've taken for granted for so many years. Until now.

A garden of reflection

Before the coronavirus sent us running for cover, few of us rarely gave a second thought to the activities we freely enjoyed -- meeting friends for dinner, staying in a hotel, going to a concert hall or movie theater, trying on clothes at the mall, or driving to the grocery whenever we needed a bag of potato chips. Those felt like ordinary entitlements, not special privileges. 

Until now, our daily lives were built around a variety of plans and expectations -- things we always believed we deserved without question. 

Unless you're a candidate for sainthood, it's likely that you've taken for granted some of your own family members and friends, too. Maybe you've assumed, as I have, that they'd always "be there" for you, or that you don't need to make a bigger effort to show how much you care about them. 

With more than 105,000 people lost to the virus in our country to date, maybe this pandemic is reminding you, too, that everyone has an expiration date. As my mom used to say, "There are no guarantees."

Cindy La Ferle

Sheltering in place, with few major events or commitments on my monthly planner, I've been reflecting on the loved ones I've lost over the years.... My parents, grandparents, uncle, a best friend from high school.... After my mother died, I was so tangled in life's distractions that I didn't take enough time to fully grieve the immeasurable loss of her support and love. Lately I've been flooded with lovely memories of both of my parents, and healing some emotional wounds.

I've also remembered a few old and new friends that I've neglected or hurt -- just as I've ruminated over the times I've felt used, neglected, or betrayed by friends. I know I should try to forgive and make amends. Yet I'm also learning to forgive myself when my well is running low and I can't offer more than I have.

In times of reflection, we all need a private retreat of some kind. Given that we're spending so much time at home, I've turned our backyard into an outdoor sanctuary for the summer. 

After a satisfying day of planting and weeding earlier this week, I realized how rarely I pause to savor my efforts to beautify my corner of the world. There were years when house and garden projects felt like chores to be crossed off a long to-do list -- even when I claimed to enjoy them. 

My attitude has changed now. I'm deeply grateful for the privilege of caring for my home, inside and out. 

"Around every corner is another gift to surprise us," author G.K. Chesterton reminds us. "It will continue to surprise us if we can achieve control over our tendencies to make comparisons, to take things for granted, and to feel entitled."

Yours in peace and good health, 
~Cindy La Ferle

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