Lens-Artist Challenge #119 -My Hideaway

I have been missing my weekly early morning outings out in the country with no destination and no agenda. Just photography gear in the back seat and friend Julie along for companionship. Two women, both very comfortable with silence, communing together with whatever we saw on the horizon or along the road. Long lengths of quite time just being with the sounds, smells and sights that are experienced away from the human world.

I knew what I enjoyed about it but I don’t think I totally understood the significance that this solitary time in nature had for my very being. I seemed to know it was important but not just how important until I no longer thought it possible to find after some changes and losses. The pandemic continued, social issues peaked in importance, politics became crazier and my craving became more intense. Jim and I went out several times but I wasn’t able to get in touch with what I needed because overshadowing the outings was someone waiting for me, maybe getting impatient, maybe thinking I had spent enough time. He would deny it but these thoughts were still impacting my focus on what I was (or wasn’t) seeing.

On a sunny day last week I decided to go to the Hidden Lake Gardens by myself. This garden has lots of walking trails through woods and meadows and around kettle lakes but there is also a driving trail with lots of pull-offs through the acres of hills and woodlands. This trip felt much safer for a women who is alone than going down dirt roads. I wish it weren’t so but I believe I need to be ever vigilant about where I am and the potential threats. I learned this very young with no actual conversation taking place.

I started this outing with a plan taking into consideration my safety and time needed and side trip for a piece of fabric for a quilt. As I drove I felt the tension of getting to where I wanted to be, thinking about what I wanted to capture on my memory card for future posts. I thought about how I could use my trip to this garden as a post for the current Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #119: Hideaway. I thought about how I wanted to stop at the Liberty Mill Pond along the road south from our home because it looked so interesting the last few times we had driven past. And I felt the tension in my neck and the pressure around my temples. I felt the sadness in the back of my eyes. This isn’t what I needed nor wanted.

Liberty Mill Pond

Then I reached the pond just as the sun was coming over the trees that edged the pond. People fish this pond so there is a little pull-off created by people stopping, not county officials making it. The air was still really cool but there was no wind. Heavy frost covered the swamp grasses on the near edge where the sun hadn’t hit and there was a mist rising from the warmer waters. The water was perfectly smooth except for the lily pads and mist that broke the reflections of the surrounding trees in full fall color. The sun made diamonds of the melting frost on all the grasses and leaves.

See the guardrail and the rainbow? See the mist?

I would never think a hideaway could be somewhere in plain sight. I wasn’t hiding from the drivers who slowed their cars for my car parked on the edge and the old woman taking pictures. But they weren’t a worry for me and neither was the coronavirus, or the election in three weeks. I was focused on the world of nature in the very process of creation and recreation. I seemed to be in an effortless, easy being in the presence of my Creator to whom I belong, as much as the natural world belongs to the one who created the blueprints. I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt. It is just what I need.

How wonderful to find my hideaway in a place that I can take with me, can recreate anywhere I am. How wonderful to have a platform for sharing my experience and having an archive for future visits when my brain gets foggy and I forget where I need to be and why. Thank you for being with me and I look forward to reading about the ways you find distance between yourself and those things that seem a bit toxic.

Please stay safe, and wear your mask in public places so others stay safe. Please don’t shoot yourself in the foot by making mask wearing a matter of style, masculinity, or personal freedom. See it as a responsibility we are all willing to take on for the greater good of society.

Staying Afloat – Kinda

We are staying afloat, kinda, as we attempt to stay safe while maintaining relationships with friends and family. Yesterday was a blaa day – grey skies, rain all afternoon, cold. Today is forcasted to be the same but with 2 minutes and 43 seconds less daylight. This time of year the daily loss of daylight is about the same over two or three months and adds up quickly. I don’t do well with less daylight, especially when the daylight is filtered through dark clouds.

But I am keeping my commitment to identify something each day that brought joy. It was difficult finding a bright point of joy yesterday – in fact I don’t remember how I filled most of the day. Funny how there can be a time of joy nestled in a grey, curl-up-in-a-blanket kind of day. There was a joyful period when I felt nurtured by an activity that by design will nurture one of my children.

I am making a throw size quilt for each of my adult children (and a spouse) for Christmas and yesterday I cut the extra backing and batting of the quilt I’m making for our son. It is so exciting to clean up the quilt that is now ready for the binding – the very last step of completion. I nurtured this quilt into existence, using a pattern for inspiration but designing the quilt around the idea in my head of what Mike would like, laying the pieces out and changing them until every piece fit within the whole I was working towards. And then sewing them together and watching in amazement as they came together almost perfectly – then taking out the offending pieces and replacing them with the perfect ones. Yes, it was a labor of love and joy – with a peak of joy when I cut off that extraneous fabric and could see what it would look like finished. But it isn’t quite finished so today I will start sewing on the binding. Will that be my experience of joy today?

Are We There Yet?

Are we there yet, Mommy. I heard that a lot when the kids were young and didn’t possess a good concept of time and distance. Now I am saying it… are we there yet, are we near the end of the pandemic? I’m growing weary of not being able to do some of my favorite things especially now that colder weather in Michigan is making outdoor activities difficult for me. The cold makes my arthritis and fibromyalgia worse. I miss eating breakfast out and meeting friends for ice cream (outdoors). It is becoming more difficult to be with friends and family for outdoor picnics with restaurant take-outs. And I’m especially weary of constantly thinking about safety when I leave the house.

The pandemic is real and I understood that smart people should be afraid of the corona virus, not immobilizing fear but fear that is respectful of something that is very dangerous – potentially deadly. I have to be smart and vigilant to keep me and the people I love safe, and even keep the people I don’t know safe because it is the right thing to do. I remembered what Mr. Stott, my high school civic teacher taught us, “my rights end where your rights begin.” I understood what he was saying and it has been a guiding principle throughout my life.

I have learned how to be cautious and safe by wearing a mask in public, keeping social distance, avoiding public gatherings, avoiding close contact with others when indoors and keep it short, washing hands often, and being careful of objects that can carry the virus. I have found this exhausting and constantly being on guard or isolated is leading to pandemic fatigue. I need something more to get me through this pandemic that may be with us for another year, and according to some experts it won’t be the last pandemic.

A week ago I went into the hospital for a scan of my lower spine. In my discharge envelop was a card with information about managing pain without opioids put out by Michigan-OPEN.org. I learned all the tricks of managing pain without opioids as I was getting control of fibromyalgia, having knees replaced, and dealing with occasional back pain caused by post-menopausal bone loss. And I still use techniques I learned as I prepared for childbirth. I’ve got a whole bag full of tricks for dealing with physical pain but not as many for dealing with the emotional pain and frustration of pandemic fatigue.

A few days after my CT scan I read the card. On the back were instructions on how to use “positive daily reflection” as a way to manage pain and anxiety and I liked what I was reading. Every evening they suggest identifying those activities or things that brought joy to the day; write them down with brief comments about why they were important; fold the papers and put them in a jar to draw from when there are really difficult days. The joyful events are useful if remembered and contemplated so that we can recreate in our brains the positive feelings they elicited when first experienced. It basically is recording all those little happy places that we can return to when we aren’t so happy.

I don’t think I will find me a jar, instead I will record them in one of my many journal/notebooks stored in places around the house. And every few days I just might pick one to share and write about on my blog – and maybe you would like to join me in sharing your happy places. Maybe we can virtually invite people to do things with us to make up for those things we have loss because of the pandemic.

Not This Year’s Apples

10/13/2020 Pandemic Happy Place

A Trip to the Fruit Farm and Applesauce

We (including our daughter) had a big-time hankering for an apple cider doughnut from Flavor Fruit Farm, about 15 miles south of where we live. Really-big-hankering, like lets get in the car and go hankering. It was a beautiful drive down a winding country road with fall colors everywhere we looked. When Sharon and I went by last week-end the huge parking lot was completely full, to overflow. On this Tuesday the lot only had one car and a Dawn Foods semi delivering doughnut mix. As we were putting on our masks a man approached saying “We’re closed – on Monday and Tuesday.” No doughnut, no apples, no pictures of apples growing on trees. We were so disappointed we almost cried, we pouted, and went to another farm market on the way home. A market without doughnuts.

There we bought apples. I was immediately drawn to the tart Spy apple that makes the very best apple pie and Jonathan apples that are also somewhat tart and a very bright red. They are both old apples, the ones we picked a bushel of when we took the kids to apple orchards. Finding theses two apples, in crates sitting side-by-side took me straight to my happy place. On the way home we shared memories of going to the apple orchards 50 years ago and we laughed. We had that same feeling of comfort and joy knowing there were apples in the back of the car.

As soon as I got home I made four pints of apple sauce as a start of making a store for the winter. They were so beautiful when I pulled the pints from the boiling water bath. I was pure joy listening for the four pops telling me that all had sealed.

This post was prompted, in part, by this week’s Lens Artist Challenge: Communication. I am hoping that communicating my joy experiences will help me with my pandemic fatigue and that my communication will prompt you to communicate with us where you find your happy places.