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.

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.

Keeping it Sane on This Side of the Pond

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“Longfellows” glass figures created by Hans Godo Frabel.

The constant chaos and turmoil of this U.S. presidency is wearing on me. I have political fatigue and have been looking for ways to preserve my sanity and the better parts of my nature. But I still live with constant fear – even though I am not prone to anxiety. I feel like I am constantly loosing my balance.

I read a post, “Keeping it Sane” by my blogging-buddy, Isobel, who lives in London. She wrote about the Brexit fatigue she is feeling. She shared a couple of ways she is trying to cope with the political and economic turmoil caused by Brexit, asking how others are coping. I started to write a comment that was getting really long so I decided I needed to write a post on the topic of my political fatigue here in the U.S. I don’t have a good comprehension of the issues involved with Brexit because the U.S. news gives it the same cursory coverage that it gives most foreign news. I also don’t have the inbred understanding of their political system as I do ours, gained from growing up in school systems that taught civics. All the same, it seemed like I could have exchanged words from our political situation with words Isobel used, and the meaning would have been the same. I could identify with what Isobel said.

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Sometimes I don’t feel like I can win in this tug of war between wanting to know what is happening and wanting to hide under a rock. However, I know I can’t be edified by the president. Like Isobel, I walk out of the room or turn off the TV when Trump is speaking because he tells so many lies that I can’t discern what is the truth. He is also inarticulate in his speaking. When he speaks he doesn’t say anything that has coherent meaning, and I find this very frustrating. Not listening to him helps to keep me cool.

I am also limiting the amount of time that I listen to political news. Our news cycle seems to move so quickly because of a president who tweets from the hip without knowledge or discernment. I have believed that I need to keep abreast of each breaking news story but so much of the breaking news is a repeat of last hour’s breaking news. With so much political chaos I have decided that I only need to know the summary, the really important stuff.

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I have found that Rachael Maddow does the best job of giving the facts about the most important political developments, researching historical events that shed light on current events, and connecting the dots so I can understand the political players and how they are impacting on what I believe are the important issues. She does it with humor and intelligence so I end up feeling that we can fight evil and work for what is best for the common good. I also keep informed by obtaining periodic news updates from several other sources (both conservative and liberal) and read in-depth reports on issues that are of special interest to me.

This chaos and assault on our society and democracy has made me aware of the values that are so precious to our democracy, like a free press, an independent judiciary, and a voting process that is free of political interference. These values were so much a part of my being that I wasn’t aware of how fragile they can be when people who are unethical start a systematic war against them. I am becoming wiser, even in my old age. Life is good as long as I can keep learning and feeling strong. Yes, life is good when I can fight in my small ways for justice and kindness and democracy.

So I watch my nutrition and keep exercising so my brain stays strong and my body healthy. I work at not letting bad people make me nasty and naughty – I practice good manners and treat all people with respect. And the time freed up from not watching political talk I spend in creative projects, making my environment beautiful and peaceful, and engaging in healthy social relationships to keep my mood on a level keel.

I hope my U.S. readers are keeping themselves politically informed from several credible sources but also maintaining a personal lifestyle that works towards solutions instead of weakening our society. And please, please, please work towards what is good for the least among us so that all can be productive participants in our social and economic systems.

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How wonderful it would be if everyone could say that life is good in spite of personal hardships and challenges.