Moments of Joy
By Mary Jo
This has been a difficult year just about everywhere. A highly contagious virus, a lockdown, massive economic disruptions–I'm told that time travelers are being told to skip 2020 as they travel through time!
Yet people are adaptable, and even in dark times, we can find moments of happiness, some of which are actually a result of the lockdown. Perhaps something that was once routine is now noteworthy, or we're finding that spending so much time at home is providing unexpected benefits. The Wenches share some such moments.
For me, one such event was something that was once relatively routine: going out to dinner with the Mayhem Consultant. What made going out this particular time special was because we hadn't been out for dinner in months! Maryland had been under strict lock down for months, and the governor had just loosened the requirements to allow restaurants to serve food as long as it was outside and staff and guests were masked (at least until the food and drink appeared.)
The restaurant we visited is one we've been to with some regularity over the years. Great food, something of a special occasion restaurant. The Oregon Grille is in the country, and they did a lovely job of setting up tables amongst the trees. We had a perfect table for two looking at trees and a small bridge, and the food and service were wonderful. (The heritage tomato and burrata appetizer, YUM!) The weather was also perfect–warm and sunny, but not too warm. I've never enjoyed a meal at that restaurant more.
I've been in lockdown for most of the year — we did the first one back in March-April, then after restrictions were lifted at the end of June, Melbourne had a spike in numbers, state borders were closed, and the State Government introduced Stage 4 (really strict) lockdown that lasted 112 days. I'm glad to say that has paid off, the numbers have plummeted, and for more than a week now we've had no deaths and no new infections. And the restrictions are being lifted in stages, though the wearing of masks is still compulsory — and most people comply for the sake of the wellbeing of the community.
It's been a time in which we've all had to reflect on what is really important in life, and in which we've learned to appreciate small things, the kind of thing that we wouldn't have thought twice about before this happened. For instance, a friend dropped around with a big bunch of home-grown basil, and we talked for half an hour, with the basil sitting on the bonnet of my car, my friend on the footpath and me in the driveway — and both of us wearing masks. (At that point we weren't allowed visitors in the house.) For me it was a highlight.
Recently, when restrictions had been loosened somewhat, I met with a writing friend — the only one within 5 km (3 miles) of my home (we weren't allowed further) to celebrate my finishing my latest book. We met in a park and sat on either end of a park bench, drinking coffee, nibbling on Portuguese custard tarts and catching up. It was a beautiful day — early spring — and it felt like such a treat to be out and meeting a friend. (The custard tarts were yummy too.)
But one of the things I've really loved is that the neighborhood kids started playing in the street. It's never happened here before — the kids all go to different schools and really didn't know each other. But with Lockdown the schools were closed, and the kids were lonely and started hanging out in the front yard. And making friends. Soon little heads started whizzing back and forth past my front window, as they raced on skates or scooters, playing games, yelling and laughing. They made cubby houses from tents — a veritable tent city appeared regularly across the road where two little girls ruled their domain. They're back at school now, but once school is out they're back playing in the street. It makes me smile every time.
Pat reports in from California:
Moments of joy during a lockdown—I probably don’t play fair. We live in Southern California where “sunny and seventy” is the catch phrase all year around and “lockdown” doesn’t mean confinement inside. We can enjoy beach walks and outdoor dining anytime. Even the restaurants that didn’t have outside tables before the pandemic have patios now. Cities are allowing them to block off parking spaces, put up patio heaters, planters, and party lights. It’s a little bit like walking the boulevards of Paris with their cafes, and I hope it continues even after the pandemic ends.
But what makes a moment truly special is company, and that’s sadly lacking with social distancing. Our tradition is to celebrate birthdays together as a family, with the birthday person choosing the restaurant and the rest of us buying him/her anything on the menu. But gathering a party of more than four, even in an open-air restaurant, simply isn’t happening these days. So we held our celebration in our backyard, with tables and six feet distancing. With no waiters hovering over us, we had time to talk and laugh, eat carry-out so we needn’t go inside, and share a bottle of wine and birthday pie. It wasn’t gourmet, but that might be the best birthday dinner we’ve ever had.
Nicola here. During the first part of Lockdown earlier this year, moments of joy definitely came from being outside in the English spring. We walked for miles with Angus and enjoyed the peace and the beautiful weather. This time around (we’re in the middle of a second lockdown at the moment here in the UK) it’s not quite so sunny and warm. However, there are plenty of small and greater pleasures to enjoy. Reading curled up in front of the fire in the dark evenings is definitely one.
Some of the greatest moments of joy, however, come from having the dogs around. Last week we were joined permanently by April the Guide Dog Puppy and her interactions with Angus are highly entertaining. He is laid back and very calm. She is over-excitable playful. He indulges her by rolling over to play whilst she jumps around him in a frenzy. I think they could be almost as much fun as a double act as Olive and Mabel, who have been for me the stand out animal stars of Lockdown. If you haven’t already come across their hilarious videos, with the dry commentary of their sports- commentator owner Andrew Cotter, you can find them here! https://www.youtube.com/user/admcotter
Christina also reports in from England:
As a person with definite hermit tendencies even under normal circumstances, lockdown has not felt too irksome for me. I’ve revelled in the fact that I’ve been able to start and finish several projects that have been on the backburner for ages, and I’ve loved the peace and quiet of being out in the countryside without having to visit town very often.
Best of all though has been spending all day every day with my very elderly little dog. He’s just turned 19 and was the oldest of three (the other two having passed away last year) and he’s been sticking to me like glue. I know he hates it when I go away so the knowledge that I didn’t have to leave him at all has been a blessing. I think when dogs get older they need the reassurance of having a human nearby, especially if their sight and hearing is going. He’s so happy when I sit and write or work on craft projects as he doesn’t have to worry about where I’ve gone. I know he won’t be around for much longer, so I’m treasuring every moment.
Susan speaks from Maryland:
In our house, these past several months have certainly been a challenge, but that silver lining is always shining through. I'm not necessarily getting more done in my own work–some aspects of life are more complicated now and taking more time than usual–but overall I'm fine with staying home (being an introverted sort, it suits!). My IT Guy is working from home now, resulting in a minimum of four computers at a time (with full complement of accessories) on the dining room table, which is big enough for all his Stuff.
But we aren't having family gatherings this year, so losing the dining room is no big deal, and it's nice to have him around. Instead of gatherings, we're checking in with family during virtual meetings, and actually seeing them more often–another unexpected benefit of this situation.
One of our sons is a front line doc at a university hospital, so we worry about his safety, and that makes us extra aware and cautious. We check in often, and every now and then on a nice day he'll bring his little family and we'll hang out on the deck. I don't think he'll actually come inside the house until this is all over, but that's OK. We can cope. With every aspect of this, we are pivoting as needed and learning as we go. And we are very lucky to be healthy, all of us, this year. I know many are dealing with much more
People are inherently flexible by nature, and we are all learning in different ways to adjust and still find comfort and things in life to appreciate. Many are finding ways to use the extra time and grow in the best ways, and I'm glad for that opportunity myself. When all this is over, there will be great relief and much reason to celebrate worldwide–though we may always want to wear masks to keep ourselves and others safe, it's a small price to pay. I hope that when this clears, we can all move forward better and kinder, more grateful and more aware, than before. Until then, I wish everyone continued health and safety, unexpected silver linings, and a smooth path through!
Andrea zooms in from New England:
By nature, I’m a bit of an introvert, and as a writer I’m naturally spending solitary time in the writing—so sheltering in place hasn’t as disruptive to my daily patterns of life as it has for many others. There are far fewer daily distractions, which sort-of creates a bubble of focus, and I’ve myself having time to get into projects that I’d been putting off. So in some ways that’s been a silver lining. And while I have always tried to do a daily walk to clear my mind, and enjoy the details of nature around me, I find these days that I really notice little beauties even more acutely. I listen to the birdsong, I look at the patterns of the fallen leaves on the ground and the rippling of light over the water . . . and take real pleasure from savoring those moments. (I’ve been have great fun capturing what I see with my cell phone camera.)
Another silver lining is making time to Zoom with friends. My college roommates and I have been doing weekly get-togethers just to talk about the little we’re doing, and the we’re reading. And we laugh a lot, which is wonderful. We’ve all remarked on how the pandemic has brought us together much more often. Another silver lining. Of course there are things I miss. I really enjoy mentoring first college students at my alma mater, and taking advantage of the energy and activities—art exhibits, lectures, participating in seminars. But things are shut down this Fall, with most everything done by remote learning.
However, I’ve had one very memorable moment of the "Old Days” which made me insanely happy. The Art Gallery was allowed to open—with timed tickets and limited admission, so a very good friend and I went and saw art, and then had pizza at our favorite restaurant, which had also just opened. Bliss!
Things look like there going to tighten up again for the winter, so we all need to keep being patient and find the little pleasures in our limited worlds to keep balanced and happy. Stay safe and well everyone!
MJP again. As you can see, writers have a built in advantage because most of us are introverts! But there's no question but that for most of us, these have been challenging times.
How are you doing Have you discovered some unexpected bright spots in these last months? Please share!