Although I live in a city, I am only a short car ride away from the countryside. I also live in a house with a big garden and yard. During this time of quarantine, I am free to go outside and easily maintain social distancing. When I was a little girl, my family had a house with a yard in Sioux City, Iowa. I loved having space to explore, scrambling and hiding behind shrubs, poking my face into flowers, watching little caterpillars dangling by silky filaments from the lowest leaves on the trees. That came to an end when we moved back to Chicago, where I was born, my parents’ hometown. We lived in apartments then, and that continued for the rest of my years at home. My mom and dad never owned a house after Sioux City, even after they moved away from Chicago, to live near me and my sister in our new hometown. My mom was always wistful about having a house, but my dad wouldn’t budge. When I went to college, I lived in dorms and eventually, more apartments. After a time, I had roommates with whom I shared houses that were converted into multi-unit living spaces. When Michael and I got together, we lived communally for a year and then went off on our own, renting a series of little rental houses for five years.
We bought our house in 1978. At the time, it was broken into three rental units. We lived on the first floor for a couple of years, eventually taking over the remaining two apartments as we grew our family. The house was what you’d expect from a property that had been a rental since 1930. Built in 1893, it was too big and prohibitively expensive to maintain during the Great Depression. Over the years, there was little care put into modernizing it or into nurturing the green space around it. Our city is a university community and filling the units didn’t require much effort. After we moved in we threw a lot of effort, labor and money into this neglected old lady. After these four plus decades, I guess it’s still not “done,” nor do I think it ever will be. My kitchen sink is still the old-fashioned kind that stands on legs. Whatever. I love it. I’m a person who never had much ambition or big dreams about how I thought my life would look when I grew up. I didn’t think about being rich or famous or any specific career. But I did want a big old house and a family. Aren’t I the lucky one to have gotten both of those dreams realized?
I’ve been thinking about that good fortune, during this strange time, especially when I’m aware of how many people are quarantined in small, confined spaces, anxious to return to life as they knew it. The walls must feel like they’re closing in, which is what I gather from reading people’s isolation accounts. Then there those whose lives were tenuous, who were homeless, living beneath viaducts, under highways, on the street, way before there was a novel coronavirus. I don’t have any way to reach them beyond the small donations I can eke out of my fixed income budget. Feels like the proverbial drop in the bucket. I want to be a helper in some way. When I’m interacting on social media, I’m always trying to find beautiful images to share, in the hope that they bring moments of joy at the magic of nature, or awe at the gifts that artists have given to the world. I guess those efforts are also my apology for the steady stream of political commentary that no one has asked me to share, but which I inflict on my friends every day. Everyone deserves a little break from my rants, especially me. Here is the painting I offered yesterday.
I didn’t intend to write a blogpost today but in thinking about my good fortune, I decided to share the type of posts I usually do each day on my social media platforms. I’ve gone through the photos stored on my phone and selected a number of them, pictures from the bounty in my garden, to the lovely countryside near my town, and some from the trips I’ve been fortunate enough to take in the past several years. I hope you enjoy them and that they bring a bit of brightness to those of you having a challenging day. I hope you stay well. I hope they give you a little break. Hope, hope, hope.