We’ve had a week of summer weather that’s fantasized about in icy midwinter, and it ended in rainstorms that the gardens desperately needed. They drank deeply and freshened up—a good thing, since now we and the gardens are in for a week of hellish heat and humidity. Rain always brings a bumper crop of weeds, too, (where were they yesterday?!), so I need to pull them before the heat flattens me. Quickly, and back inside.
Knowing I’ll be indoors most of the week, I’ve decided to reconsider paint colors. I love everything about interior design, but have always been especially drawn to cottage/farmhouse styles. For a couple of years after Phillip retired, we ran a little local business we called Crawfish River Trading Company. We designed and made cabinetry, benches, tables, and accents to sell in pop-up’s and at outdoor vintage markets, and had a lot of fun with it, especially during the holidays. My favorite part was picking out and applying the paint colors, and then aging the pieces a bit. Phillip had a much heavier workload, actually creating all the pieces I dreamed up (which is not heavy lifting, at all), and he grew weary of repeating a lot of the same patterns, so after two years, he decided it was more fun to just focus on special orders for clients, and the shows and pop-up’s ended.
I miss the creative energy of designing cabinets and choosing hardware and colors. Now, when I need to soothe myself and relax, and I need a break from either fretting or writing, or reading (!), I pull out bags of paint chips I’ve collected, and play. There’s really no other word for it. I play. With paint chips. I was always a very cheap date, and I am apparently still cheaply and easily amused. I pick out favorite colors in all their various shade gradations, decide which room I’m re-doing, and then play, which is really kind of a meditation, just picking and sorting through colors until I’ve found the most appealing combination, the one that enchants me. And then, I set it on a ledge for a few days so I can revisit it under all kinds of light variations. If a combination of colors continues to enchant, I tape it together and save it. If we’re actually going to paint a piece or a room, I buy samples of my favorites and paint part of the furniture or wall with them, and again, we check the colors under morning light, midday, and evening light, on cloudy and sunny days. We still end up making a wrong choice now and then, but way less than when we were younger. (I recall a ghastly attempt at trying to make a few walls look like aged plaster that involved glazes and a brown gel patina that made the room look like something extremely unfortunate had occurred.) Luckily, Phillip–along with being unattached to color choices and unfazed by his wife playing with color chips–has a very good eye for color, and can usually restrain my more impulsive choices. Usually.
It’s kind of an emotional and spiritual exercise as well, I suppose, since, while I sort through piles of paint chips, I can explore those colors I’m now attracted to, the motivation to bid farewell to the colors and design we currently have in place, and what I’m seeking in changing it around. What’s my heart yearning for now?
Today, I had all my possibilities arranged on the rug, just so, when Murphy, our eldest cat and 4-legged, decided it would be pleasing to roll all over them, jumbling them up and swatting a few around. He was also letting me know it was time to provide him, and his siblings, a canned treat. The cats rule when the pups nap. I served as I was bidden, and returned to my paint chips, and suddenly saw all the colors I’d been playing with today were really all gradations of browns and creams, with a soft green here and a blue-green there. I guess for me, this is a “pandemic-and-everything-else” palette, colors for nesting and feeling comforted. Nothing vivid, nothing exciting, nothing inspiring me to act so much as inviting me to rest. And that seems wise, because I struggle against rest when it feels like I’m “doing” so little to begin with these days. I still (and probably always will, till with breath do I part) need to be reminded to listen to my heart and spirit at least as much as I listen to my head. Years of offering spiritual care has taught me I’m not alone in this. Way too much conditioning has taught us we are only as worthy as our last task verifies. I am grateful to our quarantine time for inviting some hard work in turning from too much hard work, and shifting more often during the day to periods for play and rest. One day, I watched 6 hours of Downton Abbey; I never do that. It was like a vacation.
These are hard times, and though we may wish they weren’t here, they are, and they’re not ending anytime soon. The stress each of us is enduring is profound, and it’s compounded for those who are more physically vulnerable to the virus, and those who are working because they must, and those with families scattered all over the country/world, and those without work they need to feed their families, and those utterly weary of the country’s and world’s divisiveness, and those all alone and isolated from community… I guess that’s all of us.
The stress may show up in our dreams, our eating patterns, our need to stay busy, our avoidance of friends and the virtual interactions with them that are possible, our lack of self-care, and in the peace of mind we bring to our families. Our hope for better times and healing degrades. We lose balance. We do too much or nothing at all.
If we can find activities that offer us comfort and peace, that inspire us, that connect us with our own spirits, and that enable us to give solace to others as well, we’re on our way to managing our stress. But we also need to dedicate time to being still and just listening, allowing the feelings that overwhelm and threaten us to be felt. Giving them their time on stage. Naming them. Letting them “tell us” what they fear, and offering comfort to ourselves. Self-hospitality.
And we can find something to play with that amuses us and slows down the velocity of our worrying.
And we can rest. We can lie down, notice our breathing, and rest. We can look forward to hard times coming around no more.
Mavis Staples can offer you some comfort, too.
I also wanted to share this very different musical version of In the Time of Pandemic/And the People Stayed Home with you. It’s by James Carroll, a secondary teacher from Northampton, England, and, obviously, a composer who shreds guitar with amazing talent.
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12 thoughts on “Hard Times, Come Again No More”
love today’s post and the song by Mavis!! in gratitude!
Thank you, Irene; it’s so kind of you to write, and to offer blessing, too. I am so grateful. Be well and safe! Gentle peace to you and to your beloveds.
I wrote something similar months ago, when this was all just starting for us, and it felt so relevant. And 3 months later, it feels like the urgency of that call is gone, because we’ve just settled into a new status quo. But really, this reminder is so necessary. Pandemic or not, these acts of self-kindness are crucial to our wellbeing, and as the world starts up again – albeit under strange conditions – we have to remember to be gentle on ourselves and allow ourselves time to indulge in what feeds our souls….and to just be still. Thank you for the words of wisdom, as always.
I agree, Yacoob; it’s always important to connect with our spirit and live from it, and yes, so necessary to honor the practices that serve this connection through times excessively stressful and when they have passed. I always appreciate your visits and wisdom; thank you so much. Be safe and well, friend, and gentle peace.
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I had to laugh about you and your paint chips making for a cheap date. Hey, I’m right there with you! Doesn’t take much to keep me amused either. Your husband and you have done an outstanding job with the cabinetry you created. As an artist, I’m not easily impressed, and these are truly beautiful, Kitty. And leave it to a cat to instinctively help you see the right colors! LOL.
We ARE in such tough times – thanks for the kind reminders to be gentle with ourselves, in a world where we know – but don’t know – what to do. I will come back and listen to music later; I have a chance to make some progress on one of mu children’s books today!! Take care …
Let’s just say that “highly creative” people are easily amused and cheap dates, because everything can invite divergent thinking. 🙂 Thank you for visiting and sharing, my still-dreaming friend, and for your kind words. Phillip is truly a skilled carpenter, that’s for sure. I am soooo glad you have some time to work on one of your books, Jeanne! I hope it’s a grand and creative day for you. Stay safe and well. xoxoxo, Kitty
I don’t know if this is the best place for asking, but I couldn’t find any contact on the internet.
I’m a 24 year-old Italian cinema student at the Bologna’s Academy of Fine Arts, and I’m recently starting to make my own works. In the last few days I finished a documentary short film about life in quarantine in the countryside of northern Italy, and, moved by your poem “In the time of pandemic” I put it near the end of my short film (with credits). Unfortunately, being new to this kind of dynamics and politics in filmmaking I discovered too late that your permission was required in order to publish the documentary. I would like to specify that it has no marketing purposes whatsoever, and it’s only been made and published with artistic and documentary intentions. Since I would like to share my work possibly within filmmaking contests I’d like to, if possible, ask your permission to use your poem in my video. It would mean a lot.
Of course, if you deny this permission I will take the video down and keep it just for me and my family.
I will leave here my e-mail address so if you’re interested in watching the documentary I will send it to you privately so you can tell me what do you think of it. 🙂
Hoping to hear from you soon
have a great day,
Thank you for writing, Giorgia; I’ve sent you and e-mail. Be safe and well. Gentle peace.
A lovely peaceful and encouraging ramble.
Lol, yes, it is a bit of a ramble, but I’m glad it encouraged you and that you found it peaceful, maybe a little like we were on a walk together. 🙂 Thank you for visiting and taking time to share. Be well and safe, and gentle peace to you.
This is such a beautiful, heartfelt read. I love the colours you are contemplating, they are comforting! Goodness, Philip is so talented, how I wish I could order pieces from him!!! I love how they are painted too. You garden is looking enchanting and Murphy so sweet and adorable, and that picture of you is simply stunning! I loved Jame’s music too. It’s absolutely thrilling seeing how far and wide your poem has gone and all the art it has created, simply amazing, buttruly deserved as you are such a wonderful writer. Love and huge hugs to all.xxxx
Always love hearing from you, dear one; your kindness and encouragement have always blessed and inspired me, Ms. Snowbird. Phillip is a talented carpenter and, truly, the gardens wouldn’t look nearly this nice without his heavy lifting. 🙂
Murphy is an absolute lovebug. He and Fiona celebrated their 12th birthday last week, so I think he’s still a little
fatigued from making merry.
I’m glad you enjoyed James’s music; I certainly didn’t expect it! I sent it on to Jo Whiley’s producer, thinking maybe she could give him a boost. I agree about all the art being generated; it’s so wonderful and I’m glad my words could spur them on, but I sure don’t take credit for the wonderful music, dance, artwork, etc. It’s like I pushed and they flew. 🙂
Hope your week is peaceful and cooler than it is here. Yikes. xoxox