Author Archives: rebsuebauder

Stay-at-home

stayathome - 104.06.20

On April Fool’s Day, we had more snow than at anytime in the middle of the winter–well, almost.  And, it snowed again yesterday morning.  Looking out my front door, I thought of the bubonic plague and how in homes that were infected, big black crosses were painted on their doors.  That was in one of my low moments.  Later in the week, on cold afternoon walks, I spotted budding daffodils and buttercups peeking out in a sunny spot, and watched a fat robin tug a huge worm up out of the snow.  And, this morning, the nearly full supermoon–the biggest and brightest of 2020–was reflected in the water all the way across the lake.  I sat in the dark with my first cup of coffee, and watched dots of light bounce on the ripples.  That was one of the high moments.

I would guess that for those of us who are fortunate enough to just stay at home, we ride a daily, weekly, now monthly roller coaster of emotional highs and lows.  For at least a week, I’ve been focused on Joy’s frantic effort to return with her family from Finland.  There have been lows when flights were cancelled, highs when they made it to Seattle last night.  The rest of the family was online together yesterday afternoon, playing funny games on a video conference call, and we talked about them being in flight across the ocean, and how happy and relieved we were that they are nearly home.  When I awakened today,  I learned that their flight to Kalispell this morning was cancelled.  If the one this evening still goes, they will finally be back to Montana to settle into their airbnb for the 14-day quarantine.  There’s always the option of renting a car.  And, so it goes, highs and lows.

As another week begins, I’m resolving to make some adjustments.  I really do need to avoid spending so much time at the computer, reading horrible news reports.  I intend to stay informed, but when I feel my heart begin to race and that knot in my stomach, it’s time to back away.  I’m reading three fabulous books right now, including my latest children’s book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, described as “an achingly beautiful story” about a china rabbit.  Soup simmering on the stove, a cup of tea, and a great book, is medicine for the soul right now.  The weather forecast calls for a couple of typical April days at the start of this week with light rain here and there, and the temperature reading this morning was back above freezing.  A front is due to blow in tomorrow afternoon, bringing temperatures on Thursday to possibly 60 degrees.  Won’t that be grand!  Step by step we go.

Carol forwarded me a lovely passage from the novel, The Room of Ancient Keys, by Elena Mikhalkova, and I’ve taped it on my refrigerator as a gentle reminder each morning of how to move forward in this time of coronavirus.

Good Morning

“Grandma once gave me a tip:During difficult times, you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by bit.
Don’t think about the future, not even what might happen tomorrow. Wash the dishes.
Take off the dust.
Write a letter.
Make some soup.
Do you see?
You are moving forward step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Get some rest.
Compliment yourself.
Take another step.
Then another one.
You won’t notice, but your steps will grow bigger and bigger.
And time will come when you can think about the future without crying. Good morning.”

 

 

 

 

 

Gimme shelter

gimme shelter2 - 1 (1)

03.29.20

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away–Rolling Stones

So many friends sent me the article last week by Scott Berinato, in the Harvard Business Review, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief.”  He writes:

“There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.”

You can feel the collective grief in conversations with a loved one, and I would guess we each are experiencing our own private, lonely grief for what is threatened or lost in our individual lives.  For me, it has been the geographic distance separating me from my children and their families, which feels like the loss of safety which Berinato describes.  There has always been a geographic distance between me and my grown children, but never has it felt so lonely and so unsettling to be apart.  With Joy and her family still in Finland, under a State Department Level 4 Travel Advisory, there is a bubbling sense of dread that they could be stuck there for who knows how long, so far from family, especially their son, Fletcher, whose campus closed down in Washington.   They are looking at how to get out.  In times of danger, I think all moms want their chicks at least close to the nest, if not in it.  As Pooh tells Piglet, “we’re going home, because that’s the best thing to do right now” which feels like sound advice.

Despite the overarching sensation of grief, our shelter from the storm has been quiet and peaceful, as it always is down here by the lake.  The days have been blustery 40 degree cold ones, and an afternoon fire has created solace after a day of bad news, or the sputtering around doing mindless chores, and the emotional weariness of the unknown future.  I walked down to the dock at sunset last evening, and as I looked up the hill to our tall chimney, the pillars made of stone, and the enormous sheltering roof, ‘home’ filled me with tears of gratitude.  This is what I am always writing about…how can we find home.  And I thought of the little home Joy has created in Finland, with its silver pots of herbs lining the big windowsill in the kitchen; the Scandinavian fabric design of the drapes and pillows she found at a thrift store; the wall hanging she made out of table runners.  The sunsets they watched over the cathedral out her kitchen window, will always be with her, and the Nordic notion of hygge–“Home is a state of mind, something we make for ourselves wherever we can”– has always been part of who she is.

“Although home still represents stability in an unstable world, we’re beginning to see that home can be how we live, a situation that we create and recreate.
Home is less attached to bricks and mortar and more about the lives we lead, the ways that we connect with each other, the communities we build.
Home is a state of mind, something we make for ourselves wherever we can.
Hygge is the home we make in the flux and flow of our lives.”
Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well

 

Spring of 2020

 

spring comes anyway - 1

03.20.20

A Wintry Sonnet by Christina Rossetti

A Robin said: The Spring will never come,
 And I shall never care to build again.
A Rosebush said: These frosts are wearisome,
 My sap will never stir for sun or rain.
The half Moon said: These nights are fogged and slow,
I neither care to wax nor care to wane.
The Ocean said: I thirst from long ago,
 Because earth’s rivers cannot fill the main.–
When Springtime came, red Robin built a nest,
 And trilled a lover’s song in sheer delight.
 Grey hoarfrost vanished, and the Rose with might
 Clothed her in leaves and buds of crimson core.
The dim Moon brightened. Ocean sunned his crest,
 Dimpled his blue, yet thirsted evermore.

Spring swept in late last night, making this the earliest start to spring in a century.  It has something to do with how humans add a leap year to the calendar, in our inadequate attempt to line us ourselves up with the earth’s equinoxes.   According to NASA’s Michelle Thaller, “We all sort of think that the universe was made for us.  The day and night cycle does not fit into the year. Why isn’t it perfect? Because why should it be?”  As an astrophysicist, she says she finds meaning in things that are beyond the control of humans. “You know, we’re all on this little rotating rock together and we’re tiny,” she says. “The only thing we have is each other. The only thing that’s going to help the loneliness is each other.” (Copyright 2020 NPR.)

I imagine that we will remember Spring 2020 as the time everything was changed by the coronovirus.   It seems somewhat synchronistic that this once in a century early spring coincides with the arrival of the coronavirus, which Bill Gates said might be a ‘once-in-a-century pathogen’.  I have no idea how to make meaning out of it.  Alain de Botton wrote a piece in The New York Times this week titled,  Camus on the Coronavirus, and he writes …”Camus believed that the actual historical incidents we call plagues are merely concentrations of a universal precondition, dramatic instances of a perpetual rule:  that all human beings are vulnerable to being randomly exterminated at any time, by a virus, an accident or the actions of our fellow man.”  Is it any wonder we awaken in the middle of the night, unable to return to sleep.  This past week has felt like an eternity, and it is too overwhelming to imagine the months ahead of us.  We are all riding an emotional roller coaster, and, as Thaller says, all we have is each other.  I so miss my faraway families.  The phone calls, texts, emails, and sharing of funny videos between us, helps me, but I am lonely for them.  All we can do is take it day by day, piece by piece, all in this together.

Waking up to spring this morning, feeling so weary, I thought about how spring had arrived whilst I slept, on its certain celestial schedule.  No matter what,  the buds on the trees are set to burst open in the sunshine.  We went for an afternoon walk, on this important day, out on the dry lake bed, to the mouth of the Flathead River, with not a cloud in the sky.   Bald eagles perched by their nests, white heads brilliant against the blue sky.   Waterfowl bobbed on the sparkling diamonds of light on the water, and families–no doubt desperate to get out of the house–walked dogs and chatted, while their children ran around on the sand, holding arms high to watch their metallic streamers flutter in the breeze behind them.  I was grateful for the comfort and solace, for a few hours today, just in knowing that–in Spring of 2020– “The dim moon brightened.  Ocean sunned his crest.”

The sky is falling!

the sky is falling - 103.15.20

“Goodness gracious me, the sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!  Henny Penny

And, here we are, the Ides of March.  In researching stories about why this day is such bad luck, besides what happened to Julius Caesar, The Smithsonian Magazine lists ten reasons, including:   A New Global health Scare, 2003. After accumulating reports of a mysterious respiratory disease afflicting patients and healthcare workers in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada, the World Health Organization issues a heightened global health alert. The disease will soon become famous under the acronym SARS (for Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

When we drove home from town on Friday night, the dreaded northeast wind had begun to blow in the arctic front.  Already, the “local traffic only” sign was flashing on our highway, and as we drove down our road, we were blocked by an enormous 100-year old Douglas Fir which had fallen.  We parked the car, and used the flashlights on our phones to climb over it, and ran down the road to our house.  The roar of the wind and the moaning of the trees as they rubbed against each other was absolutely terrifying.  In the morning, when we went up to survey the damage, another tree had crashed just behind our car, and at least four more nearby–it felt appropriate to have been afraid.  After Don had chain-sawed the trees blocking the car, I went for supplies at the local grocery store and overheard tales of people still without power.  Is that why so many were buying big jugs of water?  Probably, just Covid-19 hoarding, since there is still no toilet paper.  I filled my cart with some essentials–the dried beans and rice were all gone–so I just loaded up with Fremont beer, a household favorite.

It feels appropriate to be afraid on this Ides of March.  In my immediate family, Joy and her husband and two teen-agers are in Finland, with a State Department level 3 travel advisory in place, not certain if they will be told to leave.  And, Anna is in bed with a fever at the moment.  Their oldest child, my grandson, Fletcher, finds that his University in Washington has shut down the campus until the end of April, and they are told to go home.  Except that his home was sold when the rest of the family moved to Finland for six months.  My Bay Area daughters have come to the rescue, and he is inflight this morning to self-quarantine in Valerie’s backyard casita.  They are all trying to figure out how to do this 14-day quarantine recommendation, and when they feel it’s safe, the current plan is for Don and I to drive out there and bring him back to Montana for the month of April.  It is humbling for me to feel this much anxiety, when we are a family with great privilege to weather the storm.

The snowstorm didn’t materialize with the arrival of the arctic front, but single digit temperatures are a shock to the system in mid-March.  In four days, it will be the official start of Spring, and spring cleaning should be quite productive this year as we socially distance ourselves from one another and have time at home.   It feels like time itself has slowed down with all this sheltering in place.  I’ve appreciated just sitting in a comfy chair, with a cup of tea, and talking on the phone with friends and family from afar.  Such conversations have nearly disappeared in the age of texting.  I was reading the other day about the lost art of “strolling” where you met neighbors after dinner for a leisurely walk together, and how it was possible to carry on a conversation whilst six feet apart.  We need to be there for one another right now, as we struggle with our fears, and do our bit as the Brits like to say.

If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

 

 

Night flight

spring birds2 - 103.07.20

The night migration of birds is now underway.  In the spring and fall, back before radar, ornithologists conducted “moon watching” by pointing telescopes at the moon and watching for the silhouettes of birds to pass by.   While there is still no complete understanding of all the ways birds find their way in the dark–for 3,000 miles–research indicates that they most likely use the stars to guide them.  Cliff Mass, the meteorologist I follow in Seattle, reported that the mass migration began there this past Wednesday, showing up on the National Weather Service radar between sunset and sunrise.  Conditions were perfect for the journey–a warm front had moved in, clear skies with no rain, and the winds were strongly from the south, creating a good tailwind.  He claimed the birds were meteorologically very smart.

We are nearing the full moon and it has been appearing out my bedroom window sometime around 2 a.m.   From my pillow, I’ve been imagining what it must have looked like to have your eye on a telescope and see the silhouettes go by.    I’ve read several accounts of being at the seashore and hearing the flocks go by overhead in the middle of the night.   On my morning walks, there are so many arriving robins and red-winged blackbirds, and tiny little cheerful birdies at the tip-top of spruce trees, and it’s just a wonder to think about their celestial journey.  The Canada geese pair who nest every year on Johnson’s Pond are back.  They’re sitting on the ice, next to a very small opening of water.  Every year they hatch their eggs dangerously close to the highway, and we can never know if their goslings survived, but, Mom and Dad are always back each spring to start again.

It is such a fragile, scary place out in the world right now with the coronavirus epidemic topping the list.   I came down with a bad cold after arriving home from Finland, and have been under self-quarantine for a week now.  Don is down in blistering hot Phoenix with the grandsons, watching Spring Training baseball, so it’s been very quiet at my house.  Except for the mountain lion who sauntered up the yard the other day, the peacefulness here belies what it feels like to be out in the crowded world.  I’ve bundled up and sat down by the water the last couple of late afternoons, listening for the loons which should arrive very soon.  Small flocks of geese are flying low, and I can hear their webbed feet come in for a landing–it’s that quiet.  It’s actually been quite lovely to be under my version of a quarantine.

I spotted a little tiny purple violet between the stones on the terrace the other day, at 35 degrees.  Spring is coming, and life moves on, and, always there is such hope in that.

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature–the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”  –Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Far from home

far from home - 1 (1)

02.29.20

I love watching the flight tracker screen on transcontinental adventures.  We are flying over the west coast of Iceland, in this photo, on our way to the white landscape of Greenland, at the Arctic Circle.  We had totally clear skies both to and from Seattle, and on the outbound trip over Greenland, the sky was full of bright stars, and, the dazzling, beautiful Aurora Borealis.  While everyone in our cabin was sleeping, I put a blanket over my head to block out interior lighting,  and watched out my window for a good four hours.  When it dimmed a bit, I would close my eyes and hope to fall asleep, but then I would look again and they were even more spectacular.  I looked around to see if anybody else was watching, and when nobody stirred, I walked up to the alcove where the flight attendants were sitting, and they said it was one of the best shows they’d ever seen.  Later, when we were in Finland, Joy asked if I took any photos, and, I realized it never occurred to me–I was just too overwhelmed.  I did take a sunrise photo, just out of Rekayjevek, of the waning crescent moon, looking as if it were setting behind a sea of thin clouds.  It is otherworldly out there, in the cosmos, so far from home.

I think of Montana as the north country, but, au contraire, Finland is truly north.  Even though there was no snow on the ground, and many of the Nordic countries are experiencing their warmest winter in a century, it was cold.  The temperatures may have been in the mid-twenties, but when the rain and sleet and snow slashed against us, it was  bitter.  In our two days at the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi Lapland, it reached 32 degrees, but we had snow on the ground, and the reindeer sleigh ride through the forest, with stars lighting the snow, was magical.  There was a bit of northern lights out in the forest, but when our guide dropped us back at our apartment, he told us his app predicted a great show in an hour or so, and told us the best place to walk to in Rovaniemi, down by the frozen river.  So, late as it was, we all trudged through the dark (so happy I had brought ice cleats to put over my boots) and made our way down the hill to the river, where maybe 100 people stood on the ice, with little dots of light from their phones, poised for the Aurora Borealis.  We were not disappointed, as the green and yellow lights swirled in the sky across the river.  They were not nearly as strong as the event I saw from the plane, but I’ll remember them brighter, because our little family saw it together.

Our last days back in Tampere were filled with bright sunshine as we walked about, exploring the sights.  It’s a lovely city with beautiful historic architecture, and a river runs through it, connecting the two lakes on either side, which provides hydropower.   The city is made for being outside with paths all through town and into the forests, and market lights strung across the streets to light the polar dark.  The children, dressed in snow suits and hats with pompoms, play in the parks as if it’s 70 degrees.  It felt so calm and civilized somehow.  Maybe it had something to do with the city library, designed to look like a bird with outstretched wings, where there were candles on the tables inside, under windows which looked up to the sky.

It was 55 degrees here yesterday, on our first full day back at the lake. ( Joy wrote that it was 8 degrees in Tampere.)  It was below zero here this time last year and the lake was just about to freeze over.  We celebrated being home with cocktails on the bench down at the water, and Chatpeau rolled around on the warm concrete dock.  We talked about what a great trip it was, beginning to sort out the memories we made.   I think my favorite times were when we walked from our hotel for dinner at the Honea’s apartment, maybe 10 minutes, up the narrow street, past cozy restaurants.  We would cross over to the walking path, crunchy with gravel which is spread over the snow and ice, and then take the diagonal through the cathedral grounds, where their Soviet bloc style apartment building came into view.  We’d see their garland of string lights lit over the patio on the fourth floor.  Once we were buzzed up, we’d stand at the kitchen window with a beer, and look out at the sunset, as pink light spread behind the magnificient cathedral.  Its enormous round stained glass window was pink and lavender and the tall skinny towers were out of a fairy tale.  Sometimes there was a light in a tiny little window near the top of a tower, and on our final night, Joy pointed out the tiny sliver of the now waxing crescent moon.   In those moments, it did not feel so very far from home–being with family is always home, wherever that takes you.

 

Waiting for Spring

spring - 1 (2)02.14.20

Valentine’s Day is always such a nice splash of flowers and red hearts with love in the air.  I went into two different floral shops today, just to smell the roses and soak up the good cheer.  Valerie, my Valentine baby, is 45 years old today.  How ever did that happen?!  She, and remembering all the heart-decorated celebrations for her over the years, always makes this a very nice day.  But, as is always the case on February 14th, I am ready for spring.   While our snowpack is above average, the valley never did get what we consider serious winter, and for some reason, that makes me even more ready for spring.  At least when there is serious winter, we have the quiet beauty of snow falling and falling out the windows, and being snowbound a time or two, which is always so exciting.   It was 43 degrees yesterday with beautiful sunshine, and a bit of a squall moved in over night, but it’s still above freezing, and I suspect this is how it will be going forward, as spring nudges closer and closer.  The NOAA forecast for a week out writes, “Next week continues to look unexciting as high pressure moves into the area.”

On my walks, I see the same fat robin in the same tree.  He also appears to be waiting for spring.  The males arrive first, and maybe he has scouted out this particular tree for his potential valentine, so they can make a nest together for the family to come.  Plant Land, a local nursery in Kalispell, puts out a sign in January, counting down the days until spring.  It often feels so bleak to drive by there and see the sign, nearly buried in snow, with so many more days until spring arrives.  But, yesterday, in the sunshine, with dirt and dust kicked up by passing cars on dry roads, it was so encouraging to see 35 days left–now, 34 days.  We leave for Finland on Monday, and when we return, it will be March.  By then, the homestretch will have arrived.

Finland and the nordic countries have also missed out on serious winter this year.  Even in Lapland, the temperatures have soared above normal.  We’re taking a six hour train ride to the Arctic Circle to see reindeer and the northern lights–it kinda feels like one last desperate attempt in search of winter!  When we arrive back home, March’s weather will surely disappoint–serious winter could even appear to torment us.  But, my goodness, in this afternoon’s sunshine, I could almost smell spring, and all the hope it brings.  Until then, bon voyage to us…

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…” –Frances Hodgson Burnett

“Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring — that delicious commingling of the perfume of arbutus, the odor of pines, and the snow-soaked soil just warming into life” — Neltje Blanchan

Spring is made of solid, fourteen-karat gratitude, the reward for the long wait. Every religious tradition from the northern hemisphere honors some form of April hallelujah, for this is the season of exquisite redemption, a slam-bang return to joy after a season of cold second thoughts.” —Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life