After my husband and I got finished with our work this afternoon, we started talking about companies not being in a rush to reopen offices. Instead, managers are reassuring employees that they won’t have to go back to the office before they feel comfortable with it, and that returning to the office will start with those who want to go back right away.

We both found ourselves wondering how companies will find enough volunteers to make reopening offices worthwhile. Not only are many people anxious about going out, they’re also getting very comfortable with the unhurried pace of working at home. No commute, no business clothes, and a more relaxed workday in general. Just being here in the moment comes easily.

Word-art with hands holding the word "Be."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

June 25, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

After I left Peter at the pond skimming stones in a previous post, I walked up to Channelwood’s well-tended orchards. I found Ella and Sara, in bonnets and long gingham dresses as usual, busily picking apricots. They already had filled two large baskets, and I helped them to fill another. We picked up the full baskets and carried them to a small drying shed near the kitchen outbuilding.

Apricots on a tree.

(Photo credit: Malcolm Manners)

Queenie, who had been pitting apricots and laying them out on drying racks, put down her knife and wiped her hands. I set down my basket in the shade next to the shed, where a stack of empty baskets stood next to a full one.

Sara put her basket next to mine before turning to smile at me. “I love dried apricots, don’t you? And I love picking them on a beautiful sunny day like this. When it’s dark in the winter, they look like tiny bits of sunshine saved to make us happy.”

“Yes, I do too,” I agreed, now feeling more cheerful myself after just a few minutes in the presence of Sara’s boundless enthusiasm. “And I want to thank you girls for generously giving Peter a home and taking such good care of him. I spent a little time with him at the pond, and he looks happy and well.”

“We’re glad to do it,” Sara immediately replied. “Peter is a dear child.”

“No trouble in the least,” Ella chimed in. “Although Peter often acts without thinking—and that’s only to be expected of a five-year-old, after all—he has good intentions and a kind heart.”

I glanced toward Queenie, who was standing silently next to the other girls and had not yet spoken. Staring at the wall of the shed, apparently lost in her own thoughts, she said softly, “I wish…”

Sara, always perceptive and empathetic, turned toward Queenie right away and assured her, “And you’re a dear too, Queenie, of course.”

Picking up empty baskets, Ella and Sara set off toward the orchard again. Ella walked sedately, but Sara’s bouncy gait made clear that she was skipping through the meadow, her long dress billowing behind her.

Queenie picked up her knife and went back to pitting apricots, flinging the pits with unnecessary vigor into a sack at her feet.

“I know that there’s no good reason for me to feel slighted,” she said, half to me and half to the wall. “When I was a child I wasn’t neglected. I always had plenty of food, clothing, and whatever I needed. And of course, Ella and Sara had much harder lives; they both lost their mothers when they were little. I can’t even imagine how awful that must have been. So I’ve had it easy, and I just need to count my blessings and be grateful. You don’t have to tell me that.”

“I wasn’t going to,” I answered. “Your feelings are real. Where they came from doesn’t make them any less real, and denying or minimizing them won’t make them go away. Acknowledge them, Queenie, however you must—and then take a few minutes to go out and skip in the sunshine.”

As with many families, my husband and I have been sharing our home office space for the past three months. So far, it has been going well, except for the occasional minor inconvenience of having online meetings scheduled at the same time.

My husband enjoys being able to take breaks from work and easily get exercise on the rowing machine in the basement (it’s a Hydrow, which has online workouts with video of instructors in real sculling boats). I also worked out over my midday break today. It feels more peaceful and relaxed around the house, even with everything that’s going on in the world. The lesson here, I would say, is that setting aside just a little more space in the day for doing happy little things can go a long way.

Word-art that says "Do more of what makes you happy."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

My routine in the morning doesn’t change much from one day to another. After waking up and getting dressed, I go into the kitchen, open the blinds, and unload the dishwasher. Then I make my breakfast, which usually consists of two slices of multigrain toast and some fruit or eggs.

To give myself a fresh view of the world every morning, I change the picture on my digital art display. It hangs midway up the dining room wall, positioned to look like a window from where I’m sitting on the couch in the living room. Usually I choose landscape scenes; and to make them feel more realistic, I try to match the sky in the image to the ambient light from my real windows. For example, on Sunday it was partly cloudy, and I displayed a beach image with some clouds.

Beach photo with clouds in the sky.

(Photo credit: Roberto Christen)

After changing the image, I get my breakfast plate and a cup of coffee from the kitchen. If it is a workday, I’ll eat at my desk. On a weekend morning, I’m likely to sit on the couch and do some reading on my Kindle while having my breakfast or, if an idea for a blog post comes to mind, I might start writing it on a notepad.

What got me thinking about all of this was a conversation with my daughter on Friday evening. She is the sort of person who always has multiple projects going on, while also planning for more. In contrast, I have been doing the same work at the same company for many years. Although I know that the modern world has many opportunities, I don’t yet have a clear sense of direction as to what comes next.

My daughter was of the opinion that with so many possibilities out there, it’s best to pick something and make plans accordingly, rather than waiting for intuition to show the way. As an example, she suggested that because I like writing, I could make good money turning my blog into a business.

Although I appreciate her efforts to be helpful and encouraging, I can’t see myself doing that. Whether or not blogging can work as a career plan in the abstract, it wouldn’t suit me in the here and now. As I see it, I gain something of value from having my blog available as a place to sort through random thoughts, without the constraints of a regular production schedule. That value doesn’t translate into money, and it is neither efficient nor measurable—but that is, to a large extent, the point.

When I started writing this post earlier in the week, I wrote the first few paragraphs and then set it aside for more reflection. Now, I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking about my morning routine and how it relates to work possibilities. It had something to do with peaceful routines, unhurried schedules, and taking time to refresh the mind. I suspect it was a bit different from what I actually ended up writing, though.

And that’s okay. Because my blog is not a business, I don’t have to plan every post in detail and have it complete, perfectly organized, and ready to be published the same day, without fail. If other things distract me, or if it takes a little longer to get my thoughts in order, it’s not a problem and doesn’t feel like a failure. Maybe the value of that can’t be calculated or added to my bank balance, but it is definitely worth something.

After my husband and I got finished with our work today, we had a pleasant walk around the neighborhood. It was very good to see people getting outdoors and enjoying the summer weather. Then our daughter came to visit this evening. She is a nurse in Cleveland, and we hadn’t seen her since March, what with everything that has been going on.

Even when it seems like we are just doing ordinary things, there is always much in life for which to be grateful and joyful.

Word-art that says "grateful," "joyful," and other positive words over the shape of a woman.

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Now that I’ve gotten more used to a quieter daily routine, I haven’t noticed any of my anxious younger selves popping up from distant corners of my subconscious. Still, this week I thought it might be a good idea to check on my often-troubled past self Queenie, along with her young companions Ella and Sara, in the imaginary village of Channelwood.

I arrived by sailing ship on a pleasant sunny day. After passing through the cool shade of the bayou’s wooden walkways, which Ella always kept tidy and in good repair, I came out of the trees beside a pond. A path, muddy in spots, curved around a tall stand of cattails.

Pond with cattails in foreground.

(Photo credit: Johan Neven)

Hearing a splash, I walked around the cattails and found a small boy standing at the pond’s edge, skimming stones. In keeping with Channelwood’s setting in the 1890s, the boy wore a plain cotton shirt and trousers with suspenders.

“Hello,” I greeted him. “Do you live here?”

The boy looked thoughtful, as if considering how best to answer. About a minute passed before he finally said, “Well, I suppose I do now, ever since Wendy and the Lost Boys left the Neverland and went back to London. Of course I don’t need a family, as I can take care of myself; but Sara wanted to be my mother, so I decided to stay for a while.”

By then I recognized this past self as my five-year-old Peter Pan wannabe. It took a moment for the recognition to set in, though, because in our previous encounter, the child had been dressed in the frilly girl’s clothing that I actually wore at that age.

“Did Sara make your clothes?” I asked.

“No, Ella made them. Ella’s very good at sewing. Sara tucks me in at night and tells me bedtime stories.”

A ripple disturbed the water near Peter’s feet, and a small turtle poked its head up out of the pond. It was holding a flat chip of stone in its mouth. Laboriously, it plodded up the muddy bank and dropped the stone in front of Peter.

“I’ve been teaching the turtle how to play fetch with stones,” Peter explained. He rummaged in a pocket for some squishy brownish blob that he fed to the turtle, telling it, “Nicely done! Good work!”

After eating its reward, the turtle started making its slow way back toward the pond.

“Ella gave me some dried apple,” Peter told me. “The turtle seems to like it pretty well.”

“I thought turtles ate worms and bugs,” I said.

“They’re not very particular. I have a few worms and bugs in my pocket too.” Evidently remembering his manners, Peter reached toward his pocket with grubby fingers and went on to say, “I have more dried apple. Would you like some?”

“No, thank you,” I replied, perhaps with a bit too much haste. “But it was kind of you to offer.”

“One must always,” Peter declared virtuously, “be kind to a lady.”

This year it feels like we’re all looking for a sense of direction and wondering what to do. There is so much that needs to be done in the world, it has gotten overwhelming. The disruption to ordinary routines has been draining our energy even more. I haven’t felt like doing much beyond uploading peaceful nature scenes to the online library for my digital art display and writing a few blog posts and stories.

Even these small efforts, though, can help to bring comfort to a world much in need of it.

Word-art that says "By doing what you love, you inspire and awaken the hearts of others." -Satsuki Shibuya

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

To read Part 7, click here. All parts of this story are consolidated on one page here.

Water trickled peacefully down narrow channels cut into the stone walls of a room which, Ina found herself thinking, was the principal’s office. A drain in the far corner, with a moss-covered iron grate, collected the flow. Lush ferns and lilies seemed to grow directly out of the walls, but a closer look revealed that they had been planted in clay pots carefully shaped to fit niches in the stone.

Yellow lilies with a dark background.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Three square windows across the top of a wall let in the midmorning light. Along with it, Ina observed, several blue dragonflies had found their way to a roughly cut crystal of the same bright blue, which was displayed on a shelf about halfway up the wall opposite the windows.

Sitting at an oak desk in the middle of the room was the principal—and Ina shook her head in frustration when she couldn’t think where her mind had come up with that word, or even remember what it meant. Something here was not as it should be, despite the peaceful surroundings.

The desk’s occupant was a tiny, ancient-looking woman with thin silver hair in a neat bun. Her skin was so pale as to be almost colorless, and she had soft blue eyes set into a deeply wrinkled face. She nodded twice, without speaking, as Luz stood beside the desk telling her the details of Ina’s outburst in the library. Ina remained standing, as well, although the room had two chairs for visitors.

“Thank you, Luz. I’ll take care of it.”

The old woman’s voice sounded raspy but also gentle, like dry brown leaves rustling in an autumn wood. Luz gave a slight bow in acknowledgment, clasping her hands, and promptly left the room.

“Do sit down, Ina, dear,” urged the woman, her thin-lipped mouth curving into a smile. “The name suits you. In many languages, it means authentic or pure. You feel a strong need to express yourself and to make sense of any conflicts you encounter.”

That clearly wasn’t a question, and Ina sat down without replying. The chair felt very soft and comfortable. It was upholstered in a thick green fabric, and the cushion appeared to be down-filled, to judge from the tip of a white feather poking out of a small tear along one side.

“You may call me Thalassa or, if you prefer, Mother Ocean. We begin our lives here with only one name, but sometimes—as the years pass—we find that it has acquired more richness along the way.”

Ina gazed down at the smooth skin of her hands, which still didn’t feel as if they properly belonged to her. Seeing the rip in the cushion bothered her, for reasons she couldn’t express, and she arranged the full skirts of her new dress to cover it. Arranging her thoughts took more effort. As she looked up to meet Thalassa’s eyes, she finally managed to articulate the question that had been with her since last night’s arrival.

“I want to know why you took me from,” and after a rush of jumbled thoughts and impressions failed to come together into a place-name, Ina finished the sentence more simply by saying, “where I ought to be.”

“That question is far more complicated than you know, Ina, dear heart. It is the work of our lives to determine where we ought to be.”

As sunlight slanting through the central window touched the blue crystal, it began to hum almost imperceptibly. The dragonflies soon lifted away and gathered around Thalassa’s hair, which was held in place by long hairpins tipped with fragments of what looked like the same kind of crystal. Both the hairpins and the dragonflies now glowed a silvery blue.

“I can answer you only so far,” Thalassa continued, “as to say that you were chosen because Mother Earth needs your uncommon talents. The world is in great need of healing, and we have vowed to serve to the best of our abilities. To become fully attuned to the magic that dwells in all things, we must clear our minds of distracting thoughts and memories. You are finding this difficult because you fear a loss of identity.”

Ina gave a slow nod in response, as the blue crystal came fully into the sunlight and its hum grew louder. One of the dragonflies broke away from the group and landed gently on Ina’s right hand, as if wanting to comfort her.

“Nothing is truly lost, Ina; it is only hidden, and only for a short time. For now, you must work on crafting a joyful soul with the strength and wisdom to answer Mother Earth’s call. That you were chosen for this work is both a great challenge and a great privilege.”

Click here to continue to Part 9.