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When the pandemic and stay-home order hit our state, it was still winter, and since Minnesota’s early spring brings plenty of snow and chilly days, we were mostly inside and isolated for two months. After a summer of distanced outdoor activities – backyard campfires or gardening, kayaking, walks – we are looking ahead at a solid 5 months of isolation unless we figure out how to get together outside without freezing. Luckily, my family enjoys winter.
Distanced Social Activities for Fall & Winter
- Campfire in the backyard or driveway fire pit
- Campfire with sleeping bags, when very cold
- Walking – daytime to get some sun, or night to stargaze
- Yard cleanup with friends – rotate yards
- Snow shoveling party!
- Skiing or snowshoeing
- Ice skating
How will you gather with friends and family this winter?
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The weirdest month of my life, right here. March 2020! My father-in-law fell on February 27 and it turned out, broke a vertebra, and a week later, on March 5, he died. The next Tuesday, my union went on strike and we were on the picket lines for 3 days. With COVID19 closures looming we reached a contract settlement and the next Sunday we learned we’d be closed for the remainder of the month preparing for a massive scale distance teaching of children of all ages. Said preparation was spent with my own two small children at home with me, competing with my husband for work time, and binging on faaaaar too much Facebook. I let myself indulge in a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. I’ve been eating a lot. Too much. Trying to avoid feelings. Needless to say, my stress levels have been somewhat elevated.
On week 3 of this, we are settling in, figuring it out. My husband started actually distance teaching; we are officially on spring break so ours doesn’t start for another week. I’m sleeping kind of better and kind of worse. I’m walking every day. Inspired by this post, I’ve been doing little projects that have just kind of sat around forever and it feels good to finish them, use them, put them away, be done. I’m pushing myself to actually finish up things rather than get close and not see them to completion, and to avoid my old foe of spending time researching and ordering yet more supplies for projects and then not actually doing them.
I left off writing that last night . . . just couldn’t feel out where this was going . . . but I’m back again today. I have a vague feeling hanging about me, a constant unease. Maybe, as this article suggests and much more aptly describes, it’s grief. So many griefs this month, and it feels shallow to admit that the one that feels the biggest right now is this sense that I’ve spent 15 years in a career that I’m consciously choosing to be in said career at this time in my life, but is renowned for its degree of superfluous crap. The paperwork. The meetings. The documentation. The events. The committees. The TESTING. The TIME. All of that, in the snap of a finger, gone. Done. Don’t have to do it! Now: Do only the most important thing (teach) and in the simplest yet most effective way you can given the novelty of the format, etc. and take care of yourself while you do it. So while my intellectual brain knows that it’s temporary, and because of a very unusual circumstance, I also wonder . . . will I actually be able to go back to that?
And I decided that social isolation was a good time to mix a new sourdough starter…
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Orion is high in the sky now on my early morning walks with our dog. Today is a perfect, crisp autumn morning, with a lovely chill in the air. Our hours of sunlight have rapidly decreased and the frogs and crickets are subdued when I can hear them at all. The rustling of the leaves, near peak color now, is this season’s music.
The first autumn that I lived in Minnesota, I was so happy to observe all these signs of the season that I kept the windows open all the time even though I was freezing, having just moved from a climate in which the average day was 50 degrees warmer. I had moved to the desert Southwest with great excitement 10 years earlier, but had not anticipated how much I would miss the annual cycle with which I grew up.
It’s very cold here in the winter. There are days when the streets and sidewalks are too icy to walk safely. Some days it’s a horrible time getting to or from work – and some winters, like our last, it’s like that most days. But I learned that observing and experiencing the cycle of the temperate climate four seasons is absolutely essential for me.
This is the final month in the garden – I’ll be raking leaves and using them to cover the vegetable and herb beds (which allows kale and lavender to overwinter), cutting back summer’s amazing greenery to allow for new growth in the spring, and putting away irrigation lines, watering cans, and shovels. By October I’m always ready to put the garden to bed for winter, to allow time for festive holidays, indoor projects like sewing and writing, and baking, both savory and sweet, which fills our home with warmth and delicious aromas all winter.
This weekend, Thom and I will spend as much time as possible in the sunshine and garden… walking, raking, listening to the birds, talking. Mari will go to a gigantic corn maze with a friend. I’ll harvest the last of our apples (perfectly tart Harelsons) and bake a pie in honor of my mom, who makes the world’s best pies. All simple and frugal activities – and all so rewarding in body and mind.
What feeds your soul in autumn?
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