A Life More Ordinary

I mowed the lawn today.

I realize that may not sound extraordinary — but these days, the most ordinary thing can truly be something extraordinary.

In all honesty, I’ve always looked forward to mowing my own lawn. It gives me a chance to notice other tasks, like weeding a bed or pruning a shrub. I think, though, it’s the repetitiveness I most enjoy. It’s almost meditative. First, I divide the lawn into smaller rooms, the curvy side area, the area in front of the front window, and the large area between the front island bed and the street. Then, I mow around the borders and beds in each zone, giving myself a bit of an outline. I follow this up by pushing my lawn mower in straight lines, walking back and forth, filling in the outlines like in a coloring book — and I think.

Most times, I wonder about this blog and potential post topics. I play with words and word patterns in my head. Other times, I think of problems — personal, national, and global — and I try to come up with solutions.

Desert Rose.

These days, in the Age of Coronavirus, either my lawn isn’t growing fast enough or I need a bigger lawn. There’s so much happening, so much to dwell upon, and only so much mowing to do.

Like many of you, I’m scared and anxious. I don’t say that aloud too often. I’m working very hard to keep myself from losing my balance on the tightrope that separates logic from panic. I’m also quite angry, especially at the slow response in this country and the number of people who still have not grasped the severity of the situation.

At times like this, I desperately crave my garden.

Scorpion Orchid.

With each passing of the mower, though, I kept noticing this patch of weeds that drive me crazy. I believe it’s dollarweed or dichondra — either way, it’s the bane of my lawn’s existence.

I’m really okay with weeds. In fact, it’s always been my philosophy that if it’s green, it gets to stay — but this stuff is not like any weed I’ve ever known. Its small seedpods stick to everything — skin, clothing, shoes, the undercarriage and wheels of the lawnmower. Because there’s no way to avoid it, I have to walk through it — and now as I mow, I see other colonies popping up in other areas of the lawn. Forget Typhoid Mary, I’m Weed-Spreading Kevin.

Naturally, my thoughts eventually wandered to Coronavirus — and I felt I really needed to write something to all of you — or perhaps to me. I had to take a breath and stop myself because I do not want COVID-19 to be in my garden. Even though Joe and I (and I hope all of you) chose to self-distance before government officials recommended it, the virus has managed to infiltrate areas of our lives — from the news to conversations with neighbors and friends and family to every excursion to the supermarket. The garden, though, has to be Coronavirus-free because it’s my escape hatch for when containment becomes too smothering.

Phalaenopsis Orchid.

That’s when I thought that rather than filling a blog post with my own worries — adding mine onto yours won’t help any of us — I started thinking about good things and my hopes and wishes. Things like:

I’m getting so much inspiration from the people of Italy — and if any of you reading this are from Italy, thank you! And extend my thanks to your neighbors and fellow citizens. The videos of you singing on balconies and displaying Italian flags have moved me to tears and smiles and laughter. I am so deeply touched by your courage and spirit — and it is absolutely contagious!

Speaking of which, we should all live life like the Italians. Although many areas around the globe are on lockdown, it doesn’t mean locked in. It’s okay to go outside, to take a walk, to sit on a terrace or by an open a window, and to enjoy the fresh air, the sun, and the breeze and still be able to maintain six feet of distance between others. When we see a friend or a neighbor or a stranger, we need to remember to nod, talk, and laugh — and when life returns to normal, we must keep doing that.

In the same vein, I want the nations of the world to do better — perhaps greater trust to share knowledge and work together for the common good of the planet and the human race, to return to appreciating science, and to face other global threats — climate change, war, famine, poverty, quality of life — with the same fervor on display today. If this small virus has taught us anything, it’s that we are literally all in this together.

Gerbera Daisy.

Over the past few months, I’ve reconnected with my love of reading. Lately, I’ve been on a winning streak with some amazing books: Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again (both by Elizabeth Strout), The Lager Queen of Minnesota and The Kitchens of the Great Midwest (both by J. Ryan Stradal), A Single Thread (Tracy Chevalier), The Plot Against America (Philip Roth), The Overstory (Richard Powers), and The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (Carson McCullers). At the moment, I’m about two-thirds through Plainsong (Kent Haruf). Now that libraries are closed, I’ve loaded up my Kindle with free samples so I can look for my next great read — because reading is a great way to get away without leaving home.

I also find myself looking forward to the ordinary tasks of the day, things like making the bed and doing the laundry. There are also the garden chores, like mowing or re-edging a bed that has tough-as-Berber St. Augustine grass runners creeping into it. Being active burns off the anxiety and fear, and for a few short hours there is no Coronavirus. Performing these tasks gives me a sense of control when things are spinning out of control. Completing them are accomplishments, building blocks for a better day.

The other afternoon, early in our self-quarantine, Joe walked around to “my side” of the yard. We call it that because it’s where my potting bench and tool shed are. He asked how I was doing. Sweaty and grimy, I smiled and said, “Everything in Kevin’s World is great!”

And it was, because my garden is my happy place, my most ordinary happy place filled with the most ordinary of tasks — and these days, ordinary can do wonders.

I hope this will be my first and last Coronavirus post.
Instead, I want this blog to be a place of escape for anyone having to stay-in-place. My wish for all of you is that you are safe and following the advice of experts and finding comfort in your ordinary.
Be well!

12 thoughts on “A Life More Ordinary

  1. Thank you Kevin for the post as to how we all feel right now. I’m so ready to get into my garden and get my hands in the soil once again. I too love the Italians all singing together or alone. Warms my heart. Im trying to keep myself busy cooking and reading. But soon I’ll be in the garden here in zone 5. Was going to rake the front yard yesterday and should have because we had a wonderful rain this morning,,which we needed.
    See you in the garden!

    • Hi Karen. Ahhhh, rain. It’s been very dry in South Florida, and it already feels like summer. Enjoy your time in the garden, inhale all of those spring-time smells, and stay safe. 🙂

  2. Is it cleavers? My dichondra doesn’t go to seed, I haven’t noticed. I am due to mow again (gratefully so) and have spent the last few evenings hand pulling chickweed (with occasional support from my kids who call it “playing Godzilla” because I needed to convince one of them to help me pull a bunch of rutabaga the other day so the aphids wouldn’t take over and needed an exciting story to make that sound fun.
    Does your library not have e-books? There’s also Overdrive at many libraries if you’re open to audio books.

    • Hi PD. I don’t think its cleavers, but I’d happily take a cleaver to it if it meant I could be rid of it! I may soon start weeding the lawn — are your kids available? Yes, the library has e-books and Overdrive — and that’s been a blessing. Since we have one Kindle, I’m now reading aloud to Joe and any neighbors who’d like to listen from a distance. I don’t think I’ll get any acting awards, but it passes the time. Stay safe!

  3. Thank you Kevin for writing what we all feel at this time. We also have chosen to self isolate from friends and family though my husband is still teaching – tough gig. We are so grateful to have a garden. Keep well and enjoy your garden.

    • Hi Flavia. Please, stay safe also. I know these are scary/frustrating times, but I do think we need to breathe and pause and disconnect for a time so we can regroup. It’s important to stay positive and to fill the days doing all the things we’ve always wished we had time to do.

  4. Kevin, I am grateful that COVID-19 arrived at about the same time as an early spring in Maine, which means that I can spend hours out in the garden doing spring cleanup and soaking up sunshine. Maine’s “stay-at-home” order considers outdoor exercise an essential activity — essential for both physical and mental health — as long as we maintain 6′ distance from others. This week, I’ve also added a cloth mask to my exercise gear. I love the creative ways people can respond to a crisis — like those Italians singing together from their balconies. In Maine, the Cooperative Extension put out a map of local farms that normally sell to restaurants and have now set up farmstands to sell all that produce directly to consumers. A local fabric wholesaler is staying in business and keeping their employees at work by making kits for easy-to-assemble cloth face masks (in lively cotton prints). Another local factory is buying many of these kits and assembling the masks to sell (at cost!) to those who don’t want to sew their own. I’m looking forward to receiving mine in the mail to see what fashion-statement prints will be included in the assortment.

    • Jean — I’m always looking for inspiring stories on how individuals and businesses are coping with this. While the weather here is always inviting to be outside, I am especially grateful to have that extra space. As always, I find it incredibly therapeutic to be out among the green stuff. In Florida, our stay-at-home order is a bit of a hodgepodge, since the governor was so slow in responding. Even his latest order excludes houses of worship. For me, I’m keeping away from everyone . . . I hope you are safe and that your spring chores bring you peace and calm. Be well.

  5. The garden is such a balm to the soul, soothing to the heart and exercise for the body, I landed here because I was wondering if anyone else out there is reading Kent Haruf. I’ve finished Plainsong and Eventide and I am now reading Benediction, they all feel like excellent choices for this period, showing the healing effect of connection with community.

    I like to focus on being well or well-being rather than anything that’s likely to incite anger or fear, if it’s beyond my control it doesn’t need to enter my mind, so I ignore stories or judgments of how others are dealing with the crisis and instead start my morning reading something uplifting or mind expanding, recently I’ve been reading a chapter a day of Alberto Villoldo’s Courageous Dreaming, a book on my shelf for a long time that decided it wanted to be read now and I’m so grateful for it’s powerful message.

    Thank you for inviting us into your garden and all the best with the gift this time is bringing us. And I hope you find a solution for that weed!

    • Hello Claire. Thanks for stopping by. I’ve actually read the first book in the trilogy, Plainsong, and I thought it was one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read. I’ll also look into your recommendations. I hope you and yours are well and staying safe in your part of the world.

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