Wednesday Vignette – time to find our humanity


Today, I did a consultation (outside, in the fresh open air, and while keeping CDC recommended distance requirements, mind you) with someone who had written not one, but TWO books on a very niche, and rather obscure and unusual subject matter she was passionate about. Meeting people like that makes me so happy! My beloved and I had just had a conversation about how all this Corona downtime we are experiencing is such a golden opportunity to pursue something we’ve always wanted to do but not had time for. This led down another rabbit hole; how getting an education used to be about just that; broadening your intellect, expanding your horizons, pushing your presumptions, and testing your tolerance limits. In short, it used to be about making you a well-rounded person and a valued, engaged, compassionate citizen.

We mused about how, as kids, we were allowed to roam free, and had plenty of downtime to ponder, fantasize, create, and imagine – or do nothing. We compared this to the contemporary norm as we raised our own kids. We weren’t as bad as some other families around us, where kids were scheduled and carted around from morning to night, gaining exposure to myriad activities considered “useful”, with the end goal of eventually getting admitted to a good college, which in turn would preferably result in a lucrative career. The question arose – do those experiencing less helicopter-free childhoods ever have a chance to figure out what it is they actually love to do? In today’s context – when faced with a pandemic lockdown and weeks of prescribed isolation, what do people do? Obviously, there are hours of distractions on Youtube, Netflix, Steam, and whatnot, but how many days can one handle of this mental feeding tube, before one goes stir crazy? Maybe I’m delusional, but I refuse to believe either curiosity or art, is dead.

We talked about the contemporary emphasis on that ‘on-track’ mentality, and how damaging that is to a resilient, developing society. Well rounded educations of years past were as much about art, music, history, and language as they were about more nebulous things like civic-mindedness, creativity, humanity, and compassion. Thinkers, philosophers, rebels and makers come out of that kind of environments. Today’s on-track grooming produces nice little mainstreamed cogs for an unquestioning, non-discerning society, where – despite hand-eye coordination being tracked from birth – too few know how to actually use their hands – or even their brains – in matters outside their particular training. Caught in the ever spinning rodent wheel they also have no time to get off, and learn how. So, all of a sudden, here is this gift from the Universe! Yes, it’s a pandemic that involves more death than most of us are comfortable with, but don’t you agree it can also be viewed as a lucky break of sorts? Suddenly, we have the immense luxury of time on our hands. A lot of time.

I sincerely hope that now that life has temporarily slowed down, folks will feel the gift aspect of the disaster – we now have the time to try something new, outside of our usual realm. Read that book, learn how to knit, build a model airplane, plant some seeds, draw, paint a picture, learn to skateboard or cook from a new cuisine, distinguish a chickadee call from that of a robin, or tell a pine from a spruce…. or whatever it is that interests us. Perhaps not the most crassly useful activities in terms of furthering the industrial complex, but awe-inspiring, and endlessly valuable in finding our worth and our humanity. And maybe, just maybe, this experience of facing potential, undiscriminating death will collectively shift our thinking toward more humane ways of living, help us find meaning, and reassess what’s important in life, going forward. Maybe I’m wrong, but I would think – ideally – surviving a life-death situation would do that.

If you’re still with me – thanks for bearing with me this far – this was a lot. Stay safe, be well, and enjoy the free time you have. What am I doing? Tomorrow, I’m going to check on a metal retaining wall that is currently going in at a client’s house, and also bring her an Acer griseum to plant in front of it. This weeks photo will serve as a reminder that those involved in the landscaping industry are not as affected by the latest shelter-in-place order from the Governor’s office, as long as we adhere to the CDC guidelines. (Working in plein air certainly has its perks…) Besides that, I’m doing lots of gardening, of course – at home and at my little community garden plot. I also grabbed a few cookbooks – one Indian, one Peruvian, one on beans, and one on chili peppers. Will cook something new from one of them in the next few days. And, if the rains hold up, I will finish painting our garage. I’ve been going for walks, and I keep thinking I’m going to learn to paint with water colors, but that last thing is probably a delusion. If I haven’t sat down to learn to paint yet, I probably never will.  How are you spending your days?

Metal retaining wall installation

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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13 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – time to find our humanity

  1. A thoroughly sound post, Anna. And I do like the sound of your cookbooks.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks, Derrick – and yes, the cookbooks are great. I’m on a quest to get better at using both beans and capsicum, and this hiatus is a good opportunity.

  2. bergstromskan says:

    Yes Anna, this hiatus in our existence is ,what I like to compare to a re-bout on the computer, when it is not working well-or at all. A wake. up call to all of us. Thank you for sharing. And I am looking forward to see a picture of your current project, when it is finished. Cool

  3. Cheryl Klingenberg says:

    Though I live next to a woodland and have a tree canopy in front, I have switched gears from entirely native species for wildlife to a ‘victory garden’ of sorts, with all of the shady edibles I can find. We do not know the extent that this societal disruption may snowball and affect supply lines, so of course growing food for family and neighbors makes sense. One small blessing in the arrival of Covid-19 is that it’s Spring and planting time, and of course a benefit of gardening is its meditative quality which can be a rest from the fear and constant din of adversarial politics.

    Thank you for your writing and the other beauty that you bring into the world.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thank you, Cheryl, for your kind words! And good for you for creating a victory garden – that’s a great idea. I just got myself a little community garden plot, planning to play with foliage and texture for sun-loving plants. In these past few days, I’ve pretty much made the decision to put some edibles in there, too. Last night, reading mortality numbers of between 2-7% of this disease, for a mid-range estimate I plugged in 5% of 380 million in a calculator. 19 million is a staggering reduction in population. I’m not sure I can even wrap my brain around what is yet to come… Stay well and safe, Cheryl, and best of luck with your food production!

  4. Kris Peterson says:

    This is a beautifully written and passionately felt essay, Anna, and I think you should send it to your local newspaper as it deserves wider exposure than it may get in our humble gardening blogdom. I’m spending more time on my garden at the moment, and collected lemons and Mandarin oranges from our trees to leave out for neighbors, which yesterday won me a thank you note from a 7-year old. I phone friends regularly and text with friends all too much as we’re still trying to navigate supply issues when, for the first time ever, the shelves in our local stores are largely bare, but I expect (hope?!) those problems will settle down in a while and I’ll be able to focus less on of-the-moment concerns.

    Thanks for your post. Here’s mine:

    • annamadeit says:

      Aww, thank you, Kris – that is a very nice compliment! How wonderful that you have enough to share, and equally sweet that you got a thank you note for doing so – from a child, no less!! I’ve been checking in on friends here and there, too – especially on the ones who don’t use social media. We’re in such strange times – went to the grocery store at 6am the other day, to see if I could get some toilet paper. We were down to one roll, and I was lucky to score a pack. It’s odd to see those rows of nearly empty shelves. I don’t understand the hoarding mentality, but I do trust our industry will manage to keep them restocked for some time.
      Yesterday, I discovered that our local taqueria was open for take-out. Wish I had checked sooner – I had just taken for granted that all the restaurants had shut their doors. Now that I know, I will try to support them more often. Stay safe, Kris – we might have to pair down a little in the process, but I have no doubt we’ll get through this. ❤

  5. Oh Anna I’m apologizing before I even start to rant. I fear my words will sound harsher than I mean them as I will be sharing pent up thoughts at the situation at large which your words have brought up to the surface… “a lucky break of sorts? Suddenly, we have the immense luxury of time on our hands. A lot of time”…no, I am sorry, I cannot see this as a lucky break of any sort. Maybe it’s because I’ve been listening in on the conversations my husband has been having, working from home. He is having to lay-off a significant amount of his workforce and go through the painful process of deciding who stays and who goes. People he and his staff have spent hours training. People he cares about deeply. People who do not have a safety net and this might just push them over the edge. Big picture, how safe is his job and the company he’s given so much to? And with his job is our house and our health insurance. Insurance I desperately need. Of course there is also the larger question of what loved ones might we lose as the virus takes hold here as it has done in other countries. Painful sickness lies ahead. I see no way this can be called a lucky break. It is as irresponsible to say so as it is for the right-wing deniers to be calling it a hoax.

    Okay. Thank you. I’ve been stifling those words as I read various comments on FB about how wonderful this extra time and opportunity to stay home is. I needed to get them “down on paper” and thank you for giving me a place to do it. I do understand what you’re saying and agree completely about our society that has spinning faster and faster and people losing touch with what’s important. I love you my friend and I hope you don’t mind my using your blog post to share my thoughts.

    My WV is just an attempt at distraction from the fear…

    • annamadeit says:

      Oh Loree – don’t worry – I COMPLETELY see your side of the coin as well. In fact, we experience those fears too, but I was trying to point out the possible silver lining. I’m sorry to have offended you – I didn’t mean to, but totally see how what I said could be abrasive. I can’t imagine the pain of having to lay people off, and I don’t envy Andrew one bit. I just can’t help but hoping that if we manage to do this right, we too will eventually have this virus under control. In no way am I taking chances. I do the work I can do without getting too close to people, and I’m constantly disinfecting myself and the surfaces around me. Most of the time, I stay home, but although the mandate dictates that landscape companies adhere to the CDC/OAN guidelines (which any sane human would anyway), we are largely exempt from the order to shut down, because we work outside. But, like I said, I’m trying not to push my luck or take any chances. I did promise my kid that we’d go for a hike this afternoon, but only if he succeeds in his task of finding a place where the chance of running into a crowd would be minimal. Personally, I would rather stay confined to my garden.

      Stay well, my friend. The only thing we can control about this is what we do with our time, and the level of viral exposure we voluntarily get ourselves into. The best thing we can do is lay low until this blows over, and try helping those around us as best we can. There are ways to deal with this without too many layoffs and casualties, but this country is not set up to operate that way. I learned that in Sweden, one friend’s company all went down to 40% of full-time, and then the State chips in with 93% of the remaining paycheck. There ARE ways to handle this, but the political will here is rather misdirected. I worry they will bail out the cruise lines before they care about regular people, and they don’t even pay American taxes. It’s fucked up far beyond reason. Hang in there, be safe, and take care. And, love you too!

  6. Tina says:

    You’re right that most of us who work or spend time outdoors are fortunate. I feel so badly for New Yorkers and others in large cities, stuck in tiny efficiency apartments and who can’t get outside. I’m just keeping up with spring weeding and fighting a stubborn leak in my pond. Grr–I hate it when a cat or a pond outsmarts me. Be safe and healthy, Anna–and everyone else.

  7. When the weather is decent, I’m out in the garden. Most days have been unpleasantly cold and wet, though. I’ve been reading and watching movies. More scrupulous than usual about doing the dishes regularly. I think today I’ll start my seeds indoors.

    • annamadeit says:

      Same here, but we’re in for a stretch of cold, rainy days. We bought a furnace filter, which supposedly is comparable to N95, and setting up an assembly line with mask production. Got the idea from a Youtube video, but I’m sure it will take a few tries for us to get up to speed. Wish us luck!

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