When My World Hit Pause

I opened the email and scanned it anxiously, confirming my worst fears. My place of work was closing “indefinitely”, as so many were, due to Covid 19 concerns. My thoughts about the quarantine in that moment: "It couldn't have come at a worse time." We'd been together a few years and had decided just eight months ago to sell our collective houses and buy a new home together, away from the city. A fresh start, out in the country, we thought. It sounded lovey. Months later, we found it. A 125 year old farmhouse, recently renovated, on 3 acres of land. Set at the end of a dead-end road, it was surrounded by farms and far from the city. I would have to commute about an hour, but it seemed worth it. We arranged to see it and fell in love with it the moment we stepped from the car. We bid on it, and in a whirlwind of inspections and appointments, scarcely three weeks later it was ours. Over the next six months I became increasingly disenchanted with my commute. The major highways leading to my job in the city began construction, increasing my commute to an hour and a half each way. The stressful drive began to take it's toll on me. The house itself was lovely, I thought, from the limited time I managed to spend in it. It seemed I was never at home anymore. My cat became withdrawn, intimidated by the new surroundings, new person, and the fact that I was suddenly gone for most of the daylight hours. My round trip commute occasionally exceeded 3 hours. We would rise before the sun and sit on one of our three porches with coffee as daylight broke over the meadow, trying to spend some quality time together. I would sometimes get a glimpse of a deer or rabbits, but then it was time to get ready for work. Evenings I would be stressed from the city traffic, and too exhausted to appreciate our tranquil surroundings. I needed a vacation, but my job at the restaurant was in full swing, and I couldn't take any time off. Suddenly, my assistant quit. My job started calling me on my precious days off, asking me to come in and texting me multiple times a day. It seemed I couldn't escape from work. With my lay-off, things changed. At first I was anxious, but some long talks with my partner, coupled with meditative walks, soothed my nerves. Unemployment came through, after only a few weeks. We were going to be OK. We spent our mornings together, drinking coffee on the porch, watching the wildlife wander through the meadow. I was able to relax more than I had in over a year. I planted a huge vegetable garden to help defray our food cost - we are both vegetarians. I built a fence around it to keep out the deer, and the physical activity combined with a sense of accomplishment bolstered my self-esteem. We landscaped our new property together, planting trees and hedges, and marveled at the spring flowers popping out all over. We had no idea of the beauty spring would bring to our new home. It was breathtaking! In April everything was covered in shades of purple...wisteria draped all over our trees at the edge of the woods, and wild violets ran amok. Daffodils and irises from years gone by sprang up everywhere, waking from their winter slumber, cheerfully greeting the sun. The bees buzzed happily in the clover. Nature was unconcerned with the pandemic. The more time I spent outside, the less anxious I became. The fruit trees planted long ago started blooming. It was amazingly beautiful! Crab apples and peach trees blossomed everywhere, a riot of pink and white flowers everywhere you looked. My partner sat on a bench under the blooms and played his guitar and sang to me. It is a memory I will treasure forever. Every day while roaming our new property, we made new discoveries, as spring unearthed the secrets of our land. We have fig trees, apples, peaches, walnuts, pecans, and wild blackberries. We take long walks every night, down our quiet country road. I started writing a novel, set up outside on my favorite porch. I've spent the last month writing and dreaming, gazing across the meadow. I can hear strains of music coming from the upstairs window of my partner's studio as he practices. It's lovely. I feel blessed. We're visited daily by a family of deer, come to eat the fallen crab apples. Rabbits are everywhere, big and small, chasing each other in the yard. Occasionally, as I sit and write, I'll spot wild turkey, skunk, groundhogs, possums... once, even a coyote. I take pictures when I can. Mostly, I revel in the nature all around me. I reflect on the gift that's been granted to me... to spend time with my partner and appreciate this amazing place. I think about the timing; the pandemic and lock down, occurring in our first spring at our new house. My thoughts about the quarantine at this moment: "It couldn't have come at a better time."

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Mike Lyles

Author of “The Drive-Thru is Not Always Faste...

Staresville, United States