March 10, 2020, on a bright day, my husband and I locked the windows in the open position to welcome the cold ocean air into our house while we walked our dog, Gabby in the nearby park. We bundled up, and moments later the three of us were headed to where Gabby would enjoy her daily constitutional and an abundance of pea-mail. Lloyd and I would enjoy the brisk March air of the Pacific Northwest. Pea-mail wasn't out thing. It was a moment of normalcy in a world increasingly abnormal. This was a Saturday and typically when we were not working, we were rarely at home, busy in the work of staying busy. There was always a better place to be walking or hiking, an errand to run, or a task to be completed—frantically getting on with getting on. But that was last year. And now, very nearly a year later, we are still cultivating and perfecting our art of being. At the beginning of lock down, the house reflected our sense of unrest and isolation. We were not allowed to leave and that was shocking. Life took on a surreal air as we witnessed people the globe over struggling with this strange new normal. No more going for breakfast or grabbing a coffee at Starbucks. Trepidation and dread kept us glued to the TV. Conspiracy theories cropped up where normal dialogue had once been and people began to voice their outrage and show resistance to following guidelines. Toilet paper became the new hot commodity. The time had come to turn it all off. That is when something miraculous happened. As time passed silently by acceptance tentatively crept in and time slowed. All that was previously done by rote was pushed aside to stay safe. In the silence and stillness that had taken over life, new and exciting observations could be made that challenged how we had lived our lives. Unable to run from our home, we realized we were interlopers on a community within our own space. So unconcerned it was with our previous comings and goings, our constant presence now was a curiosity. A pair of Towhees took to living in our privacy hedge and had a family. Before long it was a regular songbird condominium. I became an observer and the observed. There was a crow living across the street in the neighbor's yard and he thought it prudent to set Gabby straight. I witnessed her barking at him and him yelling at her on a regular basis, as he stayed safely out of reach but well within shouting distance. We called him Buddy and learned he was a peeping Tom. Summer brought Buddy a mate, and they had a family. The youngsters were soon schooled in the merits of dog teasing, and Gabby had more to contend with. We began a rather stringent lawn care protocol. No artificial fertilizers or pesticides could be used, because by now I had plantings to attract bees. I saw their tiny, fuzzy bodies enjoying the clover, lavender, heather and rosemary that I had planted and wouldn't sacrifice their safety by removing dandelions or moss with chemicals. Soon after the roses bloomed, I met my nemesis. Translucent spiders that would hide in a specific type of roses in our yard and kill the bees when they entered the blooms. Outraged when I made this discovery I vowed with theatrical melodrama to forever deny that species a home in MY yard. My husband rolled his eyes but that type of rose was soon to leave the premises. We were cultivating an oasis here, and there was no place for murder included in those plans. I witnessed the neighbor's yards looking tidier and more meticulous with each passing week. Neighbors now sat in the front yards to wave at people walking on the sidewalks. The sense of community blossomed. A rabbit moved in and we witnessed him working over the gardens of the neighboring backyards. As summer slid into autumn, I watched the beautiful oak across the street change color on a daily basis and finally stand naked and stark against the sky. I came each day to watch life unfold around me in a way I never would have witnessed because I was too busy being busy. I started to wonder how many others have learned to focus on that singular spectacular moment through the repetitive unfolding of near identical moments. How many others have had silence and stillness thrust upon them to experience the release from torment because they were no longer trying to stay busy to drown out the noise? In the stillness, I found life teaming around me, and in the silence I sensed belonging. I have learned to look beyond the horrors of Covid 19 and live carefully, and purposefully in each moment. We are a micro-community that I had previously failed to recognize. Now as restrictions are slowly being lifted, and there is an end in sight, I will continue to find peace and refuge in my micro-community and revel in the harmony that I have found there.
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