July 9, 2020: The First Tomato
I am up early this morning, enjoying delightfully cool hours that should be quiet, but are not. For some reason the sound of traffic is loud, not only from I-40 half-a-mile away, but also from the surrounding streets. I water the potted plants in the patio, which are blooming profusely, thriving on Miracle Gro. I fill the fountain, eye the bird feeders (which also need refreshing) and wander out to the three tomato and half-a-dozen basil plants in the bigger yard. I water them, too, and when I bend down to feel the reddest tomato, it slips off the vine and into my hand. It is ready.
I return to the kitchen and touch the overly large peaches in their protective carton. The house is warmer inside than out, and the peaches (not from the garden) are softening. They must be eaten. No hardship in that, although I was hoping to save some for the family visit in a few days.
Our orchard’s peaches, along with the apples, plums, pears, and many of the cherries, froze this spring when unusual warmth was followed by sudden cold, dashing our hopes, just as the sudden onslaught of the Coronavirus rearranged our lives.
The family comes in four more days. What should be a purely joyous time is filled with uncertainty. All visitors from out-of-state are required to be quarantined for fourteen days. What does this mean for us? Both families have been careful for months now. We will welcome them into our “bubble.” I’m longing to hold Zia on my lap and read him stories and hold Rumi in my arms again while he is still a baby. We will welcome and embrace our loved ones without social distancing, come what may.
Three weeks later: August 1, 2020
The family has come and gone. They filled the house with youth, chaos, love, and laughter for ten days. The cruel spring had turned into an even crueler summer, aside from a brief flicker of hope in early June. We hold on to the possibility of meeting again, somewhere between here and San Francisco for Christmas, but that time seems so far away. Baby Rumi will have had his first birthday, and I will have missed most of his delightful babyhood. We’ve folded up the inflatable swimming pool, put the box of wooden blocks back in the closet, and piled the books into a stack. The house is quieter and neater now. I wish it weren’t.
Life seems to be standing still, but it’s not. It is divided into before and after, like the times before and after Ed’s cancer diagnosis, when our lives and our perspectives changed in an instant. Then, as now, there were moments when we almost forgot, when we tricked ourselves into thinking the diagnosis wasn’t real and life continued much as it always had. Tucked away now, in our cozy home and expansive garden, we sometimes forget that the world outside is no longer the same.
We met our lawyer this week, to sign amendments to our wills. I changed out of my shorts and t-shirt, making an effort to be presentable and somewhat business-like. I even put on a bit of lipstick, forgetting it would be invisible behind my mask. Maybe eye make-up will be the next big thing? But will anyone even see our eyes? Will we ever get dressed up again for anything? We met in the lobby; our lawyer dressed as though for a comfortable Saturday at home.
August has arrived, a month that marks the final weeks of summer and the gradual transition into fall. What will fall be like this year with no State Fair, no Balloon Fiesta, and almost certainly no Halloween? I am mourning the end of life as we have known it, uncertain whether it will ever come back; and if it does, how will it have changed? It came back after the 1918 flu and roared into the 1920s. It came back after the plagues in the middle ages and sparked the Renaissance. But it is hard to remain hopeful when everything appears to be spiraling downward, one disaster after another: politics, climate, and angry divisions among people who should be helping one another, not squabbling. But, “hope is the thing with feathers.”
I escape, reading Kent’s life on boats; in my imagination still inhabiting that good-old-world, which in retrospect resembles a paradise lost that we did not appreciate when we had it; and that shocked us with its unexpected demise. We are editing the stories and letters from the years when Kent and Pam “ran away to sea,” during a previous time of crisis in our country and in their lives. We might ask if there has ever been a time that was not one of crisis. We have so much to do, and like Alexander Hamilton we are running out of time. Who will tell our story? We write as fast as we can, but the garden beckons. It, too, constantly changes and needs loving care.
I am thankful for the cool nights and early mornings of New Mexico. Should I snuggle under the covers for a bit longer, or get up and enjoy the coolness, the flowers, the birds, and a tomato that has ripened over night? Perhaps a bit of both? Quo vadis?