I have much to be excited about as I look around. I have my garden which I planted alongside my daughter who I got to spend time with for ten weeks during quarantine. Sorry for the reason, but so thankful for the time with her. The garden should provide plenty of healthy, fresh produce for me and my family if we have a good season. I need it too since having my two adult children live under the same roof again depleted our rations of canned tomato sauce and salsa a little more than twice as much if it had been just Mark and I. But it made me smile each and every time they opened a jar of our homegrown goodness and raved about how good it taste.
I’m excited to work in the garden and be outside with the sun shining and even if it’s not. After a number of months being cooped up inside because the weather was too miserable to enjoy being outside for any given time, I’m not too picky about when is a good time to spend out in the garden. Just as long as there aren’t too many bugs and it’s not too hot. My garden has fantastic sunlight so I have to pick and choose my hours which tend to be early in the morning and after 5pm.
I’m excited about the new chickens we have now! Khaleesi, Gertrude, Ethel and Lucy have joined our homestead. It’s always a thrill to walk into the hen house and see the daily deposit of freshly laid eggs. Which in turn has made us excited about breakfast and any recipe that has eggs in it. I get excited now to do the weeding since the hens love the dandelions and eat them right up, it no longer feels like weeding and more like harvesting. I know human enjoy eating dandelion leaves in salads and making tea or wine but until now they were just weeds. So I’m excited about that – it goes for all weeds pretty much too. Plus the chickens are so much fun to watch they make me excited to just come out to the yard and sit and watch.
Finally I am excited about the flowers which are beginning to bloom and I know will blooming throughout the summer and into the fall. I have a short season up here on the mountain, so I am grateful for the time we are given and excited to see it all unfold.
It can be difficult to get excited about the future when we are dealing with so many unknowns. But it’s in times like these where you need to take a deep breath, take a step back and look for the good things, they don’t have to be big things, just small positives. It’s easy to see the negative, especially when you are looking for it. When you are looking for it – that it all you will see. It’s harder to look for the positives, the good things – not matter how big or small they may be. But once you start to look for the positives, I thik they become easier to see.
About a week ago I walked through a new door to a new chapter in my life – raising chickens. So far five days in all seems to be doing well. I had four Rhode Island Red pullets which are 18 weeks old. I am told they could be laying eggs sometime in the next couple of weeks.
The first few days in their new hen house, they have spent getting to know the place. The weather has been cold for May as we have had snow and two freeze warnings in the last week and it’s been windy, blowing the dogs off the chain for days making the temperatures feel like it was mid-February. Every morning around 5am I head out to the hen house to check on the ladies and open their door to the outside run which is enclosed with chicken wire and hardware cloth.
On Tuesday, I was sitting on the blue painter’s bucket I had flipped over to use as my perch so that I could spend some time getting to know my chickens. I sat in the corner watching and photographing them as they pecked around at the food and jumped on the roost. Then there was a moment when they were all down by the food near the door to their run when two of them poked their heads out and walked down the plank to the grass. The third one quickly followed suit and then the fourth. The fourth one who is the only one to have a nickname so far of Khaleesi/White Pants. She gained the nickname Khaleesi after having been pushed on the swing and held on for dear life as my friend’s seven year old rocked the swing wildly back and forth. They had been the ones to get the pullets and were dropping off the four we wanted and they were keeping another 8.
I’ve never been around chickens but I figure like any animal they need some time to acclimate to their new environment. On the other side of the door to the hen house are our dogs. They stare through the glass door to the hen house which depending on the time of day and lighting, reflects back their own images. They can smell them though and unbelievably one curious girl came out to check the dogs out.
The morning that they all four walked out the door of the hen house and into their backyard enclosed run, I was so happy. New doors were opening up for all of us and we just have to trust our instincts about when it is the right time for to walk through those doors.
Artemis was our beautiful Brittany spaniel. She was a lot of firsts for me. She was my first female dog. The first dog I ever rescued from a shelter and the first dog I ever found on the internet. But she was not the last of any of those things. Rather, she opened the door to all of them.
She was a magnificent hunter, true to her name. On rainy days, her ideal weather for such sport, she would lay in the daisies hiding, the way a Navy Seal does on a covert mission. Her natural patience paying off.
We sat 12 feet apart having our coffee together this morning in the workshop where he’s in quarantine. I looked out the window as he fetched his phone from the music studio where I dragged a bed into last week. He wants to tell me about an article he had read earlier. Usually these conversations would be had next to each other in bed with my head on his chest and our legs entwined. We were unavoidably separated last week – he was home now – thank God.
The grass looked frosty, I thought as I brought the mug up for another sip. I was already on my second cup of the day and it was only 6:45am. The driveway would be slick when he and Marley head down to open the gate later. Icicles had formed overnight on the bird feeders. I thought the rain sounded more solid than liquid last night as I fell asleep listening to the tink, tink, tink on the window.
Dear grandchildren, You are not even glimmers in your parents’ eyes yet; however, I’m sure you are there somewhere. I’m an optimist, although I think some of our family members would laugh that I think so.
I’m sure it’s very difficult for your parents right now as we are weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope your generation won’t ever have to live through one. They are scary and overwhelming – even for the grown ups. Who sometimes don’t always act so grown up in trying times like these. However, history has a way of repeating itself, so sit up and pay attention and read your history and learn from it! Just be careful of your sources , there is so much disinformation out there, at least right now in this moment in time.
There are a few things I would like you all to keep in mind going forward and share with my eventual great grandchildren and so forth.
Life is hard and can be unfair at times. You do your best.
Listen to people when they are talking to you. Listening is a valuable skill and do not think about what you’re going to say next while they are talking – that’s not listening! and it’s rude! That includes “multitasking” while listening to someone, like checking your email or playing a game while someone is talking to you. Don’t be rude.
If you still have cell phones -turn them off at home and pay attention to your family – cook together, play games. Your parents have me playing Hangman during our quarantine and it’s really fun!
People can be stupid, even intelligent people.
Learn how to weld, sew, cook and fix things with your own hands.
Read for enjoyment and read to learn.
Be a good friend and treat them the same way you want them to treat you. If they don’t treat you the same way you treat them – they aren’t worth your time.Move on.
Be polite, use your manners.
Be kind but be vigilant in life. Unfortunately, not all people are good and have kind hearts. Some people are evil and have bad intentions which brings me to my next point.
Always trust your gut. Your mind and your heart can send you mixed signals and sometimes lead us in the wrong direction. But your gut is usually spot on.
Keep a well stocked pantry and freezer at all times. You never know when there may be a storm or in our case pandemic that keeps you inside for long periods of time and can’t get to the store the way you used to. Which brings me to my next point…
Know how to grow your own food. it doesn’t have to be all of it. But the more you grow on your own the less you’re dependant on the food chain. I learned a long time ago when I was a research analyst how vulnerable our food chain is. I have the highest respect for our nation’s farmers. They are No.1 in my book but if more people grew some of their own food, it would be some much better and safer in my opinion. It’s simple and easy to do. You don’t need a lot of space even. I should know that’s what I decided to do after covering all those agribusiness stocks when I worked as a research analyst. I’ve been teaching people how to start growing their own food for 8 years now with your Great Opa. We have enjoyed working together in all the gardens, teaching people of all ages how to start their gardens and maintain them. Your Great Opa likes to call us Garden Coaches. I hope you are not all living in the city, however I’m sure one or two of you have been enticed by the big city life. If you are you should still grow some of your own greens. You can use a Tower Garden with lights – it takes up no room at all and I’m sure by your generation they will have so many more designs.
Family is so important. which brings me to
13. Cherish your family but know that sometimes you may find yourself in situations where you may have to get tough and even possibly walk away forever from a family member. There’s a fine line and again this is where your heart can lead you astray and why I you need to pay attention to #10.
I grew up in the city. I was born and raised there and my heart breaks for the 517 New Yorkers in the 5 boroughs who have lost their lives so far and their families. Some whole families have been lost to this invisible threat and worldwide today so far 652,079 cases with 30,313 deaths with 121,117 cases here in the United States with 2010 deaths thus far. I won’t continue with all the details but suffice it to say I don’t believe the worst is over yet. Time will tell as it does so well. I assume by your generation you will be dealing with another new viral threat which is also why I thought I should pass along these pearls of wisdom.
I used to think it was Charles Darwin that said “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” As it turns out a business professor named Leon C. Megginson who was interpreting Darwin’s work, “On the Origin of Species”. A perfect example of how the internet can repeated repeat inaccuracies and falsities. Check and recheck. Don’t be part of the problem. Regardless, I believe you should remember the lesson the words teach us. The ones who survive are the ones who are able to adapt.
14. Things change – that’s part of life and it can be a good part of life. But sometimes it can be not so good either. You make do with what you have and I’m not just talking about material goods – like the ones I mentioned earlier in your hopefully well stocked pantry. No, I mean you have to accept that life will constantly put hurdles in your way. Personally, professionally, or in our case globally. Whatever the scale. You must be flexible and adapt to the the new landscape before you. You may have to bob and weave a few times as the initial changes are being made and worked out, but remain flexible. Your life will depend on it.
15. Take care of your health -it’s really the key to having a good life. Stay active but be safe. Don’t take it for granted. You don’t know everything – this is especially important if you are between the ages of 16 to 25, maybe 30 for the boys. You’re bodies are also not invincible and anything you do in your younger years, you most likely will feel in your older years. That is unless medicine has advanced so much as to be able to regenerate our deteriorated and torn apart areas of our bodies.So stay in good health. That includes your mental health which is why I also recommended #18 and 19 also. People have a way of taking things like their health for granted. People unfortunately have a way of also taking other people for granted which isn’t good. That would be #16 – don’t take friends and family for granted.
17. Be your own best friend first that way you can be a good friend to others. Learn how to spend time with yourself , be able to entertain yourself.
18. Keep learning new things no matter your age. Whether it be learning how to paint or speak a new language. Just open your mind and keep learning.
19. Spend time in the woods with the trees and the rocks. They have been around much longer than us and will remain long after we are all gone. Feel them, touch them, smell them. Listen to the wind in the leaves. Meditate out there. Hopefully the mountain house will still be in the family for you to enjoy. If I hope you have a place for from a city that’s heavily populated. Which brings me to my next point.
20. Always have options. It’s best to give yourself has many options to choose from in this life. Sometimes our options are limited but plan properly (#21) and don’t procrastinate (#22).
21. Take care of the land and the environment around you. Our generation has struggled with this – my prayers are by your generation we will have done a better job of figuring things out. Particularly given our collective timeout we are all on. Live sustainably and don’t be wasteful. Compost your food scraps and use them in your garden.
Currently it’s like Mother Nature has put the world on a collective time-out. I used to put your parents on a time-out when they were little and misbehaved. Covid-19 was first prominent in China in December but I read one report that said the first report could have been as early as November 17th. As more and more people get sick, entire countries have had to shut down businesses with orders to Stay At Home. Many people are able to work from home but many are not. It’s a scary time for people.
On the flip side the canals in Venice have cleared in the weeks since they have had to stop the commercial boating traffic that used to congest the Grand Canal on a daily basis. China’s air is cleaner too according to satellite imagery. So as the Earth heals, the humans continue to sicken. The invisible threat weaving its way through societies across the world. Unfortunately many thousands have died and we have no idea when we will turn a corner.
Unfortunately, some people don’t listen as well as others and some people have unknowingly spread the virus. That’s why I repeat #2 Listen and also why I mentioned #4 some people are stupid.
22. Open your heart to a dog (or cat – although I’m not a cat person at all) but to each their own. Having a fur friend to take care of helps you live a better life. A dog is always happy to see you when you come home from a hard day and that can make a world of difference to your mental health. Let animals into your world – dog, cat, rabbit, goat, pig, horse, bird. Pets can teach us so many different things about ourselves and life in general.
23. Always be honest. It’s crucially important for you to be honest. First and foremost always be honest with yourself. It may sound like a ridiculously simple concept but there are so many people who swim in the waters of denial.
24. Have friends and meet new people – all the while keeping a vigilant eye.
25. Open your heart to another and love. Find someone whom you can share your life with – the good and the bad. It’s easier when you have someone to help take the weight when it gets too heavy. Find someone who makes you a better version of who you already are. Someone who compliments you and I don’t mean your ego, but there is that too on occasion.
Well that’s all I have for you right now. Remember the lessons in this letter. Live them. They should serve you well.
All my eternal love, Your Yaya Xine
p.s. No. 26 Travel when you can- but do so safely. We have so much we can all learn from one another and from other cultures. But be aware when we travel that we can spread disease. So my final lesson I leave you with No. 27 practice safe hygiene. It can and will save your life and the lives of others.
Well you really have us frightened now with this invisible virus. You have a funny way of working though, don’t you? Teaching us lessons in your special way. I’ve learned a lot from you over the years. How you like to throw curveballs just because you think I can handle them. How at any given moment, life as I knew it can be all over. In the blink of an eye everything changed. How not to take you for granted. But even recognizing that isn’t enough for you.
Obviously, lately, we’ve been misbehaving in some way and you’ve decided we all need a time out. I don’t blame you and sort of completely agree that we collectively may have needed a time out. But do so many people have to die?
You have a way of lulling us with your calm water with invisible currents that drag us out to class 5 rapids without paddles and life jackets. Banging us against every rock and sharp edge. And just when we get into some calm waters – a whirlpool sucking us down into it.
But don’t forget, Life, you have toughened me quite a bit and I’ve learned from the lessons you taught me. So I’ll stay here in my house, stay away from others and wait for our collective time out to end.
I hope that we can be together on our upcoming anniversary. It will be 9 years. I’m sorry I couldn’t say yes to him five years ago when he asked. I told him I’d love him forever, just never ask me to get married. But he did. I said yes because I truly do want to marry him but– he knows I can’t.
It’s because I never wanted to get divorced again. I didn’t want it the first time – even though I asked for it. I knew by then it was over and the only thing to do. We had been friends then, my ex and I, not wanting the bitter divorces we saw around us. We had two kids to raise, albeit now from separate homes. It didn’t matter in the long run though as the rancor rose up between us anyway.
Life is difficult to navigate on one’s own. It can be scary, so very scary. I miss his laughter, the songs he fills the house with and the aromas that waffed from the kitchen when he cooks. It’s only been 5 days but it will be at least another two weeks before we can be reunited. The pandemic – the virus making its way through society. We got seperated – everyday family challenges tearing us apart. Figuratively and literally. We were supposed to be together – safe on our mountain like we have been living for the last four years. We weren’t supposed to be apart right now.
When we said goodbye, I knew there could be a chance that was the last time I would feel his touch, smell his scent. I pray not. I pray everyday that he remains healthy. This invisible killer amongst us and he is so far away right now. Out in the Petri dish. I’ll make it through by myself but I hope he is able to come back to me, to come back to our home. Our story isn’t over.
Today you stepped up to the plate when you had to and overcame a fear. You learned a new skill that will serve you well in the future. Proving to yourself that you can keep on learning new things no matter your age – you just have to want to learn. You knew if was a possibility, even before Mark left. You finally got behind the wheel of the truck and learned to plow. You had to, no one else was going to do it and deliveries were on the way. And if you are going to live up here on this mountain for a good long time, you can’t depend on someone else to always be there to do certain things, like plow.
These days have been so difficult and trying on everyone. Just processing the pandemic and what these means for our world, our country, our family, the kids, Mark and I. Everything will change. You know that — just like you did the morning of September 11th. You watched the people come off the train, covered in ash, looking like zombies. Shock. We were all in shock. Your birth home – the place where you were born and raised – attacked. Life would never be the same. Just like now.
Looking back – hindsight 20-20 – you see the evolution of how how your journey to New Hampshire evolved. Two pivotal moments that lead you to your change in life and career and eventual move to new Hampshire: 9/11 and Shannon’s death. You are forever changed when you watch a young, smart, beautiful 21 year old girl die before your eyes. The memory branded into your memory, your heart and soul forever. Rocking you off your axis.
Your days as a research analyst, all those years ago when you covered food, agribusiness and water sectors taught you so much. It made you think twice about what was actually important. Lately you been having flashbacks to the days of SARS when you kept tallies on the victims and the survivors. You put Clorox into the portfolio then and kept it there – knowing that there would be another virus that would possibly occur and go global. Bleach is good – everyone uses bleach during a pandemic outbreak. You always loved their commercials too with that comedian lady that you never remember her name – so funny.
But those days back in the office – oh so long ago, was not your dream but someone else’s. Thank you Dennis Hopper. Thank you for helping me reach that epiphany. Check out my past blog post Dennis Hopper Kick off My Mid-Life Crisis – part 1 which explains this more in detail.
You started growing your own food. You started your business with Homegrown Harvest because of what you learned all those years reading about Monsanto and syngenta and others and decided to help other people learn to grow their own food. Learned how we destroyed our farmlands and use water so inefficiently. You know how important it is to have food security especially in this ever evolving world where food contamination has become a regular occurrence. Romaine and spinach pulled from grocery store shelves.
Right now it’s another one of those watershed moments in history. You know it’s time to readjust – adapt to the new reality, the new normal whatever that may be. You know you need to be flexible and bob and weave hen you need to. You will get through this. We will get through this. The greens are growing in the Tower Gardens and their are crops growing under the cold frames. Now if the snow would melt and the sun warm the earth we can continue to start growing more. For now, we will just work with the Tower Gardens.
Enjoy your day. Relax now and sit back and look at the pretty snow. Winter’s last hurrah. Your back hurts a little, probably from the bumpy road and your nerves. But your did it! So you can relax – or what passes for relaxing during a pandemic. Put some CBD on your back.
We’ve started our self quarantine. Yesterday the last day going to the post office or grocery store. no need to go out any more. You have what you need for more than a month if you had to. Benefits of being on the mountain, you’ve been in training for this for four years now. Thank god you got the side of beef in the freezer back in January. Now all you have to do is manage the multiple personalities in the house. Can’t I go back and just do the driveway?
We haven’t all lived together under the same roof in 8 years. And never in this house. This wasn’t set up for that sort of close living – weekends sure, holidays – ok. Pandemics. Umm, not so much. Especially when everyone is used to having their own space. It’s not easy listening to two grown adult children snipe at one another like when they were teenagers. Funny how families fall back into old roles despite years of personal growth on their own. But they are working on bettering their communication, trying to use the period of quarantine to better themselves. Break old habits and form new ones.
Pour yourself a tall one, you deserve it, now go rest. There will be more to deal with – like everyday life which keeps moving on.