These days, it’s awfully easy to fall victim to the fear, uncertainty and doubt that floods our airwaves and social media feeds about a virus 24/7. We want to just “do something” but most of us are under stay at home orders, so options are limited. It appears from my glances at my timelines this weekend that the vast majority of us are gorging ourselves on news reports and telling each other which things we should be outraged about rather than getting some sunshine in our yard or going for a walk.
The time since Christmas had been a bit of a whirlwind for us, even before the virus. The death of Pearl, one of our beloved labradors. Worrying about a member of our family spinning seemingly out of control from crisis to crisis, and no way for us to stop it from happening. Heavy work travel for both of us. So, even before the quarantine and isolation hit we had done minimal yardwork. We fine tuned things several weeks ago when we had a free weekend, but really hadn’t been able to do anything since.
Looking around the other day, Dave said “I think we need to take a look at how good just letting things be can work.” The passion flower vines I’d been trying for years to train and trail exactly like I wanted them to no avail are suddenly spilling over exactly the way I’ve always wanted them to. The tomato plants that Dave would have normally been fretting over every day with water and fertilizer are thriving just fine without our attention. The jasmine plants that we anticipate perfuming our yard in the warm, humid late spring every year look to be right on schedule, without any help from us.
Every spring here in Texas, bougainvilla baskets seem to be everywhere in nurseries and roadside stands. The riotous bright colors never fail to beckon me into buying one. We fertilize it. We pamper it. We trim it. And no matter what we do, it seems all those beautiful flowers are gone within a week or two and we are left with a basket of sharp nasty thorns and vows never to buy one again.
Last fall, I bought one and planted it anyway. Dave was against it, but I said I wanted to try once more. I asked the woman at the nursery, “What is the secret to these things?” “The secret,” she said, “is to let it be. They like to be left alone. They like for their soil to get dry. And they go through cycles. They will lose their flowers, but they will come around again before long, especially if you trim the thorns once the flowers are gone.” So that’s what we did. And it’s flourishing! The picture above is not our bougainvilla, but one in Portugal that we saw last fall. I took the photo to remind myself of what it could eventually be when I started to despair about our little plant.
It doesn’t take too much reflection when you are out in nature to realize that this dear sweet Earth of ours gets along pretty well with no help at all from us. That family of elk that paraded through our lodge every night last summer in the Canadian Rockies didn’t have to check in on social media to tell everyone how pissed off they were that all these humans were staying in their favorite dinner spot. They just marched right in and started eating. We let them be and they let us be.
These pelicans gather almost every morning at the same spot, regardless of weather, regardless of temperature, regardless of what’s going on in the news. How do they communicate with each other? How do they know exactly when and where to gather? Do they talk to each other? Are they friends? Are they family? It doesn’t seem like they know. Nor does it seem like they care. The only one who cares, I guess, is me. And there’s not a single thing I can ever do that will ever give me those answers, so I let them be.
Why is it that sunrises and sunsets never cease to amaze us? We are pretty sure that they will happen every day, day after day and year after year. We even know exactly what time it will happen wherever we are on the face of the earth. Some days it might be cloudy or stormy, but that sun never fails to cause us to pause, take it in, talk about it with the people we see that day. “Did you see that sunrise?” “Wasn’t that sunset last night spectacular?” As Annie sang in the musical of the same name, it really is true. “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.” No matter what we do or don’t do, no matter how much we fret, that old sun gets along just fine without our help. Doesn’t need it. Let it be.
During these trying days and weeks of quarantine, anxiety, and frustration, Dave and I have vowed to take a little inventory every morning of everything that’s going on that we can’t control. Name it. How can we bring the anxiety level down for ourselves? Take a moment to watch the sunrise. Listen to the birds and try to identify them by their call before we see them. Look into the green light off our back deck in the evenings and see how those fish just keep on swimming. Get some fresh air. Watch the flowers bloom and the trees and lawns get greener. Nature’s schedule becomes our schedule, not vice versa. What else? We are going to dance when we start to feel like it’s all too much and that anxiety starts to creep in. Because, as Dave said this morning, “when has anyone ever felt worse after dancing?”
Let it be. And then, let it go. Have a dance, even if it’s by yourself in your living room and no one is watching.