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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: March 3, 2021

Joy Returns



By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



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A couple of weeks ago, I woke up in the morning and mentally reviewed my plans for the day. I felt absolutely no enthusiasm for any of them. That was when I let myself admit I had a bad case of the "blues." I had "hit the wall." Splat. Most of the strongest women in my circle have frayed a bit at some point over the past year, and it was my turn.

I had felt this before in recent weeks, but refused to acknowledge it, even to myself. I know I am fortunate. None of my immediate circle were part of the stunning horror of half-million plus Americans who would still be alive except for Covid. Allowing myself to whine and marinate in misery felt like unprincipled entitlement.

After having a long talk with myself, (yes, I do that,) I decided it wasn't just not seeing my kids in Tulsa and Seattle making things miserable for me. I also miss my friends, and card games with relatives. I miss attending church, the other volunteers at the animal shelter, and my classmates from in person yoga. I had soldiered on through all of that for almost a year. No, I think what finally did me in, the proverbial last straw that broke the camel's back, was the more than two weeks of solidly miserably subzero and gray weather.

I spend time outdoors daily no matter what, but tolerating 30 minutes of walking dogs and taking care of the horse out of absolute necessity is not enough. Day after day was overcast and windy, making the cold more penetrating and starving me of the sun. I found myself checking the weather in some of my favorite haunts, like Arizona, the Abacos, and the Florida keys. I made a list of things to do and places to go once Mike and I are vaccinated and put in on the refrigerator where I see it every day. I stopped in my tracks when I heard "Back to the Island" by Leon Russell*. It's a sad love song, but the melody is gorgeous and the wave and bird sounds on the track made me homesick for travel, sun and warm weather.

But a lifeline appeared, just when I needed it. My brother and sister-in-law in Madison, apparently not getting enough snow and cold there, decided to take a trip to a cabin in Copper Harbor, on the Kewenaw Peninsula in the far north. I went to stay at their house to care for my dog and cat nieces while they were away for a long weekend. It's a win-win; they get a house and pet sitter, and I get easy visiting access to people I care about who live close by; plus I just love Madison.

The change of pace was so soothing. Their home is near Lake Mendota, bike paths and a park. The dog and I enjoyed the suddenly moderating temperatures, and the fresh air and exercise with new scenery revived me. There were hundreds of like-minded Madisonites out and about on the ice of the lake, dozens and dozens of other dog walkers and hardy bicyclists, passing by with friendly greetings. Many recognized Brandi and stopped at a safe distance to chat. The dog park had fresh snow for my canine niece to joyfully porpoise through and roll in. As I stood there, I watched the sun come up, warmly dressed, yes, but without numb extremities to take my attention off the beautiful show in the sky.

I was uplifted by in-person visits with my sister and cousin, both healthcare workers who are already fully vaccine protected. My cousin and I sat outside at a safe distance, able to be comfortable for an hour of catching up, laughing and commiserating. My sister and I did what sisters do best, we understand and trust one another due to our shared history, so we ventilated about the challenges of Covid and winter weather horse care. There was coffee and a lot of laughing. It has been many months since I last saw either of them, and my spirits soared.

It occurs to me that God forbid, when another pandemic sweeps our country as it likely will, trading houses is a reasonably safe way to get a change of pace. May sound sort of crazy, but crazy times call for crazy ideas. And on the way home from my sister's, I also reflected on just how harsh this pandemic has been on those who can't get out at all, like those in senior care facilities. Few of us have suffered as much as they have.

When I left Madison to come home, it was 48 degrees and sunny. And while it isn't quite that nice here at home again, the icy grasp of below zero temperatures has been broken. It will probably return again, but not to stay for long. The light is visible at the end of the tunnel.

The tunnel of waiting to be eligible for a vaccine. The tunnel of below zero. The tunnel of being away from my kids. The tunnel of not seeing friends, and not having the freedom to do what I enjoy without stopping to assess the risk to my health, which is considerable.

Thursday's morning dog walk at home at sunrise was delightful. It was 22 windless degrees, but it felt like the Bahamas to me. I saw the first hint of tree buds on a little maple near Hank Lake. The dogs wanted to go further, unlike Ivy's desperation to retreat to the house the last few weeks. Later in the afternoon Mike, the dogs and I walked a big loop around our land, with the sun slanting through the woods.

It is getting better, I am better, I am going to get through this, and remain healthy. I am deeply grateful for the promise of vaccination, hopefully in the next few months. Our little camping trailer beckons, a safe escape pod. The darkest period for me is over, just before the break of the dawn of better days.

*Speaking of Leon Russell, I also listened to the original studio recording of "Stranger in a Strange Land" several times recently. (Not one of the later acoustic versions.) It's another classic. The lyrics have aged beautifully and the soaring background vocals have me singing along.

Book I am reading: "The Secret Life of Groceries" by Benjamin Lorr. My every ten day trips to the grocery store just got a lot more interesting, but what grabbed my attention so far is what the truckers go through to keep us in fresh food. All I can say is "I had NO idea." And I probably won't be buying any shrimp for a while either, now that I know what goes on in the countries where most of our shrimp is sourced.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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