Hindsight and 2020

When I last wrote in January 2020, I had just asked the Universe help me “PUSH PAUSE” so I could get a good look at some decisions I was making, particularly related to my relationship with Nature.

I have no interest in being credited with giving Mother Nature the idea for a global pandemic, but in the six weeks between my specific request for a pause in January and mid-March, She decided it best to send an entire planet to their rooms for an extended time-out: to sit with our behaviour a while. To think about what we had done.

I’d been a little out of sync with my garbage production, having slipped- yet again- into some mindless consumerism. I thought slowing down and getting a good look at the thing might be a good starting point. I got a kick re-reading that last post. If you want to enjoy that kick (in the head) with me, take a few minutes and scan it before reading further.

Pause, indeed.

Two years into our collective and now extended grounding, I’m just starting to get a good look at it all. I want to say my hindsight about 2020 is 20/20, but in truth, I’m still squinting at the fine print here in early January, 2022. Some things simply take longer to move from your blind spot into the rear-view mirror. Yet, at the time, some things were also instantly apparent.

Faced with an extended time-out, I realized immediately it was time to create a home. A den, a nest, a hive or maybe an ark. That’s what I needed! An ark! The farm was my ark, and I needed to board it. Pronto.

I’d been at the church annex two years while the farmhouse was under construction, and was excitedly anticipating a move in the summer; still months away. Building was ongoing – there was no kitchen or kitchen sink; no shower or bath. But there was a laundry tub and a toilet. Walls, and a roof. Enough to get an occupancy permit – just.

With dark clouds gathering, I felt compelled to board that ark before I imagined the doors would require latching from the inside. But not before I made a harried-frantic-out-of-my- mind trip to a nearby city to hoard four hundred dollars worth of pet food. Just in case. The pet food factory. Stopped. Making Pet Food. Not before I filled five gas cans. In case our little station closed. And I couldn’t get. Somewhere.

I didn’t care about toilet paper. I imagined a grander shit show. I set up a picnic table and borrowed chairs from the church. I had a single mattress for a couch.

My two kids were out of the country when news of the pandemic broke and borders began slamming shut around the globe. I imagined them stranded on distant shores, without supports, although worry doesn’t quite capture the hysteria I suppressed during those weeks. The master alarm screeching in my head didn’t quiet until they were both back on Canadian soil, and had closed their respective doors against what felt like rising floodwaters. The light was still blinking urgently, but the sound quieted such that I could begin forming sentences again.

Once I arrived at my new room, with everyone else around the planet who were fortunate enough to have a room to go to, I did what I do in what feels like a crisis. I made lists. Lots of lists.

I listed my people; my Zombie Apocalypse Team, and promised to stay in touch each day. I worried about those without rooms and teams. All I could think of were rooms and teams, rooms and teams – and the lack of them around the world. I made lists to remind me to eat and to shower. Lists of tasks to complete. Hopes to have. Mantras to keep me from imploding.

I had a pandemic buddy who was as dazed by it all as I was, and we quickly created a shared project that didn’t require breathing the same air at the same time. Using alternating shifts, and talking through the window at a distance, we tapped maple trees here at the farm, and boiled down sap in the shed. It was a new experience for both of us, and making maple syrup kept some of the crazies parked at the end of the driveway.

Time passed in a haze. I’d expected friends to join me at the farm by May, but everyone was grounded. I worried my cheese might fall off my cracker.

Just as that haze began to morph into feeling truly unwell, my daughter Indigo and her partner Josh arrived, with a plan to stay for the season. City life was proving stressful with the lock-down, and here they had room to roam and projects to do. They wasted no time, promptly designing and building the ”Dooryard Garden” where we would plant our early veggies.

Indigo laid out the seeds I’d ammassed and crafted a brilliant planting schedule, which was well beyond what my noggin was capable of. The farm smiled at the arrival of their energy. In short order, things started growing where nothing had been growing before.

Not long after, my son arrived from Ottawa with his girlfriend at that time. They, too, were finding life in the Ottawa draining and felt they would be healthier here for the season. After a bit of recovery time, they too discovered a desire to work with their hands. A wood shed was designed and built. Abigail painted the outhouse. Josh created our three bin compost.

Preparations began for a seedling sale. Which came about simply because we had about 300 too-many tomato seedlings in the little greenhouse -which had been another early pandemic project.

The seedling sale was unnerving, because it meant being responsible for having visitors to the farm using Covid guidelines. But collectively we worked up to it, and collectively we did it, complete with masks, distancing and limited numbers at a time. After months of relative isolation it was wonderful to see neighbours.

I moved through 2020 almost by instinct alone. My brain, accustomed to life alone with itself, learned to leave room for the fluidity of a 5 adult household and shared living arrangement. I lived in my little bunkie that first season, Chall and his girlfriend in the other, and Josh and Indigo slept in the loft of the main house, where the shared kitchen and bath is. We shared meals, work and dreams. We had no wifi and little cell coverage, and played a lot of board games. I did my best to unplug my over-thinking, over-planning mind and embrace the next apparent thing, thing after thing.

Spontaneously, we did pop-up produce stands across from the church and sold veggies to friends and neighbours. Indigo learned to make bread, and I sunk more deeply into plant-based cooking. I began to practice canning and dehydrating. The kitchen was finally completed, and we successfully got a license as a commercial kitchen.

In the little social bubble we were permitted, two very experienced craftsmen generously offered our little farm crew mini-workshops on using power tools (they build saw horses) and chainsaw use and care. Additionally, the kids took it upon themselves to explore how to grow mushrooms; cultivating both shiitake and oyster mushrooms.

By the end of the season, it occurred to me that my dream of some form of shared, nature-inspired life at the farm had not been lost or even delayed by the pandemic, but had simply manifested in a completely unexpected way. It brought our little family back together for a while.

Fall arrived and change came with it.

Indigo and Josh went back to Halifax for Josh’s school. Challian and Abigail headed back to Ottawa, to individually pursue their schooling and lives. Once again here at the farm on my own, I put the gardens to bed and settled in for a long winter’s nap to lazily process all that happened. I had great plans to write it all down then, but it was still too soon.

One thing, however, was clear. The panic and “pause” I was given in 2020 had come to an end with the year. By the time 2021 arrived, I was ready, once again, to hit “PLAY.”

Sure enough, the Universe would honour my request for action, delivering me to the doorstep of 2021 in a myriad of unexpected ways. Play, indeed.

18 thoughts on “Hindsight and 2020

  1. So happy to see another entry from you and especially about your farm on Cape Breton. I also moved out to NS from ON in 2018 and absolutely love NS! I am down near Digby in the little village of Weymouth now. After my husband asked for a divorce so he could “move on with his life” in January 2020 I sold the first NS property I had purchased as it was too much for me on my own. I was also making several trips back and forth to ON and AB as my kids and grandkids were there. Once my place sold I purchased a little 4 acre property on the Sissiboo River and built a seasonal cottage in the village of Weymouth. Covid and restrictions prevented me from being there as much as I would have liked in 2021, but I’m hopeful that we can soon put all the pandemic nonsense behind us and life will become more normal. I did get to spend about 3 months at the cottage watching the river rise and fall with the tides. I loved reading about your initial van adventures and then the settling at the farm. I hope you continue to thrive in NS. I would be there 100% of the time if not for my special people and the cows I still have in ON. Have settled into hibernation mode for the winter at my daughter’s place in ON but dream of returning to my little cabin on the river asap. Would love to hear more from you! Cheers!

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    1. Hi D 🙂 It was so nice that you took the time to write… thank you 🙂 I too am in hibernation mode, it’s lovely isn’t it? Hunkered in for a bit of a storm today! I find I look forward to them in the winter, when I have a pot of tea on 🙂 The last three years have been quite disorienting for so many of us, and so many plans have gone sideways. Ive learned a lot about letting go. I hope you get to your little cabin by the river in the spring! Thanks again for sharing 🙂

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  2. Farm life sure is a respite for you and yours.Glad you surrounded yourself with family during this difficult time. I had to work through it all and grateful for the distraction, but more grateful for my health as well as my family and friends. keep on writing!

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    1. This is the life I have always imagined, that I would not likely ever need a vacation FROM. Gratitude is such a key ingredient in life, isn’t it? All the best Sally, and thank you for connecting 🙂

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  3. I first discovered you when searching for info on camper van life but now am so pleased to know of what you are doing on your family farm.

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  4. Happy New Year. Just yesterday I was thinking about you and wondering what happened to you and your new adventures. Thank you for the update I enjoy your writings very much. Much love and light Ingrid

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  5. Have been wondering what was going on with your little farm there, wondering if I’d somehow dropped off your mailing list — thinking maybe you’d been posting things that I hadn’t seen — so it was a delight to receive this and catch up. Hope that your writing inspiration continues and that we’ll soon see a similar look back at 2021. Glad that thing seem (at least so far, from what we can read here) to be going well.

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    1. Id like to say I was creating dramatic tension purposefully for the last two years but no. I just had some serious writer’s block. Ha! It feels so good to be scribbling again! Stay tuned, my 2021 in a nutshell won’t be far behind this one. Then I can return to some story telling, proper 🙂 Happy New Year!

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  6. wow! I am in awe of how you can write so beautifully! there are lots of emails coming in but I read yours fully and was engaged in your pandemic life for a while! loved it. thank you for sharing your life. Its inspiting. Sunita from British Columbia

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  7. How you’ve made the absolute most of this global demand for us to retreat, go inwards, find meaning. Thank you so very much for all that you are doing to bring us back to what is truly important. I love you!! Margaret

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