My place of refuge for the past fifteen years has been our backyard goldfish pond. After long days of constant meetings, appointments, phone calls and emails, this was the place I could go to turn the world off. A place to simply breath and give my mind a rest. The bench, chairs and table face north often leaving the seating shaded while the scenery beyond is lit in the afternoon sun. The water moves ever so slightly and ripples as the bull frogs pop up above the surface to float about wherever the water takes them. They seem to have the patience of a Saint. The goldfish dart about the pond breathing in the tiny flakes of food that begins in a pile and soon spreads across the entire pond. Eventually the fish get full and float about much like the bullfrogs.
Beyond the pond is a bed of strawberries interspersed with seasonal bulbs and blueberry bushes. Beyond the bed is the chicken yard filled with a nearly a dozen hens and one rooster. They spend their days pecking the ground with their beaks and sweeping the surface of the soil with their feet. They rarely get excited. Sometimes someone forgets her place in the peck and is quickly reminded. Sometimes someone finds a worm or snack becoming the envy of everyone else. Sometimes there is a little drama over who gets to use the favorite nest box. But for the most part, much like the frogs and the goldfish, they are content in their simple existence. Maybe that is why this became my beloved place of refuge. To be reminded that it actually IS possible to be content in simple existence, at least within the scenery of the pond.
Today is warm and sunny. There is hardly a breeze. I felt called to sit at the pond although for an entirely different reason than refuge. I hadn’t fed the fish since November. I wondered if I still had as many as I did last fall. I wondered if the bullfrogs were out yet, if the water lily and parrot’s feather made it through winter. I was just ridiculously happy that it was warm enough to sit…. outside. For an entire year I have led a simple existence, and although it wasn’t because I was forced to. It was because I could.
A year without conferences, constant in-person meetings or social events or activities. Although I did lose some income from the situation, I was lucky enough to work from home. Being primarily an introvert (recharging comes from being alone) I embraced this fairly well. My extroverted side (recharge by being around people) has struggled sometimes to the point of depression- I am sure there are plenty of choirs that I am preaching to out there. So, as I sit here at this pond without the feeling of being restored by its simplicity, I am actually thinking about the good news that for some of us actually feels a little scary.
Cases are going down and the number of people getting vaccinated is going up. It won’t be long, at least in comparison to a year, before our worlds are fully, safely, reopened. Then what?
For me, I’ll be back to going to the library, going INSIDE the library several times a month. I’ll be back to sitting with my friends on Thursday mornings at the coffee shop. Back to weekend adventures to somewhere, anywhere, Missouri with my husband. I’m extremely excited about getting back to these activities. I’m not excited about getting back to constant meetings, conferences, phone calls, emails and social events.
Right now is the time to decide exactly what we really, truly want to get back to. Just as sudden as the pandemic changed our lives, I suspect it will feel just as sudden for our lives to be able to revert back to something similar to what they were just over a year ago. I don’t want to see my goldfish pond as a place of refuge ever again. I don’t want to look at the frogs, the fish and the chickens with envy for their content simple living. I don’t want to forget what this last year has taught me, about myself.
It won’t be easy. There will be tough conversations to have and difficult boundaries to set. But now is the time to commit to continue living simpler lives. Once back on the hamster wheel, it often takes a horrific calamity to get back off. No one on planet earth wants a repeat of this last year. Some of its lessons, however, hopefully will never leave us.
Audrey L Elder