What Feels More Real?

Now that that’s over

The election is finally nearing an end (as of this writing) and I can hear the celebrations and sighs of relief on one side and the cries of injustice, stolen elections, fear and trembling for the future on the other. I could write that same sentence had it gone the other way.

The reality is a lot of people staked much in this election. I used to feel that way about politics until I was old enough to pay attention. There was the governor and then there was a president about whom I regarded the future in dread. The term passed. The world survived. The country survived. The state survived.

Whether your savior or your mortal enemy became president, this too shall pass.

I guess that is the good thing about the four-year term limit.

I do not have the emotional resources to wring my hands about this election, the week-long during or after. It is in Washington D.C. And I am here, on our little corner of rural America.

Will we be affected by the politics and baby-is bickering taking place on this hill? Yes. Is there anything I can do about it?

What do I have control over?

I can do my civic duty, vote, follow casually what’s happening, but know that ultimately, I will likely live and die without being majorly affected by what is happening over there. What matters here is the actual happening here and around me, the noise in my garage by children who made a playroom with my stored-for-winter outdoor furniture, the field mouse that ran out from under a pile of plants I gathered up while putting my garden to sleep for our short winter, the cat that went missing, the sounds of coyotes around the chicken coop, seeing my name in print in a weekly newspaper, and nursing my infant to sleep.

This is within my control and if I allow myself the time to focus on it, it is actually quite good, moves fast, and is a lot more pleasant than thinking about a bunch of politicians who have forgotten their mothers’ lessons on how to compromise.

This life around us, the things we can see, hear, touch, and smell are the things that should matter most to us, the things that give us the greatest elation, the deepest dread, the biggest relief, the things on which our lives are really staked.

Today is the first day for a new medication.

Tonight is an outdoor gathering for a friend’s birthday.

Tomorrow we finalize plans for the outdoor market we plan to host on December 5.

Thanksgiving is coming. Christmas is coming.

There are traditions to be lived.

Memories to be made.

And in the midst of that, in my home at least, there are a lot of little people whose reality is shaped by the environment we give them, whose perception of that reality is affected by the way we preset it, whose response is guided by how they see us respond to the current events that affect us.

I want to give them the best. I want them to know a world that is secure in the things that matter, where things change but only big things require tears and only unjust things require anger. I want them to know they are loved; that unconditional love is possible to give and to receive; that we can all rise above the temptation to be petty, to gloat, to be envious of what others have; and that even in a world where no matter who you are, there is something in the news and social media to be angry about; that we all can slow down, refocus, be grateful for the life in which we live, and make a difference, right here and now.

Now, for the perspective

I want these lessons and events to be more real, deeper and closer to my heart than what happens over there. What happens over there matters. But what happens here matters more.

Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash
Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

Where Does your Treasure lie?

My six-year-old daughter has her treasures.

A pipe remnant from her father’s custom wind chime building, a drawing of her deceased cat, a rock, a scrap of fabric, a stuffed animal, a pipe cleaner, a necklace, a broken shell and the list goes on.

“Do you have any treasures?” She asks me.

The first time she asked, I was unprepared, “Yes,” I said assuming I must.

She tilted her head and smiled, “Then where are they?”

The next time the subject came up, as I cradled a tulip-shaped milk glass vase in my hands, I said, “this is one of my treasures, and the light blue bowl on my nightstand, and my little turtle.”

The bowl as purchased at the Ferry Building in San Francisco the day I walked the three miles from Benioff Children’s Hospital during a break from staying bedside when my son was admitted. The turtle is a small, shiny, bejeweled looking thing given to me by his inpatient case manager. I have had to steal it back from my children.

“And any of your jewelry?” my nine-year-old daughter asks, her smirk tilting to one side.

“Yes…anything your father gave me.”

“Like your wedding ring and your engagement ring. Did he give you that pearl ring, too?”


She pointed knowingly to the four-month-old, chubby-cheeked daughter, “that’s the one Stella is going to get.”

There are other treasures in our home.

A baby grand piano purchased from the consignment store that is now Miss Potts Attic. New coupe glasses. Libbey Gold Autumn Leaves high ball glasses. My Currier and Ives dishes.

Outdoors, the treasures are more fleeting.

Sweet peas my six-year-old and I planted. Red and white amarillas from my mother. Purple irises transplanted from our last home before we moved.

My dahlias were a treasure. Bought as little plants from Kelley Flower Farm, I separated tubers, washed in a partial bleach solution and carefully stored for spring planting before we moved to this home. I thought I could keep them in the ground over winter. I thought California winters might be mild enough. As only one started up through the ground and grew taller, I took the shovel to dig and investigate what happened to the rest. They were gone.

There was no sign of gophers. I assume they rotted over winter and went back into the earth from whence they came.

All treasures are this way, in a way, fleeting.

The very greatest treasures are the ones we cannot hold so tightly: my growing four-year-old who will no longer suffer himself to be snuggled and kissed, a breeze in the warm spring sunshine, the coy words from my eldest as she tried to share without revealing secrets about my Mother’s Day gift, the words I quote from “Lord of the Rings” to my husband as a way of telling him I love him.

This is the season in which we might consider our treasures more than usual. Do we love our home? Do we take the time to care for it as an act of love? Do we surround ourselves with those inanimate objects that, for whatever reason, spark joy? We have been enclosed long enough within these walls. Let them be ornamented with things that cause us to pause, remember, and cherish, even if we do not have anyone with whom we can share them.

And relationships? There is something unnatural about social distancing and wearing face masks. It blocks something we are so inclined to do. We hug as a greeting to one another. Sympathy prompts a hand on the shoulder. Children beg to be held.

In a well-known study, rhesus monkeys would rather receive physical comfort with a terry-cloth “mother” than eat.

We continue to comply with the public health order and social distancing, but it is becoming more and more apparent that these things are our treasures: the touch, the smile, the kind word and sympathetic look as we unconsciously read each other’s emotions while sitting across the coffee shop table.

Such treasures are fleeting.

But like all beautiful things, the thing that is beautiful is delighted in for its own sake. Maybe, when this season is over, no matter how the world has changed, we’ll delight in it a little more.