One of the questions I asked and was asked most often as quarantine lightened was what I planned to do as the world reopened. After the strictest stages of lockdown, it was tempting to scheme up big, bold plans for travel and adventure.
As we all know, reopening has been piecemeal and non-linear. So the fantasy of quarantine precautions being lifted in one fell swoop is now gone. With it goes the hope that our lives would be divided into a very neat, very delineated pre-Covid and post-Covid.
Even so, this summer feels different from last summer. When I say this, I don’t necessarily mean that it has been a better summer. In spite of the fact that last summer was much closer to the pandemic, it was a vivid and memorable time for me.
When I look back to this time last August, I can see how my sense of joy and appreciation had become scaled down. Things that I had taken granted before the pandemic, like the ability to go out to dinner with a friend, suddenly seemed dear.
When life did start to reopen a little—when I could sit outside at a restaurant, meet a friend for anything other than a distanced walk, or go someplace other than my small apartment—it felt glorious.
I now remember that summer as a series of sweet, grateful moments: my first coffee shop latte in months, my first dinner out, baking a carrot cake for a friend and being able to give it to him in person, going away for a weekend with two girlfriends and being amazed to realize how much I’d missed that kind of camaraderie and company.
Everything seemed precious, because it was. It is. Covid made me realize how much there is to cherish in my life.
I’ve done my best to hold onto that sense of appreciation in 2021. But it’s tricky, of course. The more familiar things become, the easier it is to take them for granted. Depression has crept around the edges this summer, and while I’ve managed it well, it thwarts my capacity to take joy in the everyday.
The last two weeks, though, have been special. First I was in Asheville with my oldest friend and her two kids.
It was a short trip, and for my friend it may have been a pretty routine family getaway. For me, the time spent with Chloe’s two little girls, surrounded by the Blue Ride Mountains, was life-giving. I felt a kind of peace and sense of fun that I had been losing sight of in the weeks prior.
The trip happened to be a series of best laid plans going awry, which is probably how it is when kids are young. For every planned activity that fell through, though, another experience unfolded. In those five days, I was reminded of how wonderfully surprising life can be, if we allow for spontaneity and change.
This past week, I visited friends near the beach, two hours away. It was a short trip, and I was working for much of it. But working in the company of people I love, and the sense of support that comes with that, felt good.
Once again, planning proved to be pretty ineffective. The weather was rainy, so beach plans were canceled. We made a mad dash to the beach when the rain let up unexpectedly, so that we could squeeze in a few clear, breezy hours. It was all a little haphazard, and that was fine. The topsy turvy quality was something to laugh about.
I haven’t done anything very exciting in my post-lockdown life. I’ve been laboring under the weight of a big, imposing deadline, working on a book project that has been unexpectedly difficult. Covid is still with us. And I’ve been balancing my desire to get away and see friends with the need to keep my travel costs low.
Within these constraints, however, I was able to do and see a whole lot this summer. I flooded my time with friendship and connection, which was intentional. I stayed in motion. I didn’t let inertia get the best of me.
Last summer felt like a reawakening of sorts—like stepping outside to warm sun after a long winter. This summer has been more complicated, a mix of old and new, dark and light, joy and pain. I’ve felt simultaneously weighted down and free.
But I’ve found a lot of happiness within the moments of difficulty, and that’s important. I think I’m learning to balance struggle with ease. And I hope that ability will continue through these last few weeks of summer, into autumn and beyond.
Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.
It’s a good time of year to kick off a meal with hot, juicy blistered shishitos. I’m loving Jeanine’s recipe.
Buckwheat risotto is a cool idea.
I love raw cauliflower, and this vibrant salad is a lot of fun.
I’m eager to try Katie’s lovely zucchini soup with vegan yogurt.
I’ve got almond flour in my pantry that needs using up. Now I know what I’ll do with it!
1. I’m slowly making my way through this creative, ambling, remarkable essay about peaches.
2. This article shed light for me on the experience of eating disorders and disordered eating for soldiers.
3. The fight to save coral communities in the Gulf of Mexico.
5. Finally, I loved this profile of a mother and son who became closer through quarantine cooking.
Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I don’t always enjoy cooking. Sometimes—and these times can last for weeks or even months—I really dread it. I remember saying this to a good friend who’s an accomplished cookbook author and used to work in kitchens. She could sympathize, but she told me that she never really cringes at the thought of preparing dinner in the same way that I do. I’ve spent weekends at her home, with her family, and I’ve seen this…
Happy Sunday, everyone. Thank you for welcome Tess’ glorious chai rice pudding to the blog with so much warmth and enthusiasm. I hope you’ll check out her book! I just returned from a weekend in NYC, visiting my mom and seeing friends. Here’s what I gazed at on my bus ride home. I’m drooling over seasonal, spring recipes this week. To kick things off, check out Heidi’s glorious olive oil braised spring vegetables. In that same vein, Sarah’s spring abundance bowl has me…
Happy Sunday, all. I’m still not quite back in the swing of things with my weekend roundup posts. But I’m getting there, so you can expect to see them appearing more regularly soon. In the meantime, I’ve wanted to pop in here today and say a few words in honor of NEDA week. I planned to do this at the start of the week, but like many people, I’ve been processing current events with a heavy heart. My prayers go to those who…
Happy Sunday! I hope you’ve all enjoyed nice weekends. I’ve been reveling in the autumnal weather; I’m so happy that my favorite season is here. To celebrate, here’s a mixture of delectable late summer and early fall food links, most of them of the breakfast variety. Because what’s better than a cozy breakfast on a cool morning? Nothing, I say. Warm with a bowl of creamy coconut millet porridge. This looks absolutely delightful. …and if you’re not quite ready for porridge, you can savor…