“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” Audrey Hepburn
One of the last tasks I did before leaving my classroom on March 12, 2020 was erase my whiteboard. It was not unusual and part of an automatic ritual, but I knew this time would be different. The weekly quotes, daily goals, and other spontaneous marks disappeared and a blank white surface stared back at me. I knew we’d be gone for at least three weeks, so I grabbed my most fragile of plants, a few extra books and planners, then locked and walked out of the room. Like most of us, the daily avalanche of information and numbers has extended the distance. The time. The questions. We still flow or thrash in day-to-day uncertainties sifting through the wreckage of information as we try to find a sturdy grip of reliable facts and comfort.
I’ve thought of the empty chairs, the students who sat in the now empty chairs, and the blank wall a lot while trying to navigate a “ new now” (I like that phrase much better than a “new normal”). And like that whiteboard, my own blank pages stare back at me. My blank whiteboards are the immense space of the unknown, or a once dormant anxiety newly knocked free as the ground beneath me quite literally moved in an earthquake last week (“Are you there God? It’s me, Jennie”), and some likewise shaken faith as to how charmed my life has been and my new questioning of my fortitude and purpose.
I know that this time in history is unique and should be recorded– that these times will be remembered in history books and someday, my own reflections and thoughts should be at least a part of my own witnessing. But that blank white page remains open and untold. Attempting to grow something true to fill some space with limited words is an act of faith. I’m a believer in writing to understand, and in my adult years have become rather rebellious in practicing what I preach. For instance, I believe that we should write to know ourselves, to find out what we think and believe. That writing can be therapy. That the specificity of an average person’s daily doings is universal in its theme and scope. And yet. I often wonder if action is more important. And then I stop and listen and let the blank white space and let it be. A furrowing and gathering. Even a reconvening for my own self and nurturing the space for future seeds. Is this what a true silver lining consists of? Is this grace? Mining the light that is under the fog and dark layers? Yes. I think it is grace and nurturing of letting the space and stillness exist with hopes for a future creation. That is also the God-driven life and not so much God-fearing. I’ve felt a Heavenly Mother more through this time. Her breathing and reassuring us with every flower that comes up through the ground. I’m still trying to find her in the shaking and unsettled Earth calling out as well. I looked at a bright bloom the other day during a walk and thought – don’t you know what’s going on right now? And yet you’re still here blooming. That is the kind of woman I want to be.
A few weeks ago I watched the documentary The Biggest Little Farm (highly recommend) and the ecology theme of death to make life and diversify was poignant. The constant balance to have harmony on a farm only came through trial and error in disharmony. The cracked, dry, undernourished soil they began with took 5 years to replenish to something that was a billion years old, and it came to life with death, compost, and diversity. It was all used to grow something new. And it took a lot of time. As I sit with some new white space and blank time, I think of my friend saying, “Good things are coming—I know it,” and hold on to the belief and choose to witness in flowers breaking free through the mud even when suffering and doubts are plenty. Both exist in diverse harmony to hold each other up; an ecology of faith.