Sharon Randall: Finding peace when there’s nothing to do
What do you do when you’ve done all you need or want to do?
Before the coronavirus quarantine, I never asked myself that question. My life was full.
I wrote a column each week, as I still do, and traveled to speak in places around the country. When I wasn’t traveling, I hung out with my husband. I still do that, too. Nonstop. 24/7.
But we often went out to dinner or to the grocery store or appointments. We visited family and friends. He played in a band and I went to his gigs, taking our grandsons (ages 9 and 8) who think he’s a rock star.
Our kids often came to visit and we’d cook and laugh and eat as if there were no tomorrow.
Now? We keep in touch by FaceTime and phone. We read online to the older grandkids, laugh at videos of the little ones and e-visit with loved ones daily.
Recently, my son-in-law left a pizza on our porch. My daughter dropped off plants for our patio. And my youngest brought his three babes to see us. We kept six feet apart. I never dreamed six feet could seem so far.
The only other faces we see are drivers who leave groceries at our door. We sit out most evenings watching the sunset. Neighbors go by walking their dogs and we wave from afar.
But no one comes in. And we don’t go out. It’s like solitary confinement. For two. Luckily, we like each other. Usually. And thankfully, our basic needs are met. But some days pass slowly and I have a lot of time to think.
I think about our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren. I wonder what the world will be like in years to come. I’ve been wondering about those things since I was a child and never find an answer.
Sometimes, to quiet my mind, I turn my thoughts into prayers. I’m not good at it, but I hope God hears me anyhow. Sooner or later, I go back to thinking.
Today, instead of thinking, I took a drive with my husband.
Spring in California is hard to believe. Hills that were brown in summer, one spark away from bursting into flame, have turned bright green, lush with tall grass and speckled with wildflowers.
We stopped a while to watch a herd of deer grazing in a field thick with lupine and poppies.
I wish you could’ve seen it.
The green of the hills, the blue of the sky, the sound of the wind in the trees and most of all, the ease with which those deer went about their lives, filled me with a peace I’d not felt for days.
Nature takes a break in winter. Birds fly south. Bears hibernate. Plants and trees go dormant. In spring, it awakes, rested and ready to be truly alive.
Humans take vacations, but our minds keep working, even when there’s nothing to do.
My grandmother spent her last 20 years mostly alone. As a child, I loved to visit her. Every morning, we did chores. Picked beans. Fed chickens. Gathered flowers for the table. She taught me to read, play checkers, and crochet. And we took long walks on the mountain studying plants and birds and clouds.
Once, I asked her what she did all day when I wasn’t there.
“The same things,” she said, “except checkers. It’s not much fun to play checkers alone. I go for walks most days. If it rains, I sit on the porch. If I stay inside, I think too much. Nature always seems to soothe my soul.”
Some of us spend our lives inside self-imposed walls, keeping busy when there’s nothing to do, thinking about questions that have no answers.
If we learn nothing else from this quarantine, maybe it can teach us how to rest, how to be alone with ourselves and each other in the real world — not a world of TVs and computers and pointless thoughts, but one of green hills, blue skies and hope.
And we’ll awake, like Nature at the end of a long winter, rested and ready to be truly alive.
Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove CA 93950 or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.