Savoring the Small Things During the Pandemic

“It was the small things that helped, taken one by one and savored.” -British Writer Rumer Godden

Hello. When media referred to 2020 as the new roaring twenties, I don’t think any of us expected a decade full of promise to unfold like this.

We’ve come together as a global community, and yet, we are in isolation; individual trees standing in a forest, bracing ourselves on a tidal wave of fear, flux, and uncertainty. There are victories, of course, and countless heroes to hail, but losses, anxiety, and frustration, too. As a Steel Magnolia southern gal who is good at holding it together, I did. Until I didn’t.

My COVID-19  journey began in Panama when Honduras shuttered itself on short notice. Overnight, exiled from my life. Air, sea, and land borders closed; no loophole, no way back- to my child, my husband, my dog, my house. In disbelief, I bought a one-way ticket to the States, praying for the world, praying for this to be over. What was happening? No one really knew. “It’s unprecedented,” I kept hearing in a sea of disturbing news about lack of ventilators, bankruptcies, and death statistics, like a bad science fiction film.

In a sundress and flip-flop clad feet, I landed woefully unprepared onto Atlanta soil that was cold and rainy. Hartsfield International Airport, one of the busiest in the world, was apocalyptic; tomb-like, except for officials wearing masks and gloves, urging us to social distance and move rapidly. Passport control and baggage claim took an uncanny eighteen minutes.

Phone calls were made to friends and family who, ultimately, could not take me in, could not hug me when I desperately needed it most. I understood but was lost and floating. This was not like coming home. Unprecedented, indeed.

I am forever grateful to dear friends who risked their health to welcome me into their house, providing me with warm clothes, a homemade meal, a place to sleep. For days, cracked and frazzled, I fell apart, letting the tears flow freely. I gave myself permission to not be strong, to not be okay, to surrender to a situation that was never in my control anyway.

Pacing like a wolf, irrationally pondering what laws I could break to get back to my family, I could not sleep, could not concentrate, or get my bearings. After ten days of conversations about Ramsay maybe flying alone, emergency flights that were canceled, and what to do with the dog, a C-130 aircraft got out of Honduras, thanks to effortful coordination by our Embassy community.

I helped Brad and Ramsay pack over the phone the night before. Just knowing my clothes were nestled next to theirs in a shared suitcase made me happier somehow. Brad texted just before take-off: “Engines turning. Doors closed. En route to Norfolk!”  And then, hours later, “Just landed. Everyone cheered. Grateful Crowd.”

After two more connecting flights for them, I fell to my knees at the small, local airport as I held my child, sobbing, and hugged my husband, wanting to tie them to my body to keep them close. A Fort Benning soldier watching us put a hand to his heart and smiled through his tears. Ramsay excitedly told me about the military flight. “We sat on those things, like backpack strings- they were seats! And to get on, the whole back of the plane opened up and it was so wide, I bet four cars could park in there!” 

I woke up in the night and saw them both sleeping there. Tears of joy ran down my cheeks. I wrote in my journal later,  “it’s like they were teetering on a tight rope, dangling, and I was holding my breath. Now they’re here. Thank you, God. I’ve never been happier to look for frogs at the crack of dawn than with Rams this morning.”

Shaken up, we focused on being together, safe, and healthy, not taking it for granted, as Brad would have to return. We crafted a temporary plan. Like so many families, we are now learning to adapt to living apart in two countries. We are learning the ropes for online school, discovering what works in quarantine and doesn’t, trusting our own wisdom amid constantly changing dynamics. We attempt to be kinder and more patient with ourselves and others, remembering that each day is a gift.  One never knows what twists and turns are up ahead.

After several weeks, our hearts and bodies are slowly healing with rest, healthy eating,  and embracing the positives. We are more careful and conscious of the information we absorb. And the silver lining is that we are:

  • living more in the present
  • practicing gratitude in earnest
  • enjoying quality time with my mother
  • reading more books
  • sitting on the porch, slowing down and not glorifying “being busy”
  • playing more board games
  • finding reasons to laugh
  • taking more walks, bike rides, and online yoga classes
  • making more art
  • observing the beauty of Spring and savoring the small things

“On the other side of your fear is your freedom.”- American writer Jen Sincero

What are your coping tools and strategies on this unprecedented journey?

Sending you peace, along with prayers for health and well-being.

Tracy

Magical Moments Lately

A wall in downtown Tegucigalpa that resembles a patchwork quilt.

In the face of country-wide drought and humanitarian issues in Honduras, I ‘ve begun to collect heart-warming moments and short stories to lift our spirits. I hope you enjoy them, too.

Buenas Dias: It’s early morning, and although I cannot see the street, I know the guard is standing outside. The familiar shape of his thickly-soled shoes obscures the thin space of light beneath the door. He is waiting for coffee. As I click the lock and open the door, his toothy grin beams in response to the mug I hand him. He sees me unvarnished- barefoot, half awake, in pj’s with unbrushed hair. His wide smile is contagious, his gratitude evident, and I am thankful for this happy exchange.


Gossamer Wings: A lovely, grand, and shimmering moth with irridescent purples and rich browns shared her beauty with us for the better part of a day.


A Wishing Tree: Playing outdoors, Ramsay and I noticed something electric blue in our banana tree. Brad climbed a ladder so we could take a closer look. After some research, we discovered this is called a Traveler’s Tree (how appropriate for our lifestyle)!  Its origins are traced to Madagascar, where it is believed this is a wishing tree that can fulfill your wildest dreams and desires!  (We did ask the tree for rain… and it came in sheets later that day after a long, brittle dry spell….perhaps a coincidence, or maybe sheer magic)?


A  Light in the Darkness:  I was truly inspired by “Pixeles De Vida,” an impactful photography exhibit captured by Honduran students ages 15-23 years old. Their pictures showcase hope and good works in Rivera Hernandez; historically, one of the most violent and crime-riddled communities in the country. These particular images and uplifting stories stood out to me:

*Pixeles de Vida is a project funded by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.


Finding a Lost Treasure: While having coffee with friends, I happened upon a misplaced journal. In efforts to find its owner, I flipped through the pages. No contact information was found, but I haven’t given up. For this woman whose nineteen year old dreams in 1999 were to “find beauty in everything” and “become a dancer,” I would love to meet her and remind this (now forty-something) woman of her travels with friends and beautiful personal journey.


A Sea Offering: On a recent jaunt to El Salvador, I walked slowly along a tranquil expanse of fine, dark-brown, volcanic sand that sparkled like gold in the afternoon sun. The ebbing tide left behind intricate snail tracks and a lacey ribbon of foam. Wading in and out of the surf’s edge, I lifted up intermittent pieces of broken shells to study them. Near an outcropping of rocks, I stopped to listen to the water echo in its caverns. Glancing behind me, only my path of meandering footprints marked the surface. Moments later, right at my feet, lay a perfect, beautiful sand dollar, like an offering from the sea.

 

May there be magical moments in your days.

-Tracy

 

 

The Beautiful Broken

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I am a silver-lining seeker. I embrace the positives and look for enchantment, of which Honduras has plenty. The first few months in a new country are like dating, figuring out the cultural nuances, the moods, likes and dislikes. Overall, we enjoy it here. The people are kind. You can’t beat this consistently pleasant climate. Villages  are charming and the coastal regions are stunningly beautiful.

This morning is gorgeous. A cool breeze flows in through the open windows. Our garden is a little sanctuary of birds and flowers. An unexpected sunflower has grown from scattered birdseed and the cactus is blooming.

Yet, I feel a little panic rising. Although there is no imminent threat, there have been bouts of political upheaval these last couple of months, stemming from the controversial Presidential election in December of 2017. Recently, teachers and doctors have had their tenures revoked and were fired. This comes on the heels of the President’s brother being indicted for drug and fraud charges, spurring objection to the current administration. Although most incidents are peaceful here, I think about Easter week, where the mayor’s residence was burned down, looting shattered store fronts, and a vigilante-style shooting occurred. It was an anomaly. But it happened. (BBC Article).

Although our residence is like a fortress, I admit to being a little anxiety-riddled after the bombings during our time in Egypt. Rarely is any of the violence against Westerners. It’s just the potential that we could be caught up in the collateral damage that scares me. It’s the not-knowing and apprehension of what could happen if protests turn into no-kidding uprising. My heart beats faster, my breathing feels more shallow in response to hearing sirens, persistent honking, and the thud of tear gas being deployed in the distance. Helicopters are circling, perhaps the news or the police. Citizens passionately chant “Fuera JOH! (President Juan Orlando Hernandez).

Emails and texts are pinging my phone: “Planned manifestations could shut the city down and cause road closures and blockades. Try not to use your vehicle. Businesses may close.” A little fearmongering starts to spread on social media within the well-intentioned local community, spinning me up even more. Photos are shared of buses blocking highways, smoke rising from burning tires, hordes of people marching in the streets, held at bay by police in raid gear. I concentrate with laser-focus on the echoes of loud pops and cracking sounds outside. Logically, I know its just fireworks used by protesters to annoy police, but my body reacts as if they are gun shots and goes into fight or flight syndrome.

My mind starts emergency planning. Should I rush to fill my car with petrol so we can evacuate if necessary? Can I get to my child at school through the protests? (My thoughts recall my husband’s gentle voice during the incidents in Cairo- “I know this goes against your instincts, but please don’t try to be a hero and try to get to him. He’s safer at school.”) But I want to go get him. Right now! And cuddle him in and protect him.

Do I have enough water and food in our safe haven? Should I run to the store to load up on groceries in case it’s impossible to get there tomorrow? Most of this is unlikely, but after 3 posts in developing countries, we’ve experienced situations that arise and escalate quickly. Living overseas has its ups and downs.

April was hard with Brad out of town for work. Protests started along with the rainy season, which brought water leaks. School was cancelled and Ramsay and I had cabin fever. During Easter, I was homesick, not sleeping well, and missing family and close friends. I went into my shell, miserable and scared and wanting not this. And to be not here. There were moments of wanting to cut bait and choose safety. Brad, always supportive, kindly said, “Go. Take Ramsay and go to the States for a while.” I was tempted, but I felt like leaving would be giving up on our family somehow, and not giving our new country a chance. Maybe I was just over-reacting, I told myself. We’re still adjusting to living here, I deliberated. But in the end, I couldn’t justify taking Rams out of school long-term.

A peaceful week passed, and life was back to normal. A friend and I ventured out to view museums and churches. I love the historic center downtown, especially the old post office. On the day we visited, there was a strong police presence, and a lot of political graffiti, but it was quiet and I felt safe. The pretty architecture and care put into these exhibits gave me hope for Honduras.

Last weekend, our family traveled to Lago de Yajoa, where it is tranquil. On a birding tour, I was elated to be immersed in nature and see its picturesque creatures, landscapes, and fields of lilies.  I remind myself to keep looking for the magical moments like these that wait around the next corner.

This is life in a beautiful, but broken country.  Honduras and I will continue this journey together, one day at a time, alternating from heads to tails on this two-sided coin of yin and yang.

Peace and Light, 

Tracy