We’ve lived here at Meadow Knoll for over thirty years, and this has been the most beautiful spring I can remember. The New Dawn rose on the trellis beside the deck is heaped with fragrant rosy-pink blossoms. To the delight of the hummingbirds on their northward migration, the crossvine climbing the east wall of the house is a mass of coral trumpets with burnished gold throats. The pyracantha is covered with white bloom clusters and buzzing with bees. And out in the meadow, the lush green grass is brushed with wide swaths of bluebonnets.
Or perhaps it only seems more beautiful here because the pandemic has turned the human world into global pandemonium. In fact, if it weren’t for the internet and the television/radio that connects us to the outside world, we wouldn’t know that such a thing as coronavirus exists. It’s tempting to turn it all off or tune it out and just get on with our lives–but of course we can’t do that.
So we’re doing what everybody else is doing: we’re in the age-risk group, so we’re hunkering down, staying put, and watching incredulously as this tiny scrap of RNA upends a modern civilization. We’re both introverts and we don’t miss social interaction. We’ve both worked from home for over thirty years now, so we have a regular routine, and like you, we try to keep to it. Masked like a bandit, Bill gets in the car and drives the 30-mile biweekly round trip for groceries and the 5-mile semiweekly trips for mail, as well as managing the daily outdoor/indoor mix of mowing, brush clearing, and business stuff. I work on the current writing/publishing project, while the daily meals, laundry, and my slap-dash housework go on as usual. Aside from the missed haircuts (we’re beginning to look like aging hippies, which is really okay) and the missing occasional restaurant treats, there’s not much external evidence of change. Our blended and extended families are safe. We’re safe. We are privileged, deeply privileged, and we know it.
Which makes me feel hugely grateful, more than ever before in my life, for those amazing humans who are out there making the world safe for those of us who can stay hunkered down. The health care workers who are in danger every minute. The grocery/pharmacy folks and those in the supply chains. The people who drive buses and trucks and trains and fly planes and keep the phone systems and internet functioning. The teachers who are putting classes online so their students can do something that feels like learning. The moms and dads who are working from home and homeschooling, both at the same time. The dedicated people who are keeping our cities and counties and states and federal government operating.
All of which makes the chaos and dysfunction in the White House so frustrating, so angering, so damned disgusting. It doesn’t matter what our political philosophies are or whether we’re Democrats or Republicans or Independents. As Americans, all of us ought to be mad as hell about the failures of vision, the mixed messages about mitigation, and the dangerous, deadly mismanagement of emergency supplies and testing–not to mention the lies and denials, the defensive efforts to squelch critics, and the president’s near-total lack of preparation for the one of the most important jobs on the planet. We will survive, yes. We will get through this, yes. But it won’t be because we had any leadership from the White House.
Enough. Back to hunkering down, working on what needs to be done, and appreciating the flowers and trees and grasses of a beautiful spring. I hope it’s just as lovely where you are, and that you and yours are well and–above all else–safe from this ugly virus. Thank you for reading, and for being a friend.
PS, posted later. Comments are monitored. You’re welcome to disagree, but rude, personalized attacks won’t be posted.
I’ve spent much of my free time during this pandemic reading your China Bayles’ mysteries. I think they are what has kept me sane during this crazy time. Your books have inspired me to plant some herbs and a few vegetables this spring. They’re coming along beautifully. I just finished reading book 27 in the series and don’t know where to go from here. Do you have any recommendations for books similar to China’s mysteries? I love the combination of plants, plant history, mystery, and strong female characters. I would love to hear your suggestions for more great reads. Thank you for your amazing books and stay safe.
Grace, I’ll write to you directly about recommendations. Glad you’ve enjoyed the series!
Susan has many other novel sets she has written and she and her husband have written together. They are all marvelous !!!!! Explore them all at her webpage !!!!!
Thank you so much! I will do that.
Susan, your post reflects so much of our (hubbs and I) lives right now. We could almost forget the pandemic is happening – except for close family members whose jobs put them at high risk to keep life moving along.. I too feel extremely privileged and grateful. You’ve well described the full out mismanagement by government. The only thing more outrageous is the inability to assess facts vs fiction by those favoring the current administration – and I have family members in that category. It’s as if they drank the kool aid and believe every manipulated word. On a lighter note, an astute gardener friend in CA says her garden is especially flourishing, as are her friends’ in various parts of the country. She thought it might have to do with less pollution, fewer particulates in the air from the jet stream. I await your next series installments and stand alones. All the best always – with fond memories of the Story Circle Network’s list serv serveral years ago.
We are having a lovely spring here in N. California. The weather so nice we have our vegetable garden planted. Stuck at home we spend lots of time outside in the garden and find it very cathartic and soul-healing. As repugnant and stupefying the Washington admin is, we are incredibly fortunate to have a Governor who truly cares for the health and safety of Californians. He is an honest human being with feelings and empathy. How i wish he was leading the nation through this right now. Take care Susan and thank you for your heartfelt blogs.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful flowers, balm for the soul. So many have commented on what a glorious spring it has been with more and lusher blooms everywhere. The sky is bluer, the air is clearer, the stars are brighter and we are seeing things we have not seen before. How many of us have made the connection to keeping people in their homes and reducing the pollution they cause? How many will continue to live greener? I read that nearly half of people working from home want to continue to do so and employers are considering it. Think of the reduction in traffic and smog if that happens! We can make something good come out of this if we admit the effect we have on our planet and try to change it.
I am a retired nurse in that very vulnerable group and was very disappointed that I could not go back to help due to health reasons. So I sew masks, give to groups that are helping such as food banks, and takes great pleasure in my garden. I too am angry and appalled at what is happening in Washington. So much time was lost while the president denied that the virus would come here, then said it would just go away when it got warm, This total failure of leadership cost many lives. And he will never admit that he was at fault. He will look for others to blame. He has no moral or ethical standards at all. I fail to understand how anyone can support him.
However, I know we will come through this and, I hope, emerge stronger than ever. In the meantime, thank you for your books. I too am rereading the Cottage Tales and finding much solace there.
Susan, Thanks for stating exactly, the way I feel about trump and the current administration. Yes, disgusting about sums it up. In addition to thinking about COVID and the state of our country’s leadership, I am a 68-year-old woman living in Brooklyn, who was a freshman at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. The 50th anniversary of the shootings is in two days and I am trying to exorcise the ghosts of 50 years ago. I’m sure you remember the tragedy. Be well, Debbie L. Miller, Brooklyn, NY
I do remember Kent State, Debbie, very vividly. I was teaching at the Univ. San Francisco. It was one of those shocking “can’t-happen-here” moments that make you realize that nothing is safe–whatever you knew as your bulwark was gone and there was nothing you could count on.
I was a very young mother watching it unfold on TV. I looked at my 2 1/2 year old daughter and 6 month old son and wondered about the world they would face. I still wonder.
Here in central Ontario, the ice left our lake about 2 weeks ago & now the daffodils are putting on a brave show. Because of age & medical problems (COPD, diabetes)-I am not going off property. So, instead of bothering others unnecessarily with grocery shopping, I am mounting archealogical (sp?) expeditions in the freezer. (Hmm–what IS this?)
Because the library is closed, I am reading (The Homesteaders by Robert Stead) or rereading (Sherlock Holmes, various L.M.Montgomery) that are on my shelves.
My feeling is that most of our political leaders, although with some mis-steps, have done the best they could in such a dizzying time.
Also living in rural Ontario, and enjoying the first Canada geese goslings of the year fluffing across my lawn. And I also have COPD and diabetes, and am staying home. So I’m relieved that the public library system here (and in much of the States) has a service called “overdrive” where you can download most of Ms Wittig-Albert;s books–selections vary from zone to zone, and here A Plain Vanilla Murder is still missing.
Just Google Overdrive, then follow the obvious trail. You’ll need your public library password, which around here is the last 4 digits of your phone number.
Like so many others who have posted here, I agree with the comments on the US administration. Our Ontario premier was elected as a Trump mimic, almost immediately regretted by most Ontario voters according to polls. But I have to say he seems to be handling the Covid-19 crisis responsibly.
Michal, if your library doesn’t have VANILLA, it’s because they didn’t order it, so please let them know you’re interested in the book. It’s available on Overdrive.
I actually did just that back in August. There was a long lull in purchasing here. I hope it’s now over. (I’m kind of thrilled at this exchange though. I’ve been an avid reader of all your books for years).
Thanks, Michal. You might ask again. Sometimes requests get lost–and libraries do have to prioritize. Thanks for being a reader!
Susan- Glad to know that you two are weathering this crisis well. I wish our leaders could spend more time working together on solutions and less time blame laying. I do find joy in seeing so many people around me working together to help one another through this.
My husband and I are so fortunate to have a good retirement income. My husband can make our grocery and mail runs. We have one son and his wife who are teachers and another son and his wife who are small business owners, both with small children. They are hanging in there.
Thank you for the joy your books have brought me over the years.
Betty in Arkansas
Thank you, Susan. I needed that! LOL!
Your garden is beautiful and inspiring👏Everything you said is right On and True👍God Bless🙏
My thoughts exactly, but much more eloquently put. I couldn’t agree more about the deeply distressing lack of leadership in Washington during this crisis. But I, too, am finding some solace in the beautiful spring we’re having in Virginia — and in traveling vicariously to the Lake District through your Cottage Tales. I’m also hugely grateful for the tireless, dangerous work done by those on the frontlines, from medical staff to grocery clerks. Thanks for your heartening photos, words, and stories!
Well someone had to say it and I’m glad you did. And as David Hockney said recently, “ Keep in mind, they can’t cancel Spring”.
I find it reveals the division in our country that you found it necessary to add a P.S. to your blog. That people can politicize a national emergency and not see the truth that this president is dangerously incompetent is incredible.
I’m 80 and managing well on my own. Am very afraid for those who are not as fortunate.
My friend and neighbor is a lunch lady. She is one of those who are putting themselves at risk to provide for the poor, disadvantaged schoolchildren. There are many such in SC. Making Grab and Go meals and loading them and the many cartons of milk required onto school buses and distributing them is not in her job description but that work is being done all over the country without recognition.Thanks to all essential workers who are going to work each day despite the Federal Government’s leadership.
You caught me and have inspired me with your beautiful flowers. Garden centers just opened here in Michigan. Now if mother nature would be so kind as to let me outdoors to play in the dirt. Thank you for giving me hope seeing yours.
I’m glad you are able to stay safe. I’m a health care worker, so I have to go to work every night. Son far we have been able to keep the virus out of our facility with a complete lockdown (trying to keep people with dementia in their rooms is an epic all by itself), staff screening, and masks. Because of the disgraceful PPE shortage we are wearing masks sewn by local volunteers, saving the N95s for when we get COVID+ patients–and we will, eventually.
I realized a few days ago that what I find particularly hard (apart from the fear for myself–I’m 64, and have asthma–and my residents) is that all my social interactions are with people I wouldn’t choose to spend free time with. I wouldn’t have a problem staying home all the time–world-class introvert–but I can’t see much of my friends; did manage to see my BFF on Monday. It was finally warm enough to sit several feet apart outside, drink coffee, and talk. Otherwise it’s a flying trip to the farmers’ market and the food co-op on Saturday mornings. Both have reserved the early morning for higher-risk people, bless them.
Here in Goshen, Indiana, the daffodils and forsythia are i full bloom, and the trees are starting to flower. It has been a very late spring, going from 70F to 25F in a day or two. Last week I mowed on Thursday and shoveled snow on Friday. Frost warnings out for tonight.
How do you do that — start me out with mother natures’s magic and then bam, the justifiable tirade about the White House and lack of leadership. I know that mother nature will outlast us. I know that I am privileged. And I know I’m furious about and beside myself due to the lack of leadership we’re experiencing.
Thank you for writing, and for being a friend.
I laughed aloud at your ‘aging hippies’ comment about the lack of haircuts. My situation exactly. The flower pictures are a feature that I in Canada will have to wait awhile to see. No leaves out on the trees yet, but daffodils, hyacinths and forsythia are visible. I live in a seniors’ apartment building and we are all obeying the distancing instructions, including masks when we go out. My mask fogs up my glasses which i could do without, but as an introvert, I am not minding the isolation as emails and phone calls keep me in touch with friends. I can order already prepared food for delivery and am mining the riches on Youtube. Everything from figure skating (ice dance, in particular) to speeches and interviews with Pete Buttigieg whom I greatly admire. I’ve no skin in that game and I look at what’s coming out of the White House with incredulity. Also at the armed protesters in Michigan. I am very grateful for just about everything in my life. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you so much for the pictures of your flowers! Up in Connecticut the squill has gone by, and daffodils almost gone. But plenty of green coming up including rhubarb! Thanks for your musings.
Dear Susan – THANK YOU for expressing what my family and I have been saying for weeks now!! Thank the good Lord that in Minnesota we have a clear thinking governor and legislature. So far they have heeded the advice of the medical professionals. We are safe and hopefully, will continue to do so. Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures and wonderful books. Our prayers are with you and your family.
Amen, and Amen! I work from home, I work at home. Life goes on as it usually does: chores, reading quilting, yard work (I don’t mow!), & more reading. I love to cook; we’re doing well. Husband is going to work everyday, to the bigger city east of us; car dealership parts & service departments are “essential.” He’s following the safety guidelines, tips, orders, and insisting others in his dept. do, as well. He’s the one going to the grocery store, post office, pharmacy. Trying to keep me safe, trying to be safe. He wears the masks I make, & shares new ones with others. …Meanwhile, Amen & Damn’ Straight to your opinions & observation about who is NOT running the country. I refuse to cry about it, but that doesn’t stop me cussing & yelling. So, we go on about our lives, meet our neighbors & family on/in the street, circle the yard, wave & cheer with every “parade” that comes honking into the ‘hood. I’m not in any hurry to rush out & be a mass-consumer, again, just not going to risk my life to go buy Stuff, get a haircut, eat in a restaurant, see a ballgame. I don’t let “the media” tell me I’m unhappy, cooped up, on edge, going crazy, or any of that nonsense. I’m home. And ALL my toys are here! Now, back to Miss Read & the Fairacre series. Cheers! And, Thanks, Susan. … by the way, how are the chickens?
Thank you for sharing your lovely flowers! Glad to hear you are still seeing bees and other beneficial insects. I share your sentiment about the lack of government pro activity and rapid response to COVID. Philadelphia is behind you a bit in blooms, I tried to share pics of the beautiful columbines and lilacs currently blooming downtown in my garden, but unfortunately couldn’t..
Thank you Susan for sharing your pictures and the description of Spring in your part of the world. We are just getting started here in Michigan. The forsythia and daffodils are in full color with the hyacinths coming up behind them. Soon the tulips and grape hyacinths will be getting a lot of attention. We have been isolating ourselves for two months now. We are grateful to be retired and for being able to stay home. We are grateful to all of the people who are out there providing us with the resources we need to be able to stay safe. We are grateful that our friends and family are safe and deeply sad for those that have died and their families. I completely agree with you about what is going on in Washington. Our Governor Gretchen Whitmore is doing her absolute best to protect us and she has to fight upstream because of the lack of support and sabotage by this president and his administration. I focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and in the meantime enjoy the never ending entertainment of bickering squirrels and little birds. Soon the lilacs will be scenting the house through open windows and it will seem even more surreal than it all does now. It is very soothing to revisit The Cottage Tales and the Dahlias in these times. Stay safe and healthy.
Your description of your yard is so beautiful and immediately creates visions of color and peace !!!! We are seniors at our house and are being very safe doing curbside grocery pick ups from HEB. We live in Austin but are driving to Taylor to do our curbside because it gives us a chance to see all the lovely wild flowers and the green of the trees and fields. Thanks for writing and sharing your world with us !!!!!!
Thank you for expressing your thoughts so well about the beauty around you as well as the (it’s hard to find one word) DYSFUNCTION in DC. Our governor in Georgia has begun to open up things (tattoo parlors and bowling alleys??) and I have written to him to express my disagreement with this decision. My husband and I are in our mid-seventies and are ordering groceries on line and delivery from our local store and planting seeds. We have a few beautiful irises blooming and live on a little cove of a lake so we can watch the turtles, ducks and herons. We are very blessed and we know it! I too am re-reading your Victorian novels and the Dahlias which I love. I am distressed by the scant availability of flour since I really love baking bread. It’s wonderful therapy. Instead, I am using things in my freezer and actually planning meals ahead of time, which I could never seem to find time to do during my working years as an RN. I am actually enjoying the peace of being home although we have planned a trip to Tuscany in October and I hope things will be better for all of us by then. Stay safe and keep writing. I appreciate you!
I’ve never read a persons thoughts so matching my own. From your beauty in Texas to your feelings of anger and disappointment in our leadership, you’ve put together the perfect words describing how I feel. I live in Northern California and we all agree, this is a beautiful spring.
It’s been life affirming amid all this sorrow
Ditto. I totally second that. Susan, you have a knack for saying just the right thing in just the right way. One of the many things I love about you.
Here on the edge of the Chihuahua Desert and the Texas Hill Country, it is gorgeous. Love the pictures of nature’s lovelies. Yes, so many disappointments in leadership, but being of a certain age, I know this to will change and we will survive. Perhaps we even come out stronger, smarter and show more compassionate for one another. Donna B
Just reading you comments and viewing your beautiful central Texas flowers makes me smile. I love living in New Mexico, but miss Texas this time of year. The comment regarding Royer’s in Round Top by one of your readers brings back wonderful memories of central Texas’ blue bonnets glorious show and the Antique Rose Emporium stunning roses in spring bloom. As for being well over 60 + it is a challenge to keep up with everything as I am alone. My wonderful neighbors across the street always check with me before going to the grocery store. The unbelievable blue sky on New Mexico brings smiles and puttering in my garden planting seed for a few vegetables is a happy escape. As a retired physician I wish I could help as a caregiver, but my age forbids that. Making and giving away masks has kept me busy for a while. Now I am wishing I had one of your wonderful books to re- read. As for the White House, it is a disaster.
Thank you for your post today. The flowers are lovely to see this Sunday You reflect my feelings and make me feel not so isolated after all. Take care and be well.
I have two children who live near where you are and I have been there numerous times it is all beautiful. Stay safe and keep on writing!
It is lovely here (up the road from you in Arlington, TX). One of the blessings of the pandemic is that we have slowed down and are noticing the world around us. Even the sounds of the traffic have been less, the birds seem to be singing more loudly, and the quiet is wonderful. I agree with your viewpoint about how things are being handled not just in Washington but also here in Texas. I am fearful that we’re going to see a resurgence soon as people find staying at home difficult. We have discovered that we never really went out all that much anyway! Blessings and peace to you and Bill!
Glad to hear everyone is enjoying spring. Here in MA. it still feels like late winter. There are several winter storm warnings for N.H. and Vermont today. The cold, cold air just keeps coming. My diary says we’ve had six sunny days all month. I’ll tell you, the virus is bad enough but to not even be able to get outside in the yard without a winter jacket at this time of year is just soul crushing.
Thanks for letting me rant, everyone stay safe.
When things start to feel overwhelming, I put myself back in the world of the Darling Dahlias and take a deep breath. We’re fortunate enough to have family and friends willing to bring groceries, chat on the phone and share a laugh! I’s so deeply sorry for those who’ve lost people they love. so far, we’ve been lucky. Please know that your books bring a much needed escape from constant anxiety!
Glad to hear that you are safe and well in the beautiful Hill Country, Susan. We, too, are in the vulnerable older age and are privileged to be safe at home in Kansas City.
I enjoyed this column so much and appreciate the photos of your flowers, especially the Bluebonnets. So very Texas!
Yes, we are, and should be mad as Hell about the inept response of the Trump Administration to the pandemic! God bless Dr. Fauci, most of the Governors, and the thousands of healthcare workers who are trying so hard to get us through this crisis.
Stay well and safe!
Maybe this spring has seemed especially beautiful because we have had to slow down, and really see…
How fortuate you and your Bill are! But this fortune didn’t drop out of the air, you obviously worked hard for it…..but it didnt seem like work most of the time did it.
Thank you, Susan, for your thoughtful, uplifting message and sharing your garden images. I receive regular emails from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center which I visited last year. I miss my annual Hill Country trip to Texas in March but these emails and the ones from Royer’s Cafe in Round Top, Texas – Round Top being one of my favorite places in Texas to visit each spring – provide reminders of the lovely Texas spring, bluebonnets, and the charms of this part of Texas. Glad you are safe and well. Even though I am a Democrat, I am grateful for the leadership in Ohio where I live – a vastly different Republican approach than the White House to managing our state’s health and economic crisis. Good to focus on the beauty of spring wherever we reside.
Thanks for the lovely flowers, just what I needed today! I, too, am normally very solitary and feel I’m well suited for times like this. That said, the library is closed…
Thank you, Susan. I, too, am in the danger age group, and I am shutting myself in, doing the housework badly, keeping the meals and laundry taken care of. But in the morning, I raise the blinds to the backyard, where my rose bushes have bloomed and bloomed for weeks now, rain or shine. I don’t take care of them. I haven’t gardened in years, But those roses are lifting my soul every morning and all day. I am grateful for them, and for my family, who are all well and texting me daily with comics and pictures of cats. And I’m grateful for friends like you, Susan. Thank you for writing.
I read this blog and smiled at first. I am in complete agreement that our government has failed us , mostly. Some of our elected officials are working so hard to keep us safe. I am thinking of the local government here in Florida. They are not all in agreement about what needs to be done but they are trying. Washington DC politics seems to be the same mess it has been for two long. Some of them need to be muzzled and locked in their rooms. Just my opinion. Family wise, I am blessed. My daughter asked me early in this situation to stay safe at home. She and her daughters shop for me. I miss seeing my family but we text daily and share our love. Thanks for sharing your beautiful flowers. They brightened my day.
We, too, are fortunate. However, I believe that we have a much different view of the President and the administration.. It seems to me that preparations should have been made or needed equipment replaced as needed as well as added to. It is easy to blame but difficult to see the work being done now. I previously worked in the medical field. Everyone for many years was only concerned by the bottom line as was every administration. Very often this is the culprit. Do some backtracking and looking at behavior before as well as in this administration.
Lovely to see the very beautiful flowers and landscspe. Ours in NC is beautiful too.
My habitat is not quite as lovely as you describe but is planted with drought tolerant things that do have some flowers. Saw 2 Caterpillars yesterday, not monarchs. Small garden is producing some lettuce
Slugs have been making lace. I’m blessed to have a daughter who is out now foraging trader Joe’s for chocolate and other needs.
I’m enjoying this beautiful spring, too (also in Central Texas.) Monarch butterflies are more numerous than I’ve seen in years. Purple Martins have retaken their old home this year. The air is fresh and the stars at night are brilliant, the silver lining in the pandemic cloud. Reading the Body trilogy now…stay safe!
Happy to know all is well with you and yours. Your beautiful Meadow Knoll is obviously such an inspiration to you and therefore blesses all your readers as well.
You have expressed my frustrations eloquently about the leadership of our country. We are all in this together, not just the United States but globally. Also the work of the health care workers and other persons stepping up to fill the gaps of care and support for all peoples. Yes, I too, appreciate God’s handy work, the flowers and trees are beautiful and definitely brings hope for the coming months that this virus will contained and we can get out again to enjoy the beaches and hills.
Agree with you completely! Speaking of spring, our backyard also seems especially beautiful this year. Enjoying nature and (at the moment) the lovely weather here in Central Texas has helped me cope–along with reading and rereading your wonderful books. Thank you for your post–it helps to know that others feel the same.
My husband and I are also of that “certain age” the virus is supposed to hit hardest. But we feel lucky to have a similar lifestyle as yours. I can sit anywhere in our great room and see wildflowers, deer, and turkeys. I can hardly wait for the new babies to show up. I work in my garden and play with my chickens.
Outside our 20 acres on Lime Kiln Rd. (I really do live on Lime Kiln Rd. in the Texas Hill Country) is the real world. I pray for my family who lives out there, who have lost jobs, and are on the front lines in the medical field, and I wish I could help them. (Our grandsons live in Austin, and help us with grocery shopping and some farm chores.)
One thing my family knows is our 20 acres away from the real world is a place they can seek refuge at any time.
Thank you for saying this! We can’t wait for your new trilogy!
Always look forward to your weekly comments. Stay safe
Amen to everything you said. And thank you for the Victorian Mystery Series. It is helping me fill the void of China and the Dahlias during this crazy time.
This is true here in the Pacific NW as well. I’ve often heard people commenting on what a beautiful spring this is. Tulips, irises, blossoming trees. Just amazing God art everywhere we look. The usual festivals (Tulip Festival, Iris Festival, Peony Festival, etc.) had to be canceled this year, but many of us are trying to support the growers and farmers by buying bunches of these glorious flowers!