September 2020 Newsletter

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Grow Where You’re Planted

I am interviewing small business owners for a magazine story I’m working on. As I listen, I marvel at how each of them is saying the same words to me when I ask how they decided to keep their doors open in March when state regulations and customer fears and a completely unknowable virus swept through the world.

We didn’t have a choice, they tell me.

What else could we do?

We had to find a way.

I realize, as I take my notes, that these business men and women are not just telling me their stories. They are sharing wisdom for us all.

It’s September now, a full six months since our everyday lives were shuttered and shifted and shaken. Most of us are still here. Some of us are mourning those who are not.

But whether we’ve lost our loved ones or our jobs or our savings or our plans or our ideas of what the world should be like, eventually we have to put one foot in front of the other. We have to — and not in the way we thought we would — move forward.

We don’t have a choice.

It stinks, mostly. The losses, big and small. Virtual school. College students sent home only days after they moved into their dorms. Whole sports seasons ended before they began. Theaters dark. Music silenced.

I am the first to let the disappointments crawl in and get me down.

But when I see the artists and entrepreneurs and city leaders and neighborhood volunteers bravely searching for new paths, I am inspired. If they can put aside their fears and search for creative solutions, so can I. Right?

What else can we do?

All summer as I made choices for my family (Camp? Yes. Vacation? No. In-person music lessons? Well, Zoom lessons are working well-enough.) my mantra was: How can we keep moving forward? Smartly. Safely. Responsibly. But trying hard not to stay stuck in the same place.

I knew I could mess this up. I knew I could make a terrible mistake. I knew I could regret my decision. I knew everyone wouldn’t agree with the calls I made.

But I also knew that three months, four months, six months was too long to stand still.

There’s something else the business owners talked about: Their dedication to others. Whether their staff or their family or their customers or their community, there were people whose welfare they felt responsible for and that’s what got them out of bed every day.

For me, it’s my kids — two teens and tween. There’s no way I can trap them in our home if there are woods to wander or responsible places for them to practice their passions. There’s no way I can hide under the covers and wish the sadness would leave us be. (Though many days I want to.)

We have to find a way.

Back in April, my husband planted sunflower seeds in a small patch of dirt along the stairs to our basement. We would see them from our breakfast nook windows once they grew tall and strong.

But they didn’t grow. The squirrels dug up many of them. Others sprouted, then withered. Then, when I dashed down the stairs a few weeks ago, I noticed a few flowers had pushed high into the air.

They made for a straggly stand — we’ve had prettier crops other years. But this August, that only made these more striking.

These sunflowers bloomed. They poked from the soil and stretched upward. And in the end became a bright spot in a troubled summer.

So, as the days grow darker and the uncertainty waxes and there’s less opportunity to be outside, I will take a deep breath. I will look to my sunny blossoms. I will hear the words of people with more energy and optimism than I have.

And I will find a way to take another step into the unknown.

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In my neck of the woods, fall is the season for pottery shows. My go-to event has gone virtual this year, which means anyone can take a peek. Other places to find amazing pottery online: Check out the famed 16 Hands potters or these artists in Seagrove, North Carolina.

September is also a great time to gather, eat and celebrate honey,ciderand hogs.

New podcasts seem to sprout every day. If you’re hankering to hear the wisdom of some of your favorite authors, you’ll want to queue up Sugar Calling. (I really loved this episode.) If you’re ready to be challenged, Nice White Parents should do the trick.

Earlier this year, I was introduced to Angie Smibert’s Ghosts of Ordinary Objects Series. It’s three books, set in southwest Virginia in the 1940s, written for a Middle Grade audience. But I found the stories of a brave tomboy with a magical gift to be well-suited for any reader. Pick up the first book from an independent bookseller both as a distraction from today’s troubles and a way to see them with more clarity.

Performing arts organizations may have the longest road back. But many are finding ways to act, play and dance even without a theater stage. For an intimate evening of ballet, check out Richmond Ballet’s September Studio Series — virtual tickets available.

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Feel good stories don’t get much better than this.

I loved researching this piece — which is full of real-world science projects we can all do from anywhere.

What’s your house remodel tale? Do you love renovating? Hate it? This couple can’t get enough of turning old houses into new gems.

I find myself again itching to nest and lamenting the loss of lightThis article encouraged me to embrace winter’s coming.

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It’s officially fall. The season of soups and sweaters, root vegetables and bonfires. Even without in-person school or cheering for my favorite football (or cross country!) team, I’m determined to savor what we do have: good food from local farms and connecting with friends and family however we can….

So many folks have used these quieter coronavirus months to improve their online presence. I am no exception. Take a look at my updated website for a (hopefully) more seamless way to find past newsletters,published essays and stories, and, of course, recipes. Thanks to my oh-so patient son for the website work and to Julia Roberts at Prisma Media for the new logo!

Till next month, stay safe, eat well, read often.

Published by christinanifong

A writer of stories. About kale and turnips. Seeds and dirt. And, you know, life. Find essays, recipes and writing samples at christinanifong.com