Isaac’s grandmother passed away last week, and as he and his parents arranged flights to go for her funeral, we decided I’d stay on the island with the kids, just the three of us. Empowered to do things my way, I took them swimming every afternoon down at the estuary beside the beach and we ate leftovers for dinner out of lunchboxes. We painted big sheets of cardboard on the deck and the boys covered their clothes, and then their bodies, in colours. At bath time I indulged in filling the massive old clawfoot tub all the way up, using up all the hot water we had, and then jumped into it with the kids. “A mama bath!” they shouted. When they were both in bed and all the dishes were done, I sat in the quiet house with light from the quarter moon streaming in and felt at peace.
It was hard for me to imagine what to write about this week, despite the fact that so much has gone on in our little world here since my last post – we’ve finished our deck and the floor for our house, Covid arrived on the island with a sweep of infections, and New Zealand’s borders finally opened to the world. None of these things in our little life here seem that important; I’ve been glued to the news and can’t stop thinking about the people of Ukraine, just like I couldn’t stop thinking about those in Afghanistan a few months ago. The peace and simplicity of our life here seems absurd, even criminal, when so many people in the world are living amid violence and uncertainty. How is it that I get to be so lucky when the world is the way it is?
Despite donating all I could to UNICEF, I was weighted down with these thoughts when Isaac came back, tired from his few days away. He took the kids while I got a couple hours to catch up on projects up on our building site.
I’d collected a huge bucket of seaweed from the beach and wanted to mix it with compost in the future veggie garden we’re building. The clay soil is heavy and dried out, and I’ve read that planting lupins, poppies, and crimson broad beans on it would help get the soil life going. If anything it would at least look prettier and feed some bees while we continue to build the house.
I broke a sweat digging in the seaweed, then carried six bags of compost up the hill one by one. For months now, this heap of topsoil that the digger scraped aside when we excavated our building site had been turning to dust in the sun. Now it was laid out and ready to grow something. I loved imagining green things sprouting from it, new life teeming above and below ground. I was kneeling to bury the seeds when I realized that my fervent gardening was really a reaction to what I was feeling in the world right now. Death and destruction call for new life, and there was a need in me to grow something after reading the news day after day.
Mother Teresa once said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” In these helpless moments, when I wish there was more I could do to fix things in the great big world out there, I am drawn to nurturing the soil around me and the little lives I share a roof with. That’s all we can do, most of the time. Pour love into our own little patch of this earth and the people we share it with.