Our COVID-19 disruptions conveniently began with Spring Break. I spent the week before shopping a bit more – buying an extra bottle of olive oil and making sure we had some veggie soup frozen for later but I really didn’t think to systematically go through my cupboards until an emergency was announced and schools closed a day early.

We went to the mountains for a couple days, a trip already planned and one that seemed to align with the instructions to socially distance from our friends and neighbors. We needed those couple days in the sunshine and fresh air, with blue skies for our hikes and incredible views from our windows.

Now we’re back and still technically on break but a new reality is looming. Our governor has already extended the school closures to the end of April and we’re waiting to hear what online learning will entail. There are a lot of unknowns and I’m thankful that this is coming in this season when I’m used to staying home with the girls and crafting new schedules and rhythms for each season.

I’ve been hesitant to make big goals, for myself or the girls, partly because things are changing so rapidly and partly because I don’t want to add stress to an already stressful situation.

Still Life, Pitcher and Fruit Paul Cezanne 1894

I’ve always loved still life paintings and how they give us a glimpse into what was important at a certain moment in time. In the seventeenth century, Dutch painters would create still life scenes to depict wealth and status – each wheel of cheese and vase of flowers told a story about a family. Later, impressionists like Paul Cezanne reimagined still life scenes to show the everyday moments of everyday people. Vincent Van Gogh painted garden flowers and items anyone would find in nearby fields.

Then I read this from The Art of Life by Joan Chittister, in her March reflections around still life paintings:

I, for one, know how easy it is to get caught up in the dramatic and miss the power of the mundane, the wisdom of the daily, the comfort of regularity, the unexciting exciting dimensions of what it means to be really alive. And yet my life cries out for more and more and more of it always.

Joan Chittister, “The Art of Life”

I needed this reminder as we stay close to home and lean into the still life mentality. What is important for our family in this season? We’ll do the schoolwork our district assigns and we’ll have a rhythm to our days because we need that. But I want to teach my girls to look for the still life – for the mundane, for the wisdom of the daily, and for comfort in regularity.

I want them to look back on these months as a time we connected as a family, a time that we learned to argue and forgive in ways we didn’t need to before, a time in which we were together.

I think one of the things we’ll do to start this new reality is create our own still life drawings. I want us to create a tangible reminder that this is a moment to observe, to mark in time, and to share what is most valuable to our family.

Will you join us? I’d love to hear what your still life looks like in this moment.

2 thoughts on “Living a Still Life

  1. Hey Annie,
    This is a poem I wrote yesterday, I think it resonates with your themes so I hope it’s OK to post here. x

    In the time of Corona
    (Poem no. 1)

    I like the quiet.
    I like the calm.
    I like the feeling of contentedness.
    Cocooned in our home, with our garden as a makeshift holding-pen,
    A buffer between them and us.

    ‘Them’ are our neighbours, our friends, our villagers.
    We tread carefully, cautiously measuring our steps
    Leaving adequate space between our persons
    In a blend of embarrassment, citizenship and fear.

    I like the reduction in choices.
    If I want to paint a wall, I can choose between:
    The existing colour or
    The paint leftovers in my basement.
    A choice of 2 or 3.
    Not 2003.
    This brings me peace.

    My family are gathered. Tethered, even.
    And so far, this is not a straining at the leash,
    But a quiet acceptance that
    We belong together.

    We do not practice social distancing.

    I like the way I can be myself. I am not pulled in multiple directions,
    Nagged by a conscience that wants to please most of the people, all of the time.
    We can decide where our thoughts take us and our children on this particular day.
    We can filter, edit and block anything unwanted or untrusted.
    We finally feel like we have the time, space and resources to form our brood, how we choose to.

    I do not want the internet to break.

    I like the acceptance.
    We are not our own masters.
    We are not divine – and never shall be.
    We are subject to the whims and movements the microscopic deity dictating our moves.
    As we are not ourselves endangered, this, too, is freeing.

    I like hearing the sigh of relief taken by the earth.
    A hiatus in its groaning, a breath – snatched – in its protracted suffering.
    How long will it last?

    Perhaps when all this is over, the wisdom we learned in the Time of Corona will last.
    I like to think. So.

    Caroline, Switzerland 29.03.2020

    1. I love this so much, Caroline! We are not our own masters… I’ve been thinking about the ways I like to be in control and how those just aren’t true anymore. We’re leaning in and figuring this out, and I have a feeling we’ll be grateful for these lessons and time. xo

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