By Nancy L. Johnston author of Disentangle: When You’ve Lost Your Self in Someone Else

By March 16, 2020, I retreated to my home with my husband as we entered quarantine-for-all here in the US. We bought our groceries, I got what I needed from my counseling office, and we came home to stay for a good while. I cleared a space in our daughter’s former room to make my home office, and I began my new career in teletherapy.

I also settled deeply into gardening. Now don’t think big; think sweet kitchen garden with four to six tomato, pepper, squash, and broccoli plants mixed with basil, zinnias, and marigolds. Just the previous fall, we had some trees taken down that were threatening our house; they also had become so large that they shaded what had been our backyard garden many years ago. So as March and April presented themselves, I took to preparing these raised garden beds for their new life. My time hoeing the soil, learning more about fertilizing and mulching, and planting these beautiful green seedlings was centering and soothing.

Now in mid-September, my garden is full of restored sweetness. My plants grew well, producing color and vegetables. And I am repeatedly amazed at how the desolation of taking down the trees last fall—a very upsetting day for me—has turned into this beautiful little garden that calls to me each day to come out and enjoy!

Many of us have COVID gardens. People who sell garden supplies and plants have told us how popular gardening has been during this pandemic, and for very good reasons. In my story, my garden has been a great revival project. I never expected to ever again have enough sun in my yard to grow things. I was clearly wrong. The distress of the tree removal and the tremendous piles of dying brush that lay in our backyard, has, through our efforts, become a welcoming spot on this earth.

And as my garden has grown, so have I. During this planting and growing season, I have also been busy with the release of thesecond edition of Disentangle: When You’ve Lost Your Self in Someone Else. Offering radio interviews and online articles, I have been asked to discuss how the tools in Disentangle can be applied to these pandemic times, which they easily can. Entanglements are often about trying to control what we cannot control. These pandemic times offer us daily opportunities to sort in this way: what I can and what I cannot control.

“Living Closely—Indefinitely” has become both an assignment and essay for me. In the same way that I have been tending to my garden, I have also been tending to our simple life here together and learning what helps in these restricted times. As of today, I have four suggestions for “Living Closely—Indefinitely”:

Celebrate Together

Honor Separate

Expect Less

Respect Different

I hope you will join me over the next several weeks as I offer a blog on each of these ideas for “Living Closely—Indefinitely.” My COVID garden has taught me many practical and spiritual things. Living closely has, too.

Now, out I go to those bright pink zinnias and green peppers shining in the sun waiting to be picked.

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