No Man (or Dog) is an Island

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Vashon Island Ferry at sunset

I wake up early these days, even earlier than past habits would insist, around 4 am. The world is dark, but not the mind. My thoughts tend to ricochet in my head like the steely orbs in a pinball machine with continuous play. Most concerns center around friends and family, then encompass financial worries, and inevitably my own mortality. Heady stuff before one’s first cup of coffee, I’d say.

In bed, Buddy, my bulldog, finds comfort in sidling up next to me. I am his personal human radiator where he can lay his head on my back, and find the fit and stability of a cup to a saucer. When my legs go numb, we get up. Well, I get up.

Down in the kitchen nook, Buddy is an unwavering companion and eager listener when I discuss the tenets of isolation with him (especially if it precedes his meal time). He’s all for for it, basically a poster child for sheltering at home: eat, nap, whine, sit on a sunny porch, rub butt on door jamb, repeat. I’ve tried all of his protocols and have to say they’re quite effective as temporary curatives and distractions. Thank you, Buddy. Wise dog, grasshopper.

Buddy thinking, “Has it come to this: dressing up the dog?”

As for the rest of the day, you’d think I’d get more done. They say idle hands are the tools of the devil, but nah, that would take too much energy and focus right now. For me, idle hands are only that: idle hands. I feel like my Mo has broken up with my Jo. I walk around and look at things, as running subtitles follow me around the farm. I appear to be in some sort of wait-and-watch mode sanctioned by my own inaction.

“I really need to fertilize the orchard.”

“The pasture isn’t going to mow itself.”

“Time to harvest dahlia bulbs.”

“I really should finish venting the greenhouse.”

“The peach trees will die if I don’t get them in the ground.”

“It’s time to clean out the chicken coop.”

On the bright side, I am doing one thing (no, not bathing or doing dishes): keeping in touch with family and friends. I’ve never communicated with so many people on a daily basis. Phone calls, texting, emailing, facebooking, instagramming have all made my “house arrest” bearable.

And if I need a dose of realness, from a distance of course, I rely on my egg customers to check in from the back porch stoop with me behind the kitchen window. We chat, catch up, and in some unscripted way, wish each other good health and a return to normalcy.

When kindness pays a visit, the favor is returned in every goodbye and socially-distant wave. Some friends drop by with veggie scraps for the chickens. They too need a diversion, (both friend and chicken) and what better free entertainment than watching the social intricacies and shenanigans of a large flock of chickens fighting over leaves of wilted arugula and stale ciabatta. (Yep, gourmet friends.)

The streets of Seattle are abandoned, Vashon roads scenically (and eerily) empty. Yet, frog choruses cheer the woods. Daffodils dot sleepy pastures. Hens scratch, Roosters court. Tree moss turns green as a garden hose, and bees flee the hive like kids on spring break. Perhaps, the gift of isolation is just that. We have time to notice the world around us, to observe, and to reacquaint us with ourselves. (Nice to meet you, Tom.)

I may live on an island, but even in isolation, I am not alone. The world finds me in surprising ways, perhaps not in a hug or handshake as before, but instead in quiet moments of reflection and beauty. Fiddlehead ferns still unfurl. Buddy is still the handsomest chap in the house. Glorious spring sunsets still paint the sky. The fountain still welcomes a soiree of song birds, and I can still feel love.

Please, be well, practice safe health standards, listen to the experts, love your peeps, hug your dog (or cat, though a little more dicey) and don’t worry about what you didn’t do today, instead smile over who and what you loved today.

Here’s a gallery of images from around the farm, should you need a little field trip:

  • Vashon farm house

55 COMMENTS

  1. We too have fallen into a routine. I am fortunate to be able to work from home so my commute is a short walk to a detached woodshop, watching the dawn glow get brighter, walking inside to get a refill on water and tea and my important good morning to the little ones. who always ask when work will be done. We cook something nice for supper, nothing crazy, just tasty. We try to avoid talking about things too much, but it inevitably comes up and the questions of how to navigate life in crazy times. The little ones play outside, the snow melts, birds flit through the trees unworried, the world moves on and I wonder what it will look like in six months, one year, five years and then think I really need to get those last seeds started.

    • Jim what a lovely image you pen, bringing to light the beauty of a day quietly and warmly embraced with loved ones, good food, and the nature outside your window. Thank you.

  2. Thanks Tom for keeping in touch with all of us who eagerly await your next post. Times are crazy right now but many of us are still on our same schedules-animals need daily care, pens need to be cleaned, eggs gathered, etc. Those of us that live rurally, on property, are very fortunate that we normally social distance, we do not go into town often, and only notice changes such as empty shelves when we do go to the grocery store. Stay safe and healthy-those chores you mentioned will eventually get completed! Keep us informed on the happenings on your farm and Mr. Buddy-we (your readers) love to hear from you!

    • Thank you Laura for the lovely note. Buddy is sitting at my feet begging for a piece of apple. This is a good low cal treat for both of us, but I dare say, it does have one unfortunate side-effect, well for Buddy that is. 😉

  3. Dear Tom,
    You’ve written such a poignant post today. I’m glad to hear you have people dropping by for this and that and a quick socially appropriate chat. You help so many with your warmth and your generous humanity. Thanks again for making me smile.

  4. Thank you Tom, for your gentle and cheerful post. It has brightened my day considerably. I live on a small bit of land (3 acres) on the other side of the world – Tasmania – and your words echo so many of my feelings at the moment. All the jobs I know need doing, and gratitude for my lovely dogs and chooks (Australian for chickens), and geese, and the myriad of wildlife that normally plague my life but are keeping me amused at present. My daughter says I should eat the rabbits … whaaaaaat? Stay well.

    • Thank you Rae, your kind words have traveled half way around the world to my delight, and brought a broad smile to my face. It’s a treat to hear from you from Tasmania and celebrate the good part of our world being small. Well wishes to you and yours, uh, and that rabbit.

  5. I’m glad your “should do” list is on a back burner and Kindness, Communication, and Connection front and center where they belong. That’s one thing about crisis, personal or global -the opportunity to reassess priorities. Consider this a wave and a shout of support from across the miles!

  6. Thank you for the calm in the storm. Your words and pictures are a gift.❤️❤️❤️
    Missing my grands as we are all on our 14thday with more to come. Thankful for FaceTime and bloggers as friends! Blessings to you, Tom and Buddy!

  7. Surprisingly, the days seem to go by much faster during this house arrest of ours, at least for me. Being diligent about eating leftovers, working outside in the yard more, seeing how friends and family are coping, having fun with Zoom video conferencing and enjoying the nature sounds that seem to be much louder and present. Thanks for your perspective on things Tom, it warms the heart. Some day I will try one of those amazing pies that you create. Stay safe my friend.

  8. Hi Tom,
    Glad to hear you too have not quite grabbed onto the regular chores and have taken to wandering about and checking in with friends and family even more than normal l. I don’t feel quite as off keel as a single+one (4-legged). We WILL eventually get the mojo turned on but apparently there is no rush. My best to you and the Budster. Ciao from sarah and solo down here in Dockton:)

    • Sarah, I take drives around the island to soak in as much beauty as my senses can take; and it’s usually a lot. When I drive along the harbor to Dockton and then up the hill to circle my return, I drive by your sweet home and say to Buddy, “Blow a kiss to Sarah and Solo!” Suffice it to say, he translates that into licking my ear off while standing on the center console. We’ll work on that Sarah! Take care, and thank you for the well wishes and kind words.

  9. What a beautiful glimpse of your living on the island, thank you, Tom!
    In this times of seclusion we have the opportunity to live a bit slower than before, can reflect about all those little obstacles and jewels daily live brings along.
    Every morning getting up, I take a deep breath at the window, inhaling all this beauty in the fields and meadows around. What a joy! I’ m so grateful for living amidst birds and bees and sunshine.. sounds a little bit plain… maybe, doesn’t worry me. 🙂
    Spring is on the loose here in Austria and I’m eager to get things started in my veggie garden. Unfortunatly I damaged my ankle, so I have to quarantine double wise. But my lovley dog snores along and gives me slobbering kisses, so what… days could be worse… 😉
    I found out that people walking by are much more friendly and waving and greeting from a distance.. there’s a feeling of more kindness in the air. This is not only spring, it’s a side effect of being more by ourselves I think…

    • Mica, and what a lovely peek into your life in Austria. May your ankle heal quickie and the world opens its door again for dog walks, veggie gardening, and embracing the friends and family who now must wave. And may the kindness stay put. Well wishes, thank you Mica.

  10. Thank you Tom, I totally relate to your well written and lovely description of your new and sudden reality. It’s a balancing act: the beauty of life vs the uncertainties. I look forward to your next post. In the meantime, my friend, be careful and stay healthy. PS Love the photos.

    • Thanks Debi, I hope you are well in KC. If I lived there I would be feasting on takeout BBQ and fried chicken. Instead here on Vashon its quinoa salads and fried eye sandwiches, which I guess isn’t so bad. I hope to return to KC one day to visit, with MA in tow, and take in the joys of your fine city. Take care,

  11. Dear Tom
    Thank you for your beautiful words, and pictures.
    We are staying in, walking the dog and contacting friends and family. Jonathan and I would love to get back out to vashon island and see you and your wonderful home.
    Stay healthy and thank you for your pictures and wonderful words.

    • Hi Darcy, so glad to hear from you, and give Jonathan a big hug vicarious hug for me. Glad to hear you’re staying in; and dogs, and family and friends are still in the mix. You’re always welcome, that is when we can leave our front porches. Take care,

  12. Dear Tom: Thank you for your lovely words and beautiful images. And for sharing your life on exquisite Vashon. Seems an idyllic place to have to “hole-up”. The gifts of spring must surely help sustain you . . . and your descriptions will me too, as here in northern Michigan that season has not yet arrived. Stay safe, be well and a big hug to sweet Buddy.

    • Hi Ann, thanks for the nice note and well wishes. Spring is on hold this week, with a series of chillier temps and rain systems passing through. Oh wait, that’s how it usually is. May spring come soon to your northern corner. cheers!

  13. Absolutely lovely post, Tom! I am so tired of people whining about physical isolation when so many people are putting their lives on the line in service jobs. I so agree with you that this is a time for reflection, appreciating the big and little things in life and reconnecting with ourselves and our friends and family through all the many means at our disposal if we live a comfortable first-world life. I know as you do that people who live without a dog have it waaaay tougher! I share with you the feeling of lethargy, and have given myself permission to live with it. Thanks for the tour of your lovely home and garden!

    • Hi Sandra, yep, I sure have it easy, when considering the great folks on the front lines. I’m often brought to tears with the stories on the nightly news where nurses, doctors, essential parties, first responders and delivery workers are keeping us all running and making great sacrifices.

    • Thank you Patty, you too! And you know I’ve been eyeing your bran muffin recipe and thinking this weekend is the time to make them. Thanks for sharing that recipe on your blog!

  14. This wonderful post is the first thing I read to start my day today. What a treat! Your state of being, rather than doing, seems perfect to me and I’m grateful to get a glimpse of your reflections that are coming through it. Seeing you, Buddy, the tour of the farm and (especially) Little Gemma warmed my heart. Sending appreciation and a virtual hug across the water.

    • Litte Gemma sends her love, as do Buddy and I. Next time I’m on a beach walk, I’ll wave to you in West Seattle. Always a gift to hear from you. Thank you Melissa.

  15. Good morning Tom and Buddy. Thank you for the post this morning. Spring has sprung here in Prescott Az. I received a couple of Climbing Roses from David Austin yesterday and will be digging today. You and Buddy stay safe and know we are all in this together. Its heart warming to see everyone pitching in with positive thoughts and hope we all learned a thing or two after this terrible virus passes.

    • Thank you Jackie. And let me know about your climbing roses when they get growing. I have just planted a couple David Austin climbers, too: Malvern Hills and Lady of Shallot. Enjoy the spring and thank you again for the nice note.

  16. Good morning Tom and Buddy. Always look forward to seeing what you two are doing. You are a bright light during these difficult times. Love seeing your view from your place of heaven on earth.

    Teddi and I are doing ok here in the midwest. Our lives have not changed that much due to living in a rural area we were already self isolating. Also I keep a good supply of necessary things due to living out of town.

    Keep up the good work on keeping everyone informed on how you and Buddy are doing.

    I love reading all of the messages from others that you have made friends with on your site. The internet does provide us a much bigger world to stay connected to and it does help to hear from other who are going through the same thing but in other areas. Makes me feel less alone.

  17. Hi Janet, I love your perspective. It’s so true, the messages from others, strangers who are now friends, is a striking example of the good in the world, when we share and care and honor our neighbors as ourselves. Take care and thank you for your kind and comforting words.

  18. One thing on my “20 for 2020” list is “take a pie-baking class with Tom.” Dreaming of the day when that can actually happen. Stay well, we are sending you and Buddy good vibes from over here on Maury.

    • Emily, we are feeling the fine vibes you send cut across Tramp Harbor up over the hill and landing right here. Buddy and I thank you! And yes, may we look to the days of baking pies together and popping open the prosecco! Best to you and Michael

  19. Hello Tom and Buddy!!

    Changes!! Changes!! Our heart grieves for those moments of past comfort and memories but one most realize that one has a choice of how we are going to view and grow with the these new changes.

    It is an adjustment but our attitude to life and our family ( human/animals/nature etc.) and faith is what carries us through the times that our heart and brain are in shock thinking “What the HELL am I suppose to be doing NOW!!”

    Lots of love from V and the Furry Family,

    PS: We now have an American member to our Furry Family: Oscar ( Part Rat terrior and Border Collie). He has come here to watch over us!!

    • V,
      Your words are like a warm hug. Thank you, and Congratulations on the newest member of your furry family. Sounds like a wonderful addition.

  20. Hi Tom,

    It’s good to hear your voice and to know you are well – your thoughts are inspiring so keep sharing them…

    Be safe and best wishes to you and your family in these uncertain times.

    • Hi Randy, what a nice surprise. I hope you and Karen and Lei and Alex are doing well. Please tell me we’re not old enough for puzzles and sudoku quite yet. 😉

    • Thanks Jill, I shared what you wrote with Buddy. His response, “She is lovely and insightful.” And Buddy is a great judge of character. 😉

  21. A delightful read. Bright, lively, and thoughtfully caring – a lovely way to start the day. Thank you, Tom and Buddy!

  22. You are a light, Tom. Thanks for this post. It’s true, we’re slowing down (some of us – way down) and as a result coming into more intimate contact with our human family and or earth family. In my prayers, I find myself hoping that this experience will bring about a cultural shift (necessary in my opinion) that values life over destruction of the home planet, care and concern for all over get what I can for me and mine. ‘Nough said. Thank you for the light and joy you (and Buddy) bring us – everyday.

  23. From one under-the-gun state (NY) to another, cheers to the pleasures of being at home. We’ve adapted nicely; my partner’s studio is about 50 miles to the north in an urban area, so he’s decamped here to ride things out, where it’s rural and a little less scary. Meanwhile one of the bathrooms has been turned into a darkroom for now, and I discovered the Holy Grail of home ownership: a new wall where a bookshelf will fit. There’s plenty of cooking and reading in between creative pursuits, and everyone seems to be catching up on sleep. Stay healthy there, and we’ll try to do the same here!

  24. Anne you’ve painted a wonderful picture of sheltering in place as it ought to be: books, cooking, naps, and loved ones. What else is there? Take care.

  25. Hi Tom,
    Glad to hear you too have not quite grabbed onto the regular chores and have taken to wandering about and checking in with friends and family even more than norma. I don’t feel quite as off keel as a single+one (4-legged). We WILL eventually get our mojo turned on but apparently there is no rush. My best to you and the Budster. Ciao from sarah and solo down here in Dockton:)

    • Hi Sarah, So nice to hear from you. I wave to you and Solo, when I go on country drives with Buddy. Dockton is our favorite directional diversion. I look forward to one day soon, stopping and knocking on your door for a howdy-do when isolation is no longer called for! Take care, and may I see you soon.

  26. Buddy,

    Glad to know that you and Tom are fairing well on your beautiful island. Rather crazy here on the mainland. Very nice of Tom to provide us the beautiful pictures of your home and farm.

    Take care.

    Tad

    • Tad,
      Buddy just wanted to let you know how appreciative he is regarding your insight and understanding that he should always get top billing. He sends his regards and best slobbers.

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