Frost ultimately came to my Covid Garden here in the Valley of Virginia. It was a sad day for me when I had to say “good-bye” to my lovely, fruitful companion. I had been watching the forecasted temperatures and was ready to cover the remains of my flowers and vegetables on a Sunday to protect them, but the frost moved in one night earlier than my plans and took the still colorful blooms and green tomatoes.

Life moves on. And so have I, but I have two more lessons to share from my Covid Garden. The photos in this remaining blog series were taken during the growing season. I knew then what I wanted to write about and how the produce from my small kitchen garden could help me share my thoughts.

This blog on Expect Less as a coping strategy during this pandemic poses some challenges for me. When I suggest that we expect less of self and others, this is not a usual thing we do. In fact, we are often focused on doing more, having high standards, and even perfection. For me to suggest that we Expect Less could sound weak and giving in to the pressures around us. It is not.

Expecting less is more about being realistic in what we can do and kind to our self and others as we accept what is realistically possible. Teachers at all levels of education have been particularly challenged by the demands on them to perform and simultaneously attend to their own needs to adjust their expectations to less despite what is asked of them. Working parents with children attending school from home are simply unable to do all that they have done in the past. Both the parents and the children do well to determine what is possible to accomplish in a day or week and focus on those reasonable, adjusted goals.

And now with the holidays upon us, Expect Less can be a useful reminder. Less gatherings, less food, less gifts; more time with our immediate family, more enjoying the taste of the food we have, more appreciation for what is already in our possession.

No one will be permanently harmed by less right now; in fact, we are helped by being realistic and accepting what is possible. Our minds can be clearer, our moods less agitated, our body less tense, and our spirit more accessible to us.

In the photo above is a yellow squash from my garden. It is one of the only two yellow squash my hill of four plants produced this year. I was excited about these four plants as they were heirloom plants. This particular variety is native to America. I was enchanted with that information and looked forward to a bumper crop of native squash. That was not to happen. I don’t know why, and my experienced gardening friends don’t either. What I do know is that I had to accept less. I had to accept the two squash given to me and not rail against what these plants simply could not produce this year. The squash was delicious. I appreciate the two I was given.

There will be another year. There will be another growing season.


We are lucky here in this part of the Shenandoah Valley - frost has not yet hit us. It has been around us, but not yet here at our home on the James River. I am glad, because the tomatoes and peppers keep producing along with the basil and the beautiful zinnias. In fact, it appears that the zinnias like these cooler temperatures. They are still growing and blooming, offering their beautiful colors and smiling faces.

We continue to live closely here at our country home. Our ages have my husband and I being particularly careful to not expose ourselves to the Covid virus. I know that I have been enjoying this time together as I wrote about in my previous blog. And we each are also honoring when we want to be away from each other. Our separateness usually is in the form of being in different places in the house or on the property.

Honoring the need for the other person to have time for themselves is very important to good mental health and balanced relationships, thus this second living-together suggestion: Honor Separate.

I teach relationship dynamics through the use of circles. In this case of two individuals, each person is a circle. In a healthy relationship, the two circles have a dynamic relationship where the circles can intersect each other as much as is agreeable to each individual. They can completely overlap. And when one person wants to separate and have time for self, that person is able to slide their circle away from the other person’s circle without an issue. Mutual respect for both the relationship and the individuality of each person makes this possible. Trust does, too.

So when my husband goes to work on his writing or is busy with notes he may be jotting down for his work, I respect his space. I try not to interrupt, not to insert myself in what he has going on. He has not left me. He is just doing things which are part of who he is and what builds him as a person. I leave him to his thoughts and work and trust that we will intersect again and again in natural ways as the day moves on.

Honor Separate works both ways. Not only do we want to be in a relationship which honors each person’s needs for time alone, we want to be able to offer this same opportunity to our self to take time away from others and activities. I know that when I step aside to write or play in my gardens, I become calmer and more centered. When I go for my walk, I prefer to go alone so I can be quiet and appreciate the sights and sounds of the world I am traveling through.

Allowing our self to have this separateness can be a challenge. We may feel selfish not inviting the rest of the family to walk with us. We may feel guilty taking time to look through catalogs or read a book when our child is waiting for us to review their homework. We may feel too pressed to get other things done to allow our self to stop and step away.

My experience is that I can always put these obstacles to Honor Separate– these thoughts and feelings - in my way. It’s not that someone else is stopping me from exercising, watching a show, or napping. It’s me. My recovery often has me noticing such self-imposed obstacles and making efforts to remove them. Things that help me to do this include creating a pause in my activities to notice if I would do well to be on my own for a bit, tuning into what I would really like to go do for me for these separate moments, and reminding myself of how restored I feel from time alone.

Looking at the photo of the zinnias still growing in my garden, we see beautiful color and form. Reaching to the sun on their strong stems, each zinnia has its own distinct life and character. The flowers are separate and yet they are all rooted together. Separate and rooted together. What a masterpiece!