The way I see it....saving graces

Out and about and sneaking up on Mr. H

Good morning friends….
I am writing in a whisper, if that is even possible. I am thinking quietly, not wanting to stir the “kins” from slumber. To be honest, I am relishing this time, it reminds me of those early mothering days when I would put a baby down for a nap, holding my breath, so as not to stir the gentle soul….all in the name of getting a few precious moments to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love having my family around me, there are five of us bumping along but as we move into day 22 of our “sheltering in place” I can see a restlessness, signs of “get me out of here” mixed with quiet calm. I can’t quite get a read on where we are all going just yet. I am not certain any of us do except that we are meant to stay home.


I will wait here in the fields
to see how well the rain
brings on the grass.
In the labor of the fields
longer than a man's life.
I am at home. 
Don't come with me.
You stay home too.

I will be standing in the woods
where the old trees
move only with the wind
and then with gravity.
In the stillness of the trees
I am at home. 
Don't come with me.
You stay home too.

~Wendell Berry~

These days..
It is hard to articulate the swirl of emotions surrounding Covid-19. It ways heavy and there is no escaping it. We grieve for those who have passed, those suffering under the insufferable weight of the symptoms and those of us who pray that the spidery web of this pandemic escapes us. We rise, we prepare, we pray and we move forward. For me, it is a reminder that each day of our lives is a blessing, never to be taken for granted. I move forward hopeful and with gratitude.

A time to gather...

Saving graces…
 For our family, one of our saving graces is the woods. As the kids say, this is the perfect house for a “quarantine”. The only neighbors we can see from our windows are creatures large and small. Mr. H and I have been wandering in all directions, venturing wide and far. We have been gently cutting trails as we go, expanding the walk for our poetry trail and a few spots to gather, sit and reflect.  As we walk, I am grateful to have him by my side. If ever there was a perfect time to retire from expat life in Hong Kong, this was it. 

Hello Winston!

We managed a bit of excitement last week with a night visitor, a young bear with an eye on our bird feeder. We had a feeling one was around and were surprised to see him outside our family room one night chasing away our resident porcupine, Priscilla. Seeing that our porcupine has a name, it seemed only fitting to give the bear a name. At the suggestion of Pamela From The House of Edward, we (or rather I) am calling him Winston. We haven't seen him since and that might be the last of him now that the bird feeders are down but it certainly added drama to our family quarantine time. 

Miss Christine perfects the
  Quintessential Chocolate Chip Cookie

Our next saving grace is the kitchen where we are trying new recipes for comfort and health. Our daughter, Miss Claire, baked amazing Quintessential Chocolate Chip Cookies, I have declared them my favorite. Mr. H has been creating up some healthy fish dishes, with a generous dose of chili flakes. Our youngest son, Connor, is our food critic and since he is so keen to remark on all the delicious salads he makes for his lunch, we have declared him the salad chef for family meals…as long as he holds on the chili flakes. Our daughter, Miss Christine, has been perfecting our family pizzas to the point where Mr. H declared them the best Henriques homemade pizza he has ever had. The key is in the flour and the seasoning, you can find the recipe and ingredients here. With thanks to our friend Paula for putting us in the right direction! I am not sure how long this culinary wizardry amongst my family will last but I intend to enjoy it for as long as I can. 

The Gathering Room in the Carriage House

The third saving grace is a having the space for everyone to wander off to their respective study and work spaces. Our internet connection is healthy, allowing for all the modes of communication for working, studying and procrastinating. Our kids have taken over the Carriage House (my Tahilla Gatherings space) as an exercise studio, study, office, hiding space and TV viewing space. 

Mr. H has claimed our barn/garage as his own and has dragged half the forest into it, proudly displaying tree stumps and wood cuts of varying thickness and length. I agreed to buying a chainsaw to help make way in the barn. That was two weeks ago and it is still in the box. He agreed to a lesson on how to use it first. I wince at the thought of it and he does too. In the meantime, he is making good use of his handy Zubat pruning saw.

Mrs. H sets up shop with a view to a clothesline.

As for me, I have fashioned my own work and reading space in front of the "Master and Commander" window which was suppose to be the "Something's Gotta Give" window. Long story, you can read about it here. I am enjoying the space with a view to the woods, our clothesline, blue bird houses and Priscilla Porcupine who strolls by every now and again. It's nice to be using this window space for what I had intended all those years ago. Would I give up the studio for it? Only when in quarantine.. ;) 

Blue bird scoping out a nesting spot

Priscilla porcupines wanders by...

Today, I am reacting quietly to the surge of news and well intentioned emails from family and friends with more news about the news. It is dire, there is no doubt about it. And there is hope and faith in what so many are doing, especially the medical community...

and then the whole wold
walked inside and shut their doors
and said we will stop it all. 
to protect our weaker ones
our sicker ones. our older ones.
and nothing. 
nothing in the history of humankind
ever felt more like love than this.


As I reflect on the past weeks and what is to come, I wish you all good health and safe travels as we journey into the weeks ahead.

Be well, stay safe and take care my friends,

Jeanne xx

PS....If you would like to join the daily conversation, you can find me on Instagram HERE
You can read an update on our April Tahilla Gatherings event HERE


  1. Dear Jeanne, Your life sure has turned topsy-turvy - from solitude at Tahilla Farm, to returning to life as a couple, and now to life as a (almost complete) family again. And all in just a few months. These are strange times but I know you are enjoying your family around you.

    I and my husband are now in the groove of staying home, and I have stopped dreaming about restaurants and fun meetings with friends. Instead we are concentrating on doing our garden (so lucky to have one), and house projects. I find the time can slip away quickly so I make lists of things I want to complete each day - some chores, some pleasures. And as we live in the countryside I can enjoy long walks just as Spring is beautifully beginning here (UK).
    Many of my friends also have their adult children at home but mine are both still working. My daughter is a TV journalist so needs to carry on. Much time spent in the newsroom and in Westminster, but I don't worry. Many of her colleagues and friends believe they have already had the virus; a nasty week or two, or even just a couple of days. All well now. My son is a trauma doctor though and dealing every day with people in a bad state in hospital. I do worry about virus overload though he reassures me. But he has many sad experiences and challenges every day. My heart goes out to those people who lose loved ones.

    For me I want to nurture creativity, sometimes in humble ways - I have been struggling to create a strong starter so I can bake sourdough again. But I am also painting and gilding, a little every day, and trying to improve my watercolour skills. I am also reading of course. I am enjoying once more "The Leopard" by Lampedusa, an old favourite but one I haven't reread for many years. And I have just downloaded and begun a thriller by Peter May which he wrote in 2009 but never published , 'Lockdown', which imagines a situation very very similar to what we are going through now. Prescient.

    The world turns and I hope we can all get out of this (somehow - how?) with a new appreciation of ourselves as part of a community, with common values and hopes, with re-thought priorities for our environment , with kindness and understanding.
    Best wishes to you and yours. x

    1. Dear Trish, thank you for sharing your thoughts as we move through the weeks and nearly a month of sheltering at home. I hope you are well and your family is safe and sound. Working on your watercolour skills is a lovely way to keep the creative rhythm flowing through this time, an essential ingredient to our sanity! I look forward to seeing your work, take good care my friend...until next time. xx

  2. I used to complain about going to work every day but now I work from home and still complain because now I am forced to stay in. We all are. There's three of us trying to do our thing as best we can. I think we're all longing for a respite and to be able to walk outside freely again. Stay safe a d enjoy your walks wa the beautiful woods that surround you.

    1. I would love to know how your world looks as the weeks have passed Lorna, I hope you are able to get out again. So many changes around the world as countries lift and lock down. Staying tuned, staying in place and hoping you are well. Take good care...xx

    MY comment did not take but using CHROME IT WORKED I THINK?!!!

    1. Thank you Elizabeth! Since this post Mr. H has learned his way around a chainsaw. Phew! I just spotted a post of you dancing your way through quarantine in California, in Contessa style, as only you can do! Gorgeous!! xx

  4. It's so nice that if you have to be Staying-at-Home, at least your normally far-flung family is there, too. A great chance to all catch up ... as adults. Enjoy your peace.

    1. Thank you webb, I can't think of another time when we would have all been together for so long. It's been wonderful and comforting to know we built the house to be just the right size. ;) Take care my friend....xx

  5. Hi dear Jeanne - sending Easter greetings to you, Mr. H and the family members isolated at beautiful Tahilla Farm. Couldn't ask for a more perfect place to be isolated (except watch out for the bears!) during this most unsettling time! Bob and I were just saying a few days back that it was great that your dearest had come back from Hong Kong when he did, and now retired thankfully doesn't have to return! What a true blessing that is.
    So take care, stay well and enjoy the slower days we seem to be getting used to. I do worry about the lives lost, the really hard and dangerous days for our wonderful healthcare workers and others, and of course can't imagine how different the world will most likely be after this is over.
    Thinking of you with love, Mary & Bob

    1. Thank you Mary, I hope you and Bob are keeping well as the weeks pass into nearly a month. I am relieved that Mr. H retired when he did. We have settled into a slow living rhythm that has been delightful...stay well and take good care. xx


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