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the essentials

2020 March 27
by Rachel Turiel

Dearest dear ones,

Last night as we all sat down to dinner Rose said, “we’ve been eating so well since the Coronavirus.” Dan and I looked around at the latest iteration of deer sausage, bulk-bin grains and kid-friendly vegetal back up, which looked a lot like what’s been on the menu since the kids began eating solid food. 

“Do you think it’s actually that we’re enjoying our meals more?” I asked. 

It’s strange, really, to be in the middle of what seems like one of Col’s post-apocalyptic dystopian novels, and to recognize that we’ve been enjoying our meals more. The kids are no longer arriving at the table as a quick stopover between decelerating from soccer practice and groaning off to do homework. (Homework! What a weird thing to be doing with your one precious life). Last night, Col finished dinner, washed his plate and came back to the table to hang out and wonder, “what would happen if I snorted salt?”

Suddenly our world is smaller, which, as someone who’s never been very geographically ambitious, suits me ok. And though when I run into friends in the neighborhood I have to hold the hugging animal of myself back, being in the live company of others feels sacred. Even at six feet away. Even for fifteen minutes. In the absence of physical contact, and the presence of shared uncertainty, I can feel our human hearts arcing towards each other. I hope we can remember this.

One of the most impactful things my teacher Miki Kashtan has pointed to is “Capitalism wants us to solve non-material needs with material goods.” Meaning, we meet our needs for belonging, fun, connection, purpose, rest, choice, etc… through consuming things that can’t touch what we’re actually longing for. You know what I’m saying? And, in the process, the mining, manufacturing, advertising, and shipping that surrounds these goods creates profound harm, most of which is invisible to us, the consumer. And, the happiness of buying things has likely never touched the happiness of being connected to people and the natural world, for anyone. 

And now, we are asked to stop buying what is non-essential, and we are asked to be with ourselves, and in some ways, life seems saner. Or, maybe it’s that the essential is rising to the top, so we can really see it. The daily mix of chickadees, house finches, juncos, and goldfinches are like gifts I’m privileged to open with my eyes, even if we’re going a little broke feeding them. The first hugs of the morning–when we’re all reunited back into the light of these bewildering times, called upon to make sense of another day–these are essential. Last night, after eating (and praising!) deer stew #563, we stood outside watching the crescent moon cradling the brightness of Venus, each of us silently in awe.

Why were we so busy? 

Right now Col and I are sitting together in the living room; he is writing a paper on the effect of Coronavirus on the U.S. Census (thank you online school!!!) while listening to what the church lady in me likes to call “explicit rap.” I give him periodic shocked looks over language, which I think helps him feel like he’s fulfilling his role of teenager. He’s also writing and illustrating the new comic strip, Epic Olympic Fails. Sucks when an olympic slalom ends with an ill-placed ski pole; the sound being splurch.

Deer stew #563:

Lots of Scrabble happening, as per usual; though we’re adding new challenges like: stay in plank for as many seconds as points you just earned. So far, challenges are PG due the new, perma-presence of children. Notice the Scrabble “lazy susan” Dan made me for Hanukkah so we can just spin the board without disrupting words!

Dan, working from home:

Why not remove all our outlet and switch plate covers and paint them in our very small kitchen?

Table football. We are really digging deep here.

I’ve been planting a prepper’s fortune of seeds. The usuals like kale and tomatoes, and also the poppy seeds that I collected 17 years ago, and the lemon gem marigolds, that I’ve given up on ten times because they haven’t germinated, though this could be the year. Every seed I plant feels somehow sacred, and also like the most ordinary and practical thing I could do.

Oh, and books. We stocked up before our library shut down, and I highly recommend Know My Name, by Chanel Miller, a phenomenal young writer, who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner, the Stanford swimming star, and who can finally tell her story. Also, Such a Fun Age, a complicated, engaging novel by Kiley Reid, about race, class, parenting and belonging and not-belonging. (Until Jeff Bezos starts donating ventilators to hospitals and laptops to underserved children please support independent booksellers).

And if it sounds like it’s all wholesome Waldorfy projects here, don’t be fooled, my kids are imbibing screen-time like Amish teens who’ve just left the farm. A week ago we lifted all screen limits as an experiment. Maybe they’ll reach their own natural limits Dan and I said to each other with all the naive hopefulness of parents of newborns who say he’s just so mellow. 

And, honestly, we were sick of policing screen-time. And curious about what would happen if we took that factor out of our relationship. I’ve enjoyed the sound of Col’s friends voices coming through the screen as they’re inexplicably traveling in the same Minecraft world simultaneously, one of them asking, “Do we need more iron, Col?” And snapchat seems somehow less nefarious now with Rose’s friends sending goofy videos recounting their days in isolation. 

Also, I know not everyone has been able to enjoy the Coronacation. My dear friend who is head of the 911 call center in a neighboring county has responsibilities which mean she is never not working. For some kids, school is safer and more stable than home; for many students online learning is not an option; health care workers are seeking donations of protective wear so they can stay safe. Clearly this is not a world that works for all, or even most. And what even the most privileged and generous of us can offer is simply a bandaid. I am grateful for those bandaids, and we need systemic change.

I have a crick in my neck that seems to have materialized sometime between the end of hugging and our libraries closing. It’s like the fingers of helplessness and uncertainty have clamped down on my soft tissue. Part of me is desperate to get back to normal, and another part is terrified that we will actually go back to normal, not having learned from this global pause.

Today it is snowing lightly. Rose, who, in her earnest way showers and dresses for online school, is doing an art assignment while chatting with her friend Isabel, who’s doing the same project in her home across town. Our outlet covers are being beautified. Every day I get closer to launching online classes (“Communication skills for close quarters.” Anyone interested?). Col was just spotted trolling for chocolate in the pantry, which is exactly how we work from home.

Today, Dan and I are butchering a deer and making sausage to give to out of work community members. So many friends are checking in. A hotel in Durango just offered up rooms free of charge to anyone in need. I speak to my parents more often than ever, and this is for my sake not theirs. When we play street soccer later, we won’t have to worry much about cars.

We are lucky, so so lucky. And I hope you are finding the ways in which you are too. 

Stay safe and nourished and send news from your place in the world,


17 Responses leave one →
  1. Sheri permalink
    March 27, 2020

    There is a lot of silver lining to this pause–we are feeling it in our house too. Do you offer online courses?! I would be up for that! Always feel inspired after reading your posts

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 27, 2020

      Shari, online classes coming soon. :)

  2. Pamela J Marshall permalink
    March 27, 2020

    Thank you, Rachel! Your blog posts, pics, and perspectives always make me smile!

  3. Ike permalink
    March 27, 2020

    Wish we could have rose come over
    to beautify our outlet covers.
    I agree talking to friends in person, if you can do it,
    Beats zoom calls. It’s possible and uplifting.
    That was our experience this morning. Be careful
    re physical distancing

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 28, 2020

      Rose can envision a mail order outlet cover business. :)

  4. Ellen Matthews permalink
    March 27, 2020

    so wonderful to “hear” your blog voice! We’re tempted to send all our naked outlet covers to Rose, if only we could do it while maintaining distancing.

  5. Brenda permalink
    March 27, 2020

    I enjoyed a peak at your coronavacation. I also hope and pray that we all learn from this, and I’m not sure I want to get back to “normal” either. There is a lot to be said for “family-time, rest, cooking from scratch, reading books and planting seeds.” Even though that is our normal, it’s not for so many people….maybe for the ones that get to rest this will be good. My heart of course goes out to so many, who can’t rest, and are on the front lines of this…many of whom are my extended family members. Stay safe everyone…..

  6. Anonymous permalink
    March 27, 2020

    Enjoyed this Rachel. Thank you.

  7. Molly permalink
    March 28, 2020

    I love hearing your updates and thoughts on life. Would love to take a class with you!!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 29, 2020

      Cool! I will let you know when it rolls out. :)

  8. elizabeth permalink
    March 29, 2020

    Hello from Belgium! So lovely to read this. I am enjoying our calm home time a lot, secretly hoping my girl won’t have to go to school for the rest of the year while feeling guilty about enjoying things too much.
    I worry about the impact of the lockdown in India a lot and as a strange result, have been reading my Indian cookbook, cooking Indian foods and drinking chai. I don’t really understand why, perhaps I want to honor and celebrate Indians trough their wonderful food?

    I wish something good would come from all this…

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 29, 2020

      I had a moment of guilt yesterday for enjoying time together with my kids when they normally might be scarce on a weekend. And I think the possibility of good coming from this is fully available on individual and systemic levels, if we want it.

  9. Nancy permalink
    March 29, 2020

    Dear Rachel,

    I purposely saved your blog update to savor….now it’s been read and reread! Love to read your posts. All is well with us in Mancos. We are sheltering in place, avoiding grocery stores (for as long as we can) and going on daily walks/hikes in our area. I am a grandmother to 7 and none are close by. So I send a daily Grandma Challenge M-F for the grands. It’s optional but most are accepting the challenge. Fun for me and them! Doing a lot of FaceTime and phone calls. And I am writing letters and letters and letters. I have a milestone birthday in December and have challenged myself to write 70 letters to 70 different people. Fun project and to think I dreamed up this crazy idea last year, before coronavirus! Timing is everything.

    I love the painted outlet covers! Great idea! Sending virtual hugs! Be well.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 29, 2020

      Nancy, thanks for sharing about your corner of the world. I LOVE the idea of a Grandma Challenge for the grands. In strange ways, we have opportunities to become *closer* with our loved ones right now.

  10. M moon permalink
    April 1, 2020


    I too am trying out seeds I had given up on. Mostly peppers and old tomatoes I saved. Thanks

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