There are many ways to bring joy to this our second summer of the Covid pandemic, but I prefer the ones that are simple, inexpensive, and can be easily accomplished without interacting with large groups of humans who may or may not be vaccinated, may or may not have the virus, and may or may not take common-sense precautions to keep themselves or others safe.
What’s a thinking woman to do when confronted with a second year of pestilence and pitifully inadequate state and local politicians? Well, here are a few of the antidotes I have been using to raise my flagging spirits.
The night blooming cereus in bloom. Photos: Kurt Weiss & Anna Montgomery
- Grow an indoor/outdoor night blooming cereus cactus – Also called Queen of the Night, this plant can be bought in a nursery or even started by placing a piece from a friend’s cactus in good-quality potting soil or cactus growing medium. It will root on its own. Amazing. My year-and-a-half-year-old plant bloomed a few nights ago for the first time this summer. These cacti bloom at night, for one night. My cereus had five buds: three opened one night, two opened the next. And what other-worldly flowers they have with a delicious fragrance. During the late spring, summer, and early fall, put the cactus outside in shaded or indirect morning sun (I have one on my porch and one beside our house near our porch). Bring your plant indoors for the winter. From November till May, I have mine near a large window that gets afternoon sun (although morning sun would be fine). My cereus grows exponentially over the winter. When the branches get too big, just clip them off and start another pot. What a mysterious and interesting plant! If the plant is happy, it will surprise you how much it will grow in the winter. And what an easy plant to grow!
- Give yourself a refreshing spritz with Avene Thermal Spring Water – On your face, on your body, when you are outside in hot weather, before you put on moisturizer, when traveling, after a workout, after shaving, on the beach–wherever, whenever. You say, hey, it’s just water. Nope. No one does toiletries like the French. The spray nozzle is a spa experience unto itself! Spray it, let it dry naturally for a few minutes. It has minerals that are healthy for the skin. You deserve it! It is even safe for sensitive skin. Not expensive either. The thermal water sprays come in three sizes: $9, $14. and $18.50.
- And put serum not just on your face, but your body as well, especially after a shower or bath with Necessaire The Body Serum (yes, it is French too) – This serum allows you to apply hyaluronic acid on your body as well as your face. And no, I do not receive any of these products for free or even a percentage off. They are just products that make me feel pampered. Maybe they will work for you too. And all these fun products are good for men and women. Necessaire The Body Serum is $45 and fragrance free.
- Take an aromatherapy mineral and epsom salts bath – with Aura Cacia Chamomile for tranquility and Geranium for comfort. Soak for 20 minutes, and you are new person! These blends make an entire house smell like a spa. You can buy a 16 oz. container from Aura Cacia for $13.55 or a 2.5 oz. packet for $3.57. Besides my favorites of chamomile and geranium, these mineral baths are also available: Balsam Fir, Cedarwood, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Lemon, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Sweet Orange, Tea Tree, and Ylang Ylang.
- Read a humorous, non-self-help, self-help book by British journalist Oliver Burkeman – Choose between Help! How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done OR The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking OR his latest that just came out, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. (His new book is available through our local bookstore Union Avenue Books for just $13.99.) The Wall Street Journal calls Four Thousand Weeks “provocative and appealing”. His books are not so much about time management as they are encouraging us to do more of the things that charge and recharge us and less of the things that drain us. More of the joy, less of the meaningless.
- Take care of your lips – Hey, cause it is a dry, windy, cold or hot world. Hanalei Lip Treatment (Clear) can be used by anyone (men and women) to take care of their parched lips. I put it on before I go to bed (I also use it all day long), and I can still feel it on my lips when I wake up the next morning. That’s staying power. It has Kukui seed oil, beeswax, shea butter, and a host of other softening oils and ingredients. If you want long-lasting pucker power, this is the lip balm for you. The lip treatment is on sale now for 25 percent off its regular price of $20.
- Wash your car at the easiest and most fun car wash in town – Yes, a fun car wash. Three years ago we moved to a house near the downtown area of Knoxville, Tennessee, and gave up, yeah you guessed it, a two-car garage. Our cars have been suffering daily doses of bird and tree droppings. Then our next-door neighborhood said she and her husband use Pure Magic Carwash that has a location about five minutes from our home. We tried it and it is wonderfully Covid perfect. I ride through the carwash–which is my zen moment of three or so minutes of having nothing whatsoever that I have to do–then they have plenty of free vacuums to clean your interior, and plenty of parking spaces so you can wipe off the little bit of water the machine did not remove. We have monthly plans that allow us to take our cars as often as we want. The packages are $19.99, $24.99, or $29.99, and there are seven locations around Knoxville. We were paying $9 a go for a drive-through carwash that was doing nothing but splashing around water and a bit of suds. This has been a life-changer. It makes me feel powerful, organized, in charge of my life, and as the sign says when I drive out: “Stop. You look fabulous.”
- Listen to music from The Mavericks (Latin, eclectic rock, country–they can really play any style of music!), Natalia Lafourcade (Mexican, dance, pop, and folk), and the late Johnny Clegg and Savuka (African, Euro-African). What all these musicians share in common is their zest for life no matter what. Born in England, Johnny Clegg grew up in the apartheid of South Africa, living with his Jewish mother after his parents’ divorce. He defied the separation of whites and blacks, learned Zulu culture and music, and was arrested repeatedly for being with his black friends after curfew. The Mavericks’ trumpet player Lorenzo Molina Ruiz was attacked for speaking Spanish to a friend in a Franklin, Tennessee, restaurant. Although Natalia Lafourcade did not grow up under apartheid or suffer violence for being Mexican, her father, Gastón Lafourcade, a celebrated Chilean musician, dismissed her musical choices as not classical or serious enough. She persevered and has worked in a host of artistic and musical genres. What these three musicians have in common is fusion–the bringing together of disparate styles–and joy. All three make me want to dance and sing and share the joy with others.
- Meditation through the Calm app – I was never a person who thought meditation would work for me because I have a very active mind. But the Calm app that I access through my iPhone has daily ten-minute meditations that have really helped me feel that I can better handle my every-day life and the sorrows that inevitably come my way. After the free trial periods, the app offers a host of price points from monthly to yearly with special add-on options. Check them out carefully and choose the one that is best for you.
And keep growing, especially in the fallow periods. Learn from the life-affirming movie, The Gardener, a documentary about self-taught American horticulturalist Frank Cabot (1925-2011). This beautiful man created one of the most spiritual gardens in the world, his beloved Les Quatre Vents in the Charlevoix region of Quebec in Canada. Yes, he wanted visitors to have a spiritual experience with his garden. He also worked with like-minded people around the world to save endangered gardens. His work continues now through The Garden Conservancy, a nonprofit organization he started in 1989 to preserve gardens for future generations.
Frank said gardens have souls and he wanted people who visited his garden to have a life-altering experience by communing with it.
Everybody has a garden within them, and it’s a way of expressing one’s creativity.Frank Cabot, Plantsman and Self-described Horticultural Enthusiast
We can create our own gardens whether they are indoors, outdoors, metaphysical, or solidly literal. Nourish yourself, create beauty; grow something, create something. And if you are lucky, you can get your hands dirty, see something bloom, and experience the world smiling at you through the eyes of a cat or a dog or another fellow animal that we are lucky enough to share this planet with.
~ Anna – 8/17/2021