I started this blog to share some of the thoughts I have along the journey of life. I love to travel and spend time with my family and friends. A good meal, breaking bread with those I love, gives my life meaning. So does travel. I adore dreaming of sites to visit, not just to check them off on a list. Rather, I consider myself a student of life, traveling as an explorer, to open my mind to all the possibilities the world holds in store for me and for others. I love to travel to discover how different the world is in terms of climate, cultures, politics, terrain, economy, etc. but also to discover how SIMILAR the people are. Despite language barriers, much can be communicated with a smile or gestures. Language is simply a means to communicate, yet there are so very many other ways to communicate. Once when I was in French-speaking Canada, I realized that my 7th grade French class didn’t teach me the word for “straw”. However, when I thought about it, I was able to communicate to the very French-speaking waiter in a very French-speaking restaurant about my need for a “cylinder through which to drink” in my limited French vocabulary. Travel challenges the mind and soul, stretching us to problem solve and form conclusions about all that we experience. THAT is the type of travel I enjoy best. “All’s well that ends well”, as they say………….”Life is Good” as well.
After self-isolating for about a month now here in Florida, I am looking forward to getting back into society at some point soon. Very soon. While I can always keep busy with a project or hobby inside the house, I am really looking forward to getting back together with my friends and getting back to making connections with other people day to day. On this day of angst from feeling cut off from the rest of society, I can’t help but thing of a remarkable young lady who was thirteen years old and the self-isolation she went through.
I’m thinking about the legendary Anne Frank, who was a Jewish girl who went into hiding with her family and a few friends in 1942 because of the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. For two years, she and her family hid in the upper floor of her house and couldn’t even flush a toilet for fear of being heard by the workers in the floors below. For two years, she and her family could not speak a word during the day time and hid in their small sequestered area of the house without any daylight, as they drew the curtains shut in the day and the night.
The house on the left side of the diagram above shows the Frank’s main house and Mr. Frank’s business. Directly above the white triangle roof in the middle of the diagram between the two houses you will see the room which contains the bookcase that was built to cover the doorway into the “secret” annex part of the house where the Franks and their friends lived for two years. Their secret quarters appears in the building on the right side of the diagram as the upper three floors and attic. Four hundred and fifty square feet is the area of the portion of the annex in which they hid for two years, about one seventh the size of my home. Four hundred and fifty square feet is the area in which eight people self-isolated for TWO years. Makes the month that we have been self-isolating and the space we have to do it in seem pale by comparison.
Anne Frank was the age of my daughter, “Teen Traveler”, when we visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam last year. Any given thirteen year old in America today is concerned with their phones and friends, yet Anne Frank was completely cut off from her friends in 1942. Her father fabricated a story about how the family went away to explain their absence from the community , and poor Anne did not even have time to say good bye to her dear friends.
While in self-isolation Anne kept a positive mental attitude, which is evidenced time and time again in her diary, which was later published by her father.
Visiting Anne Frank’s house and museum was a highlight of our trip to Amsterdam last year. It was such a humbling and sober experience, and visitors actually whispered when they toured the rooms in which Anne, her family, and her friends lived for two years in Nazi occupied Amstersdam. Seeing the peeling wallpaper in those rooms and the pictures of celebrities that Anne pinned on her wall was a reminder that life stood still there, as it does for us here, for a period of time. Although now temporarily closed because of the Covid pandemic, the Anne Frank House and Museum is normally open daily from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM, depending on the day and the season. From November until April, the museum closes earlier, normally at 7:00 PM except for Saturdays. I highly recommend the introductory program, which lasts thirty minutes, before the tour of the house and museum. This introductory program helps create a timeline and reviews significant historical events happening at the time of Anne Frank’s hideout. This is especially helpful for children who may have no frame of reference. Photographs are not permitted inside the house out of respect, and visitors who have disability concerns about climbing stairs might have difficulty visiting here. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are in limited supply daily. I HIGHLY recommend getting tickets ahead of time on-line at the Anne Frank site in order to avoid long lines and the possibility of not getting tickets on any given day. At the time of this writing, entrance fees are 10,50 Euros for adults, 5,50 Euros for children aged ten to seventeen, and 0.50 Euros for children up to age nine. The introductory program is an add-on fee.
I think of Anne today as I look out my window, as there was a small window in the attic in Anne’s secret annex that she looked out daily to see a chestnut tree which became symbolic of hope. I think of Anne when I hear sounds outside my house today, as she heard the bells of a local church in the courtyard from the same window in the attic. She wrote,
“From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.”
The chestnut tree outside of Anne’s attic window, which became diseased, lived until 2010 when a strong wind blew it over. In the years before the tree died, workers from the Anne Frank House and Museum collected chestnuts from the tree in hopes that they would germinate so that the tree would live on in other locations, spreading the message of hope from Anne Frank. Several saplings have grown from these chestnuts and have been planted around the world, including one that was planted at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocost memorial in Jerusalem.
Anne Frank continues to be a source of inspiration for many people, including myself. I think about her when I look out my window during self-isolation from time to time. I know that keeping positive thoughts in my mind when I look up to the sky like Anne did will help make the journey during this pandemic and self-isolation a little easier in some way .
“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” -Anne Frank
“As long as you can look fearlessly into the sky , you’ll know that you’re pure within and will find happiness once more.” -Anne Frank
Life is good. Find happiness and continue thinking positively. Carpe diem, friends…….
To take a virtual tour of the Anne Frank house secret annex, click on the link below:
There is something about starting a plant from a seed and watching it grow. The daily anticipation of wondering if the seed has germinated. Then the daily anticipation of wondering if the first leaf unfolds. Then the daily anticipation of wondering if the the first “true” leaves unfold.
While maintaining self-isolation, we decided to get back to our “roots” as gardeners, a hobby we have not tended to in quite some years. Growing up in the northeast, gardening was so much easier than here in Florida. There was the watchful waiting of looking for the very first crocus to bloom as a harbinger of spring. There is something magical about watching a flowering plant wake up, unfolding it’s bloom among snow on the ground.
When we moved to Florida several years back, it amazed me that the plants we grown indoors in pots were the landscape plants outside my house. Something wasn’t quite right about that, but something wasn’t quite right about gardening and putting my hands in soil while risking surprising a poisonous snake at the other end of my trowel.
I had given up gardening in the fourteen years I’ve been living in Florida, but when we recently started self-isolation and social distancing from the Covid-19 pandemic, we decided it would give us something to look forward to if we started a plant from seeds. Watching and waiting for the seed to germinate somehow soothes my soul. Surrounding myself with something growing while being stuck inside was just what I needed.
Would I grow a green plant or a flowering plant? Would I grow edible flowers? Would I grown some vegetable to sustain me in case the food supply chain became scarce. I sent away for seeds for my Aerogarden with excitement. I had decided upon romaine lettuce seed pods, knowing how delicious freshly harvested lettuce is. It is too hot this time of year to grow lettuce outside here in Florida, as it is a cold weather crop.
Two weeks ago, I set up my Aerogarden indoors and inserted the seed pods into the hydroponic growing machine along with the nutrients and water that they plant needs. It always amazes me when I see plants growing without soil and reminds me that we all can “bloom where we are planted” and can thrive with less than we THINK we need.
Each day, I look forward to checking on the status of my new plants and today I tried my first piece of lettuce from one of the plants. It was the freshest tasting lettuce I had ever eaten. Romaine lettuce from the market doesn’t really seem to have much of a flavor, but these dark lettuce leaves from my Aerogarden are tender and delicious.
The need to grow something hit me all over again. Before the stay at home orders and shortly after planting my Aerogarden pods, I went to the garden center to purchase some herbs to grow in pots on my patio so I could be less likely to inadvertently bump into a not so friendly slithering friend. Walking by and touching the leaves of aromatic plants gives me joy. Maybe even bliss. It provides me with that in-the-moment magic that I adore. There is something about using my five senses when I am around plants that gives me that same feeling as when I see a flock of birds above my head while they change direction yet still maintain formation. There is beauty all around us that captivates my eyes and soul.
It is so easy to stop doing something you live for the time being for whatever reason. There are a million reasons why we USED to love something that we no longer do. The pandemic has given us the luxury of a little more time in our homes. Why not take up a hobby you used to love all over again to find some joy.
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow…..”
Find a way to believe in tomorrow, for it will be here sooner than you know. Life is good; carpe diem, friends……….