The COVID-19 crisis has been difficult for so many people in so many ways; however, the lockdown was truly a welcome pause in life for me. It forced me to slow down, to appreciate the way things used to be, to cleanse my life of unnecessary clutter, and to realize the goodness all around me.

Like most people before the quarantine, I was swept up in the hustle and bustle of daily life, but sheltering in place allowed me to check off many of the items on my long “to-do” list at home. One of those items was to create a gallery wall that showcases our family’s story, along with display cases that hold heirlooms and antiques passed down to my husband and me. Using a variety of resources, including online apps, I was able to trace several generations of our ancestors whose photographs are now displayed, along with pictures of our children and grandchildren. It’s our family tree, and I think it is important for our children and grandchildren to see the faces of the incredibly strong men and women from whom they are descended. I want them to appreciate their heritage. I want them to know that we grew up on a farm where hard work was expected, where family sat together in the front yard stringing beans and shelling peas in the evenings, and the children caught lightning bugs for entertainment. I want them to see the old Singer sewing machine that my mother used to make our clothes, the family Bibles that were read often, and the hand-painted dishes, old musical instruments, and golf clubs. Life was hard, but it was fun.

It took several weeks to complete the gallery wall project, but then my busy streak was over, and I realized the impact of these unprecedented times. I am fortunate to quarantine with my wonderful husband, and I greatly appreciate zoom meetings with family and friends, but the absence of physical human connection with others, the constant news barrage of the current chaos in our country, and getting used to the new “normal” in our COVID-19 world wore heavily on my mind. I missed shopping without the hassle of wearing a mask and gloves. I missed eating dinner at a restaurant with friends. I missed sitting in a pew on Sunday morning and worshipping with my church family.

As spring weather soon allowed, my husband and I planted flowers and mulched the garden beds, took long drives to explore parts of our county that are breathtakingly beautiful, and cooked delightful meals together. I painted seven watercolors for our new granddaughter’s nursery, and I refurbished old outdoor tables by painting designs on their ceramic tiles with alcohol inks and sealing them with a coat of resin. We spent the evenings on our screened porch, sipping wine and watching deer prance across our backyard while listening to peepers at the nearby creek. And then it hit me – these mundane days and nights are what shape us. They are what ultimately give us joy. The pandemic of 2020 has caused us to find the goodness in simple life that our parents and grandparents and their grandparents enjoyed.

As a retired art teacher, it is heartwarming for me to see that many of my former students have used the lockdown to create beautiful works of art that they are selling on Etsy, Redbubble and other online venues. I am very proud of these young artists for using their talent to inspire and help others, and I hope that the public will support them. Somehow, I believe that all Greene County artists experience the wonderful joy in art that brings peace and comfort in a chaotic world. After all, look at the panoramic views that inspire us here in the foothills of Virginia!

When the pandemic finally ends, I have cautious optimism that we will never return to the “old normal.” I hope that we keep the slower pace, take care of our earth, be kind to everyone, treasure family times, and find joy in the simple things in life, like art.

Beth Laine

Former Art Teacher at William Monroe High School

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