When thorns are all around, be a rose. (Judy Foreman / Noozhawk photo)

The past six months have been hard. For someone who thrives on social interaction and routine, COVID-19 has set me on my heels.

Like so many people, I wake up every day with a Groundhog Day-like foreboding — a feeling that has been magnified by the surreal dreariness of this last few weeks of smoke-obscured sky.

The Thomas Fire and Montecito’s subsequent, deadly flash flooding and debris flows left me broken-hearted for lost friends and the destruction of our neighborhoods.

But the coronavirus pandemic has affected everything I love and disrupted so much of what I took for granted. I worry about getting sick. My grandchildren are now home schooled. On top of that, I have a new grandchild on the way.

Another unsettling phenomenon: residential musical chairs. My friends are downsizing and looking for one-story homes, or moving away entirely. A new group — from celebrities to urban snowbirds — is moving to town.

Along with the lack of outside contact, the polarized political environment is not helping — and I’m not just talking about the 2020 election.

Just like not widely sharing your political persuasion or views, people are trying to avoid public shaming by keeping certain activities to themselves. We may not confess to a restaurant or hair salon visit, or having a cleaning crew, or a socially distanced book club, or even outdoor exercise classes.

These are the kinds of diversions that would help reassure me that, yes, there are people out there beyond my Summerland bubble and the loyal companionship of my long-haired dachshund, Hardy.

Thinking I knew myself, I’ve turned introspective in my isolation but have found plenty of shortcomings. Stuck at home, I’ve contented myself by exercising religiously, gardening, cooking, remodeling a bathroom, reading and watching too much TV. I’m taking Spanish.

When I look at my calendar, I see mostly empty spaces. If I have just one thing scheduled, it’s a big day!

Spontaneity is out, and my best days are spent with my family — with everyone masked — outside on my patio or with a sleepover with my granddaughters.

Further complicating matters, shorter days and an autumnal time change are approaching.

One recent evening, I sat outside in my yard and, from the corner of my eye, spied two red roses reaching for the sky from my garden — making for an interesting silhouette against my garage light. I walked over to appreciate their curves and to breathe in their scent.

There is something magical about how nature interrupts a void, or our despair, to deliver a gift that reminds us there is life and beauty all around. When I’m feeling a bit lost, I can still find joy and optimism and wonder by, literally, stopping to smell the roses.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Judy Foreman

Judy Foreman, Noozhawk Columnist

Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at The opinions expressed are her own.