BWD director Wendy Clark continues her reflection upon her journey over the past year, one that has been full of trials and tribulations for those of us at the home nest. Read Part 1 here.
Fast-forward to March 2020. As a relatively new owner of a small business, our quarantine mandate meant that everything had to change, and quickly. We had to change where we worked, how we worked, and even reevaluate WHY we worked. Our staff of 12 people transitioned to a remote working situation immediately with no time to prepare. Our birding tour division, BWD Reader Rendezvous, was in financial freefall, and we found ourselves in need of refunding devastating amounts of money to people who had paid us in advance for tours that we were forced to postpone or cancel. Quarantine. Fear. The upheaval of working remotely. Isolation. Maintaining morale. Masks. Anxiety. And yet, there is no group of people I’d rather share this pandemic journey with. Our staff is breaking records right and left as we recruit record numbers of new subscribers; provide opportune, timely content; produce excellent magazine issues; and continue to develop creative, outside-the-box ideas to keep our business relevant during these strange times. I could not be prouder to share this difficult journey with our amazing Bird Watcher’s Digest team.
This pandemic has been yet another kind of journey. We are all making our way through as best we can. No one really knows how to navigate these waters because we’re in uncharted territory. My 2020 travel schedule was even more ambitious than it was in 2019, but that all came to a screeching halt when COVID-19 reared its ugly head. Once again, the Universe had different plans.
And, miraculously, I’m okay with that. I’m now on a brand-new journey, one I never expected to enjoy. I call this my “home-journey.”
I was born with a genetic marker for a rare, terminal lung disease. I’m quite healthy, and I may never contract this specific disease because I’ve worked very hard to take good care of my lungs throughout my life. But because I carry this genetic marker, I’m at a much higher risk than most people for contracting lung-related illnesses. If I happen to catch a common cold, it usually turns quickly to pneumonia. So, you can imagine what might happen if I contracted the coronavirus. Even though I’m still fairly young and otherwise healthy, my pulmonary specialist says I need to take extra measures to protect myself during the pandemic.
Because I’m considered “at-risk,” I’ve been working from home in isolation since early March, with limited human contact. I’ve spent the better part of the past decade working remotely, so I’m comfortable in this situation. However, during that decade I traveled a lot. I was away more than 25 weeks per year, which equates to about six months out of 12. Home was a place where I kept my things, and where I slept, ate, and sat at my computer. Home was the place I rested and recuperated between travel adventures. Home was my base camp, my hospital, my pit stop, my launching pad, my headquarters. Home itself was never the adventure—far from it. It was the opposite of adventure. It was simply a space in between adventures.
Now, I’m experiencing an amazing time of awakening and renewal on my “home-journey” that could not have happened any other way.
Bill and I had lived in the country, about 30 minutes northeast of Marietta. He liked living far from town and enjoyed the drive to and from the BWD office each day. His daily commute gave him time to collect his thoughts and view the beautiful landscape in southeastern Ohio. But, after he died, I knew I needed to be closer to civilization and nearer to the BWD office rather than living alone in the country. I found a house I loved in the heart of the historic district in Marietta, within view of Bill’s childhood home. The park across the street from my house is where Bill played after school every day, where his family played football after Thanksgiving dinner, and where he sat under trees and dreamed as a little boy. It’s full of his memories, and being here offers me a kind of continued closeness to him. Although I’ve lived here since last July, I had not really bonded with this house nor this community. I was too busy riding the conveyer belt of life.
Since March I have spent all of my time here in my little home on Third Street. But more than the house itself, for the first time in my life I’ve fallen in love with being home. I have experienced spring in all its glory for the first time in more than a decade, because I’m usually traveling during those months. I’ve seen the migration of the warblers I love; the trees, plants, and flowers coming back to life; and our weather in the southeastern U.S. turning from cold and gray to sunny and mild. I’ve planted a container garden of herbs and vegetables, and I’ve decorated my little home with flowers. I’m acquainted with all of the birds in my yard, and I strategically position myself to work each day with bird feeders in view, following their behavior with great interest.
I adopted an eight-month-old puppy named Brian who is now 11 months old, and is oozing with energy, personality, and love. I write songs, read books, cook the things I love, and enjoy long conversations with friends and family. I walk my dog through the neighborhood several times a day and am now friends with all of the folks who live nearby. I enjoy coffee on my porch in the mornings, and a glass of wine as I watch the sunset from my deck in the evenings.
This type-A, driven woman who has thrived on chaos all of her life has slowed down for the very first time in 52 years.
And I absolutely love it.
My home-journey has not only helped me feel at home in my little house on Third Street, it’s helped me feel more at home in my own skin. I exercise more, I have a healthier diet, and I get enough rest. I work every day and stay connected to my friends and colleagues, but I enjoy being alone without feeling lonely. I have a daily routine that gives me both balance and energy. Our world is in turmoil, yet I feel placid most days, even during these anxious times. This journey has led me home to my own heart and soul.
I do hope I get to travel again at some point, as there are many countries and birds I’d still love to experience! But the wanderlust that used to push me hither and yon is no longer there. It has been replaced by contentment and peace. I feel truly at home for the first time in my life.
Perhaps all of my life adventures were meant to lead me right here, right now.
And perhaps my home-journey will be the most rewarding journey of all.
About the Author
Wendy Clark is the president and publisher of Bird Watcher’s Digest, a career communications specialist, and an avid birder. She has three children and two grandchildren, and lives in Marietta, Ohio.