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The Long View

As I write this, my maternal grandmother (known to myself and my brother as “Nanny” and “Ruby” to the rest of the world) is lying in a hospital bed in the ICU at Mission, Asheville’s incredible gem of a hospital. After not feeling so well for a few days, she called herself an ambulance last Wednesday, only to discover she has pneumonia in both of her lungs (or, at least, that was the suspected condition, although that’s now being deliberated since being transferred yesterday from the small mountain hospital she was at for the 5 days prior). Early yesterday morning, she had a heart attack, and now has sepsis.

Nanny, just like both of my parents, has been a constant in my life. In my childhood, we lived near to each other. As a teenager, when my mom relocated us to the coast of North Carolina, Nanny relocated there, too. And, when my mother moved to the mountains of North Carolina over 15 years ago, Nanny decided the mountain life would be hers as well.

Her effect of my career cannot be overstated. She was the first person I ever witnessed can and preserve. She was the first person I knew who kept chickens, or had a garden, or owned a farm. Her tractor was the first I ever knew personally. Until I married and changed my name, I even bore part of her name in my own-we both were “Marie” in the middle.

She’ll be 87 on August 31st of this year. She’s youthful on every level. She tells off-color jokes, flirts with wait staff, and can dance a jig with the best of them. She comes over most Sundays, along with my mom, and plays with Huxley, typically festooning him with some gift or other. He’s pretty smitten with her, as is Hubs. Most people are.

Our friend Jon was up this weekend, moving the yome he and his wife Jen purchased onto our property, down in one of what we refer to as the “lower fields.” As we sat around the fire ring on our patio Saturday evening, roasting marshmallows, sipping wine and ruminating on our roles and lives as parents (his Awynn just turned 2), he mentioned how he’s begun taking the “long view”, as he called it. Both busy art teachers at private schools in the Atlanta area, Jon mentioned how he often finds himself frustrated at how much he wants to get done, in his garden, his studio, his home, only to find there’s just not enough time.

He went on to say the expected full lifespan of a human, if they were to live as long as humans can live, was 120 years. Considering that expanse of time, and its length, has helped him to consider the long view, instead of feeling like time is always slipping through his hands like sand. Maybe he won’t get as much planted and growing this year as he’d like, he said, but then, hey! There’s always next year, and the year after, and then year after that. And next decade, even.

If we lived our entire potential lifespan, there’s plenty of time to get things done. And, yes, focusing on every moment as the only moment we are promised is important, too, as it forces us to just enjoy and appreciate that opportunity, in all its fleeting glory. But the long view is important also, as it forces us to also be optimistic. We believe the sun will rise tomorrow, the seasons will change, and that the Earth will continue turning on its axis. We believe that life is rich and varied and ever in flux.

I’m taking the long view with Nanny. She’s lived a wonderful, full life, always in the company of loved ones. Whatever the outcome with her current situation, the present moments I have with her are wonderful, the past ones were formative, and the future ones will be magical, however they materialize.

*Here’s Nanny at Huxley’s Wild Things party, this past October. She’s dressed for the occasion and can be seen contemplating eating the entire tray of truffles Dan and Jael brought to share. Apologies for the blurry quality of the photo, but she was in motion!

28 Responses to The Long View

  • unsightly says:

    What a beautiful ode to a beautiful woman.

  • I've been thinking a lot about these sorts of things lately, Ashley. Your tribute to your nanny is more than moving to me.

    In the quiet hours of evening and morning, I've been thinking a lot about my father, who has stage four cancer, and his effect on my life. I cherish my memories of him as I create memories with my kids right now. I take the long view, too. I think of what my kids will take from us, from the chickens and homemade ice cream and tickle festivals all the way to the more profound sacrifices they will come to understand we loved to make for them.

    My thoughts are with you, and Nanny.

  • Rosanne says:

    What a wonderful heritage, and a beautiful gift to have a person like your Nanny in your life.

  • Melissa says:

    Beautifully said. I hope that she recovers and continues to be a blessing in your life.

  • anna says:

    beautiful. thank you for sharing! grandmothers are very special people. lots of love and positive energy to your nanny during this time.

  • Kim says:

    How lucky you are to have a Nanny like yours. She sounds like a special lady indeed. And the really long view is that she passed down some very important things to you, that you'll pass onto to Huxley and so on; what a very beautiful long view!

  • BAE says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • BAE says:

    Ashley, you and she and all in the circle of her family are in my thoughts and prayers. Hoping for some good news and that you all have many more days together.

  • Julia says:

    beautiful words and none truer. i'm thinking of you and your family, but i believe your feelings about your nanny and her full life and current situation are the best you can have.

    i think “the long view” is a wonderful way to put it. i have many of the same stresses as your friends, always wanting to do too much at once. and yes, it's important to make the most of each of our moments here on this earth, it is also important to remember that we do, hopefully, have a long time on this earth to enjoy many more moments. and if we are constantly stressing and running from one place to another in order accomplish so much at once, what kind of life is that? much love to you and your family.

  • greyson says:

    Oh Ash!! My heart does ache for you and your family. I will throw as much positive energy as I can out into the universe just for Nanny! The Long View is what makes us stronger! MUCH LOVE- greyson

  • My thoughts are with you and your Nanny. I don't even know you yet I loved reading about her and how she followed your family with their moves. Certainly a fixture in your life. And although I don't know Nanny, I can just feel that she would be smiling to know you celebrated her.

  • Indio says:

    I'm so sorry to hear about your Nanny. I hope she recovers from these problems that ails her.
    The long view helps me keep the big picture in mind, but I also know that when I'm 80, I'm not going to be able to do many of the activities I did when I was 30. I like to squeeze as much into a day as I can and cherish it in the process. My focus is on the next ten years because whatever happens after that will invariably be a slower life.

  • Erin says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and also Nanny. Grandmothers are very special people indeed!

  • Sarah C says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with her and you.

  • Get well wishes Nanny.

  • Elaine says:

    beautiful post. beautiful perspective.

  • nancy says:

    Those are the wonderful people who impact multiple generations, in such a great way, you are blessed…

  • ecogrrl says:

    Oh Ash I'm in tears reading this, both for the touching tribute and what you're going through (having lost 6 people in 6 years myself), and the words about the long view. I laid on the grass of my back yard today cuddling with my 14 year old Rottweiler, knowing that it's time for me to say goodbye to her. And I have to have to have to think of the long view, and how much she's been a constant in my life since adopting her off of death row nine years ago. Thank you.

  • Bee Girl says:

    This is a beautiful post…thank you for sharing it. I am sending you both love and compassion and hope you be remember to be kind to yourself as you face whatever challenges lie ahead.

  • Apseed says:

    I'm sorry to hear about your nanny. I hope she recovers from these problems.
    My prayers are with her.

  • So beautifully written. Sending prayers for your nanny. I purchased your canning book recently and it has been such an incredible resource. So thankful that you're sharing what you've learned from her. It must fill her with such happiness to see that she has passed this knowledge and passion down to you.

  • Dixie says:

    Beautiful post. Sending love and light your way.

  • Jasmin says:

    perfectly stated. also, she sounds like a hoot!

  • Lauren says:

    A beautiful tribute Ashley and well put. It's awful that it's usually the scary or sad moments that force us to focus on what is really important, but sometimes we get lucky and have known all along what wonderful people fill our lives – like your Nanny. God bless.

  • Love to your Nanny. How wonderful you have had such a bond with her.

  • Grace says:

    What a lovely tribute to your Nanny and your relationship! I wish her well and I am hoping for a quick recovery. As for you, I'm sending you hugs and understanding in this tough moment. Now, if you can get him to sit still, why don't you go hold Huxley on your lap and tell him a story about his Great Nanny?

  • Molly says:

    Wishing the best for you and your family. Your grandmother sounds wonderful, and I hope that she is better soon.

  • xo.sorcha.ox says:

    Our simple life has been inspired by my grandparents also, particularly my Nanna, who taught me to cook, and I remember as a child watching her make everything from scratch, growing vegetables and fruits, making preserves and jams…They are leaving a wonderful legacy.
    Best wishes for your grandmother's speedy recover,