By Lyndsey Hafer-Williams
Apr 10, 2021
Last week, I took my coffee and a fresh-out-of-the-oven whole food plant based lemon poppyseed muffin out to the deck so I could watch the sunrise over our lovely Blue Ridge Mountains. Soon, all the trees will leaf out, and our majestic winter view will be gone.
The mornings are still chilly here in Asheville, NC, but the promise of spring is everywhere. From the newly opened, creamy yellow daffodils that blanket one hilly area of my property to the deep purple and white crocus scattered all along the garden walls.
Last year, I planted what I called my “Quarantine Garden.”
With nothing to do outside of work and Zoom (Hello? Can you hear me? I can’t hear you. You’re frozen! Hello!?!), I decided to get my hands and mind into the dirt.
I felt I had to, because life had suddenly turned into something unrecognizable.
The deadly virus had found its way to my corner of the globe, and there was nothing to be done except to stay home. I wallowed around in sadness and angsty existential dread as the world descended into a 24/7 news cycle of death, darkness, and despair.
I swear to fuck, it was like living in a 1990s Morgan Freeman sci-fi movie.
As a collective (and very privileged) group of humans, we Americans were horrified and perplexed to be unable to get a haircut, brow wax, manicure, or pedicure.
I was astonished by just how quickly my unibrow met up with my menopausal mustache.
The simple chore of going to the grocery store became some sort of otherworldly experience with everyone hell-bent on gathering up as much toilet paper as possible.
Water? Food? Medicine? No thanks, but I’ll take 20 pounds of your softest Charmin!!
Most of us were decked out in homemade hazmat suits, masks, and gloves. We shuffled around, dazed and confused, dousing ourselves in hand sanitizer, trying hard to be good citizens and follow bewildering, directional arrows now taped in the aisles.
So, you’re saying I have to go four aisles up, turn around, and come back the other way for one thing?
It was a crazy situation of life imitating art. Were we in Breaking Bad, Star Wars, or Looney Tunes? Seriously, we all looked like Walter White, sounded like Darth Vader, became as blind as Mr. Magoo, and used hand signals like we were YMCA-ing with The Village People.
Because apparently, none of us can see or hear when we’re wearing a mask. Who knew?
There was the overwhelming feeling that we were on an out-of-control, never ending rollercoaster that we didn’t sign up for!
What day was it? What time? Who was in charge? Do we get dressed? Was a bra really necessary? What exactly were the rules? It was nuts.
My people and their people started getting sick. And some of them died.
It was horrifying, unexpected, and heartbreaking. I felt helpless, isolated, closed off, and shut down.
So, I did what I’ve always done when life gets to be too much for me to handle.
I went outside, and I dug in the dirt.
I did all the outside things that I had always been “meaning to do.” I cleaned out flower beds, raked, chopped, transplanted, built, repaired, weeded, labeled, hauled, gathered, mulched, moved rocks, constructed new borders, planted hundreds of spring bulbs and, according to my wife, single-handedly kept my local plant nursery in business.
It was a rough year for humanity, no doubt about it. But now, as I sit here looking out over the beginnings of new life, I realized that I didn’t plant a garden at all.
I planted hope.
I didn’t know it at the time, but every bulb was a small spark for future joy, every seed was a tiny glimpse of what can be, every weed pulled was an opportunity for new growth, and every divided and transplanted perennial made room for possibility.
It dawned on me that every bead of sweat, every tear cried, every scratch and drop of blood shed, was a courageous, if unintentional, investment in the future. Our future. A future where we can all come together again and celebrate love, difference, and human connection. A future so bright and so beautiful that it’s now impossible to look away.
A favorite quote from Anaïs Nin comes to mind:
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
Life right now is still hard for most of us, and certainly far from what we think of as normal, but as I looked out on my Quarantine Garden last week, I realized that for me, it’s time to start gently releasing the painful heartache, quietly moving away from fear, and begin to open. Just like the riotous daffodils and about-to-pop tulips.
It’s time to stand up, stand tall, soften my heart, and start again.
It’s time to see myself and others as the flawed, complicated beings that we are.
It’s time to extend forgiveness, compassion, empathy, and so much grace.
It’s time to treat my neighbors like I want to be treated.
It’s time to work hard and play harder.
It’s time to laugh freely and love well.
It’s time to live.
As I watched the sunrise crest the mountains and the cotton candy pinks melt into indigo blues, and then soften into a yellowy orange that ushered in a glorious spring day, I felt hope wash over me so fast and so furious that it brought tears to my eyes.
I took a deep breath and felt the shackles of the last year fall away.
I opened my eyes and saw the beauty of being here, being alive, being part of this world.
I listened to the birds and smelled the crisp, mountain air.
I savored the tart lemon tang from my whole food plant based lemon poppyseed muffin.
I touched my tender arm from my recent vaccine.
I felt my heart open wide.
And, I smiled.
- 4 large dates, pitted and soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes
- 1½ tablespoons lemon zest
- ⅔ cup unsweetened, non-dairy milk (155ml)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2½ cups regular rolled oats (250g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup unsweetened applesauce (175g)
- ¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup (60ml)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) and line your muffin tin with liners.
- Zest your lemon and set aside for now. Add the non-dairy milk and lemon juice to a small bowl. Mix and set aside for now.
- Place the oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt in your blender and blend into a powder, about 15 seconds. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Drain and discard the date water and transfer the dates to your blender, along with the non-dairy milk / lemon mixture, applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla. Blend until smooth.
- Transfer the blended liquid mixture to the large mixing bowl with the dry ingredients. Add the lemon zest and poppy seeds and gently mix (don’t over mix).
- Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin liners.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes and cool before munching!
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with whole food plant based Lemon Poppyseed muffins and hope.