Our Daily Breather: Maintaining Sanity During A Pandemic In Our Daily Breather, we ask artists how to find calm in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Courtney Marie Andrews recommends gardening and poetry, and shares a new song from her forthcoming album.
NPR logo Courtney Marie Andrews' Quarantine Recommendations: Gardening And Poetry

Courtney Marie Andrews' Quarantine Recommendations: Gardening And Poetry

Courtney Marie Andrews Alexa Viscius/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Alexa Viscius/Courtesy of the artist

Courtney Marie Andrews

Alexa Viscius/Courtesy of the artist

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Courtney Marie Andrews

Where: Nashville, Tenn.

Recommendation: Poetry


The rain is gently tapping on my roof, a reminder of last night's storm. Perhaps, this place in time will be as such, a bad storm, followed by a sweet and soft rain. We can only hope. My veggies are gasping for air above the three inches of water fall, ready for the sun to push them further out of their wombs. I have been in isolation for nearly a month now. Sometimes, it feels like one long day. Other times, I am overwhelmed with the moment, noticing details in small things like never before.

Courtney Marie Andrews at home Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

Courtney Marie Andrews at home

Courtesy of the artist

There is a red bird that appears in my yard every afternoon, playfully hopping around my peach tree, blissed out and unknowing of our suffering. Moments such as these have allowed me to indulge in my daydreams, granting me to truly see some things I quite frankly didn't have time to before. As a full-time touring musician, I have never had a big enough window between tours to plant and harvest a garden. Digging my over-washed hands into the soil is a beautiful juxtaposition to the over-sanitized world we are currently living in. Planting life, even if it's just a cucumber, is soul-fulfilling, given all we have lost over the past few months.

Courtney Marie Andrews' Recommendation

Courtney Marie Andrews recommends reading and writing poetry during this time. Here's a poem she wrote this month, hoping to shed light on our current situation.

Against All Odds

Let this nightmare make you softer, watching every new leaf
turn us into spring. Cardinals of hope born in nests ever-changing.
The first tulip. The color yellow never felt so important. Let it reveal
the blue skies, cherry blossoms, and smells of your neighbor's cooking.
Let it inspire you to call a friend and say, I am sorry. I love you. I cherish you.
Our sweet memories are a museum in which I have a lifelong admission to.
Let it break down every petty fear of loving, make you compassionate for
strangers, their anonymous suffering, and come to reckon with the suffering
in yourself. Listen to Nina Simone of free jazz. Listen to those who create
against all odds. Or, with each quiet hour, sew your thoughts on fertile
ground, so they may blossom and not wilt.

Please, let this nightmare make you softer.

When I am not loitering around my garden's bunnies and birds, I am mostly at my typewriter, punching inked nonsense to make some sense of it all. Writing poems, stories and songs is a great comfort, allowing my mind to wander into Type A conclusions and worlds not currently within reach. Every morning I start a pot of coffee, read a chapter in a book, then make my way to my writing room. Over the past couple years, poets such as Mary Oliver, Jack Gilbert, Wendell Berry, Fernando Pessoa and T.S. Eliot has been my refuge. With each gained insight from them, I dig deeper into myself, like hands in the garden soil, tending to my messy roots. I love poets and storytellers who leave you with something by the end. That is always my goal when writing, to harvest some truth. After a few hours of ideas, I go for a long afternoon walk, letting the sun remind me that I am also alive, externally. As a student, I walk and read. As a writer, I philosophize.

If it's a good day, upon my return, I will do yoga or meditate. The present moment can sometimes be too overwhelming to clear thoughts of. Norwegians use the word hygge to describe cozy inside things that comfort them during the long and harsh winters. I've adapted this philosophy, making a daily ritual of lighting candles, a fire, or palo santo. Usually my evenings end with a home-cooked meal, followed by candlelight activities, such as strumming my nylon guitar, playing my piano, listening to music, or reading poetry. The candlelight makes me more present, filling my senses with a slow burning flame — this feels more fulfilling than screen time.

Some days are harder than others, but gardening and walking has helped feed my writing, which has been a reliable friend throughout the chaos and uncertainty of these unprecedented times. When you create, you are also giving something life, just like the veggies in a garden. You are presenting the world with a timeless gift, even if you are the only one there to read it. My daily routine is breathing life into veggies and words, to balance out all that we grieve and mourn. The more life we give to these small, beautiful things, the better people we become. I truly believe that.


Courtney Marie Andrews' new album Old Flowers is out June 5. Her new single, "Burlap String," is out today.

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