My Thirty Days in the Shire

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– By Maria Andress –

“I am in fact A Hobbit in all but size. I like gardens, trees, and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humor (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome); I go to bed late and get up late (when possible). I do not travel much.” 

So wrote J.R.R. Tolkien not so long ago in the 1900’s. Sounds a bit like all of us these days though, doesn’t it? True, perhaps not in ornamental waistcoats, mushrooms from fields, and French cooking. But plain food, late to bed and late to rise, simple humor, and isolated gardens and trees? Covid-19 turned half the American populations’ rather frenetic daily grind upside down these past few weeks. The new daily race for many is work from home, eat at home, socialize in the home, isolate at home, get lonely at home…or does it need to be a such a grind at all?

On March 1st, I started Tea with Tolkien’s “30 Days in the Shire” Challenge. Kaitlyn Facista — a Catholic convert, young mother, blogger, tea drinker, and Tolkien lover — set up “30 Days in the Shire” in the format of thirty challenges for thirty days. Complete with guidelines, checklist, helpful resources, and a calendar page for planning, you can join the challenge yourself with her eBook found at www.teawithtolkien.com/30days.

About a week after I started the challenge, COVID-19 reared its ugly head in the USA. At first I was tempted to let the challenge fall by the wayside. After all, unlike some people, I was still working full hours in mask, gloves, and scrubs at a dentist office because that was deemed medically necessary while all my creative outlets of Etsy shop, music lessons, seamstressing, writing film reviews were becoming a mad scramble to stay afloat. Plans for fundraisers, upcoming theatrical ventures, and film shoots were falling dead (or into a Hundred Year’s Sleep) on all sides. Then church events were limited, government restrictions on socializing imposed, and even the Sacraments suspended into the near future. “And here he was, a little halfling from the Shire, a simple hobbit of the quiet countryside, expected to find a way where the great ones could not go, or dared not go. It was an evil fate.” 

Yes, Frodo in the The Two Towers, we understand you now. Who has time to be a hobbit? 

Queue the quote famously attributed to J.R.R. Tolkien but actually coined by Peter Jackson for the movie Gandalf: “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” 

Perhaps “30 Days a Hobbit” came at the most opportune time of all. Besides social distancing, there is not actually much humanly speaking one can do to halt a pandemic while quarantined at home. However, one can better oneself and uplift others by reevaluating the meaning of life and living accordingly. Going back to one’s roots inevitably means rediscovering the simple pleasures of life.

Kaitlyn’s hobbit list of visits to Adoration, sitting under a tree to think, reconnecting with someone, and making lembas bread begin to sound refreshing. “Sharing a pint with a friend” turns into a phone conversation or sitting down with the housemate who’s normally off at work. “Donating items” becomes sharing with the parish or local food shelf for folks who can’t find what they need in grocery stores anymore. “Dressing colorfully” becomes getting rid of those quarantine pajamas and giving a classy look to Day Number 13 of Isolation. “Planting a garden” stays the same because when better to plan one than while cooped up in your own yard? 

So I read Tolkien’s “The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun”, I mailed a fun package to my lonely nurse cousin working in the ER and self isolating, and I started learning how to sew Roman vestments for a Good Friday set. 

“Hobbits must seem of little importance,” said Bilbo Baggins at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring film, “being neither renowned as great warriors, nor counted amongst the very wise…In fact, it has been remarked by some that Hobbits’ only real passion is for food. A rather unfair observation as we have also developed a keen interest in the brewing of ales and the smoking of pipeweed. But where our hearts really lie is in peace and quiet and good tilled earth. For all hobbits share a love of all things that grow. And yes, no doubt to others, our ways seem quaint. But today of all days, it is brought home to me it is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.” 

Here’s the challenge: I nominate you to find the “30 Days in the Shire” eBook at www.teawithtolkien.com/30days and start mapping out April. 

What old friend of a book, journal, or recipe will you dust off? What nearby hobbit will you share joy with? What new hobby will you learn? Spend the days well. Be contented in them with the things a hobbit would find meaningful. And when you post about it on your social medias to let the rest of the world know you’re quite peacefully surviving the impending doom, don’t forget to tag @teawithtolkien or use the hashtag #30daysintheshire. We want to share in your return to the simple life too!


About the Author

Maria Andress is a film production and acting alumna from JPCatholic (Class of ’17) who hails from the proud green and gold state of Wisconsin. She is currently working in film producing, and pursuing a career in period film production. She is also a travel enthusiast always on the lookout for a fascinating idea or historical tidbit that she can translate to story through the many mediums of art.

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