Monday, October 29, 2012

The First Tree.

The rains have arrived, and we are scrambling down in the garden, picking fruit and vegetables, drying some, using some, blanching and freezing some, and giving them away to friends and neighbors.  I remember as a child getting sick of fruit. Sick of too much of this or that, so much so that I could give up the very sight of persimmons, quince, figs, grapes...

I don't feel that way anymore. I still hope for each tree, each bush, to give me an abundant harvest, year after year, so the house smells of that fruit for weeks on end, so the kitchen has scattered bowls and implements to accept the challenge of preserving the bounty.

These apples have no name. There are no others like these in the local supermarket. They taste a bit like Fuji, or Gala, more tart.  In the orchard, there are four different apple trees, and two pear trees. The apples produce yearly, more or less equally. The pears, one attempts to produce half a dozen a year, asian pears by the look, and Bosch by taste; the other goes into ebullient production every third year, and attracts a host of blackbirds and raccoon by harvest time.  This year, we stripped it naked very early, gave the fruit away to the local pantry, and used some for pear cakes and for drying.  

We actually planted persimmons, figs and grapes when we first moved here. Only the fig is thriving, and this year it has over a dozen figs coming to maturity, and hopefully all will ripen before a cold snap cuts their lives short.

All this bounty surrounds us with good will, a true miracle of nature, odors and taste perfuming the house for weeks, hard work for our weak muscles, thankful at the end of such days.

What's left is to prune  the trees while they are still with leaves! The idea is to see the full tree in all its splendor, and then figure how best to eliminate redundant branches that make it too heavy one way or another. Our plan is to go down on sunny days-if we still get a few between now and the next storm-and begin trimming away. The cut branches can be stored, or stuck in the ground to create another tree!

We ask ourselves as we work day in and day out with all our might: How did we  forgo this work, work that is not predictably rewarding, for work that was extremely stressful, but the paycheck was predictable, (unless a global recession sucks up all resources, including your job!)  with few opportunities for all our senses to be stimulated, so we could purchase food that has very predictable taste and looks, so we could then add an additional hour a day at a gym to stimulate the muscle mass that didn't get stimulated by our work, distressed in ways we couldn't imagine; so that we could hand our hard earned money to a bank to invest in some made-up scheme for a made-up product that bet against our homes, our jobs, our health, our future.

All the bounty on earth should be lessons in living, to young and old, to protect our diverse food, to invest in real products, to make all work as rewarding and as necessary to all our happiness as raising food was and it can still be.

Perhaps I'm a dreamer.

Yet, as I sit here after forty plus years of hard work, where the blood pressure was out of bounds, where we had no choice but continue to remain in those jobs until we could escape, we ask ourselves if we stopped dreaming too soon. There must have been new ways to make a living.

There must be new ways to stay connected to the source of our inner peace.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Between the spaces.

You  know how you hear your own voice, telling you why didn't you take this walk more often, why did you take this picture? You are constantly interrupting yourself, while you  try to shush the noise inside your head.

We live in the present, and the reflective present, alert to  waves that might bury us, watching ourselves being clumsy  as we step lively to avoid being soaked by errant waves, and reminding ourselves that we have responsibilities, deadlines, expectations.

We are spectators in our own lives.

The very ability that allows us to interrupt ourselves, the very thing we call self-control, can also be a major detractor.

Today, this minute, just BE.
Don't spoil these sensations.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Our next stop.

We used to count decades:
-till children graduate from college;
-till cars are paid off;
-till we can retire;

Life was full of daily chores and must do's waiting for the big one to arrive.
Every decade brought a big sigh of relief. I remember when our last child left for college, how fortunate we felt managing to pay for all or most of their expenses, proud that they didn't have to be saddled with loans as we were. When our first went to college, we were still paying for our student loans!

When each found a love of their lives, how proud we felt for the wonderful people they met and cultivated. Each step they took, was one more goal we too had achieved, one more hurdle we managed to overcome.

Health issues, money issues, career issues. We fought the good fight. We managed to save, and plan and take steps to support ourselves and manage our lives. Responsibility and Commitment were our mantra all those decades, as we encountered detours and  stops on life's highway.

The future at this point is not so well delineated. It feels blurry and foggy. We can't earn anymore, as jobs are scarce; and there are many young people with young families to support; a lot of people have more talent and especially energy to tackle anything that comes their way. And we are already living within our means, buying only what is absolutely necessary. We know our car will eventually need to be replaced, for instance, as will our deck, our roof, our windows...

We face the season of catastrophes, situations that we can't plan for. We see people who lost houses and all their savings battling a debilitating illness; their spouses moving in with their children; their possessions sold or given away as they packed hastily and were removed from their own neighborhoods.

Nursing homes, retirement villages, help centers are waiting with open arms for those who have means to afford such services. Each stage will require new services; each service will require more resources from family members.

We may not have had a fool-proof plan for aging comfortably, but I wonder if my children can save enough or insure themselves enough to prepare themselves for such foggy situations. How much money do they have to put away from the time they start working, and never touch it, and hope the value of that money grows or at least doesn't decrease, so they can pay for all the years and months they will be incapacitated and unable to pay for the care and services they will need.

I'm curious.
Are we the only seniors worrying about such things?

Friday, October 12, 2012

We build dreams every step we take...

Here I am, after a walk on the beach.

Yesterday, a little girl told me she wanted to live in a house just like mine. I smiled back at her and told her: "Keep that in mind, for what you want, you will work for, what you dream will become energy you send to the world. You will forgo so many other things that people perceive as important, fancy shoes, jewelry, vacations, and will not miss any of those things because your dream cannot be bought at a supermarket."

Monday, October 8, 2012

All politics is local!

"This beautiful sunset doesn't help pay the bills!" The old woman stated with a toothless smile. I noticed that smile before I heard her words.

"Yes!" I stated in retort, not really wanting to get too involved in the conversation.

She was fishing on the city dock with her young grandson, both of them wrapped up in layers, though the temperatures were still mild. The jackets and sweaters were old and dirty. The two of them were sitting at opposite sides of the dock, and from the look of it, they must have been there for hours.

"Caught anything?" I chanted, still not truly wanting to be engaged, ready to move on my walk.

"Look!" She pulled a string of trout from the water, a beautiful catch indeed.
"Wonderful!" I smiled back.
"Do you like trout?" She asked as she pulled a couple off the string and bagged them.
"They are delicious." I said, not sure what to do, how to accept. I had nothing with me except my phone.
"Take them. We have lots of them." She kept smiling as she handed me the bag.
"I have to give you something back..." I was hesitating. I couldn't take something for nothing, I thought. This kind of interchange only works between friends, or family, people with whom you give and take.

"Nah. Nothing. Take them."

I did. The little boy, a first or second grader, came over and asked me if I knew how to gut and fillet the fish because he could do that for me too. I told him  it was ok.

By the time I got home and prepared the trout, and ate it for dinner, I still could not believe than anyone could just give me something for nothing. The next day, and the next, and through the week, I carried a ten dollar bill on my daily walk. I wanted so much to meet the same people and thank them properly.

This weekend I was at the Democratic Party Headquarters, at a small gathering to get out the vote. I met the woman again, and I found out her name and her status, and the names and status of dozens of other folks who represent the democratic party here in our small town. Some, like this woman, are making do, living on social security check. She wanted to know that some kind of help is available if she can no longer take care of her grandchild.

She is still looking for a job, by the way, anything that she can still do, gardening, cleaning, pet sitting. She volunteers at the local Pantry, bagging groceries, going on gleaning trips to local orchards and farms to get surplus produce for people who are worse off than her. She volunteers at school most days too, and is present at every event her grandchild participates.

She is barely eligible for Medicare, but has not enrolled yet because she doesn't need a doctor. She is happy her grandchild has Oregon Child Health card, and occasional dental care provided by local dentists who stop by in a van at every elementary school, once or twice a year.

I explained to her that she must enroll for Medicare, and see a doctor.

Her only need, she said, is that her grandchild is cared for if she is no longer around.

Monday, October 1, 2012

From sixty to seventy: Are you the person you were back then?

(November 2008, just back from our France vacation. I bought that hat in Marseilles, in a bookstore across the Yacht club. Here I am on the public dock of Lake Garrison, on one of my morning walks.)

Back then, we thought we could/would visit the world, one section a year. Let's see, by now, we would have added at least three more countries. In the previous year my husband had a couple of medical procedures and as soon as we could we managed to travel all the way to France, stopping both ways to spend time in New York, a place I had never visited.

We walked a few miles to Central Park.
We walked up and down Rockefeller Center.
We walked to the theater and back after midnight.
We explored blocks and blocks of Manhattan.

Now, just a few years later, and a few more medical procedures, we can barely walk a block. We go down to the garden and can't come up the small incline without taking many breaks. We need help lifting and pushing and digging. Just a few years ago, life was looking good.

Are we the same people? Yes and no. We are still trying to remain active in ways we hadn't thought of before, in small ways, and in unusual ways, and we have accepted that certain things we used to do are now being done by professionals.

We are aware that even small things are important to do:

1. violin playing and practice most days.
2. driving to events, like the Old Time Fiddlers Concert in Brookings this weekend.
3. entertaining friends and neighbors regularly.
4. volunteering at the party headquarters.
5. making phone calls for fundraising and get out the vote.
6. volunteering to teach cooking to school children.
6. hosting book clubs and writers' groups.
7. holding public office/I am still on the school board; my eight year.

What we no longer do:
1. Heavy maintenance around the house.
2. Seasonal cleaning.
3. Major traveling.

We are aware of our limitations and build activities to strengthen our bodies, avoiding things that might injure or complicate our bodies.  Our front yard and back yard have been renovated so we can still be active and enjoy gardening, only now it is easier to move about and to cultivate. We have remodeled our home slowly, looking at ways to open up space in case we were in need of moving around in a wheelchair.

Growing old may occur quickly or slowly.  We aim to hold our own, and still be prepared for further complications.