That's quite a promise. I'll try to deliver
This week one of the two general contractors working on my home came by. Marc's pulled in a thousand directions, given that all his people are now doing cleanup after mid-January's terribly destructive ice storm. One person, he told me, reported that no fewer than twelve trees had fallen on his house.
I'm reminded regularly that having chosen to live in the midst of a forest has its down side. The tall firs which surround me can also mash me into sweet potato pie. But not this time. Not yet.
At this point, at least, Marc was walking my house, which has been empty of most of my belongings (jammed in the garage and then the basement) since June 2022. Then last March I recommitted to the place, started getting things like a bed, which promptly had to be dissembled and with everything else, crammed into the rest of the house when in August of '23, I had two big water events. Right after I broke my hip, right?
It wasn't until the middle of December that the rebuild began, and it has both inched along and sped along variously, just like life. Then it turns out that I needed a great deal of what people euphemistically refer to as "deferred maintenance."
Deferred maintenance is a term that is just as apropos for the body, and life, as it ever is referring to our homes.
When I found out that Belfor, the folks who had the USAA insurance contract, was going to paint my bedroom as well as take care of the floor, I decided that I would at least paint one butt-ugly wall in the house.
You see what's coming. From one wall, then to another, then the whole damned house, oh and the ceiling by the way, oh and wood flooring instead of replacing the carpet, oh and....
The house was thrown into further, utter disarray. I huddled on my couch as ladders and paint cans and the stink of drying paint took over. I tried to escape for eight days and ran straight into the ice storm and came home to an unholy mess. Every time I thought I was getting ready to close out a chapter of chaos, it continued.
I love company, and I keep telling the Universe that I'd really like to be visited by gorgeous naked dancing men (think Chippendales). Well, apparently the Universe and I have a poor connection. Plenty of men, but they are neither naked nor dancing.
I still enjoy their presence in what has been a very empty, lonely, echoing house since June '22. With their hard work the house has been transformed. Big appliances repaired.
I get to celebrate the gorgeous work that they are doing in my house. For example, this heating vent, turned into a work of art:
That said, as I've watched this process with the house, I have watched a nearly-identical process mirrored in my body. And my life, for that matter. Three parallel universes moving along, sometimes in fits and starts, but all of them moving. Sure didn't feel like it at times.
Back in 2018 there was one physical thing really wrong, then another thing, then another, all of them requiring major surgery. All of them. Damn, right? So the overhaul began. I didn't see that everything else was about to be pulled down in the general maelstrom of life changes.
Life got an overhaul, too, as I pulled up roots, moved, tried to settle in, nearly killed myself off, and all the rest has kept happening. I'd be liar if I didn't notice that the more I tried to re-create what had been, the more life kept falling apart.
Relationships died, fell away. Big emotional chunks like calving glaciers moved away and melted into the ocean of my past.
The same with my body. The more I tried to reboot my seriously badass training program, the more my body fell apart. The same with my professional life.
Personally, the more I tried to grasp at the shreds of dead relationships, the more they got whipped away by the winds. And, the more obvious it became that they needed to be released, just like old identities.
I eventually pay heed, even though, honestly, I can sure put myself through the wringer before I get there. There was incredible pain, then depression, then frustration, all the while trying to find something to hang onto.
The past ain't it, but it sure is tempting. Like staring at that photo of myself at 64, in the best shape of my life.
Like so many of us, I sometimes looked backwards instead of staying in the shape-shifting present.
We all live seasons. A part of me has, as do we all, had difficulty accepting that a certain season of my life has changed. Not ended entirely, but most assuredly has morphed into the next. Imagine if we held onto summer while the world around us moved into fall.
I've written in one way or another about this. Then I've turned around and launched myself into some kind of reboot, too often trying to be or do what is no longer appropriate.
I can no longer do four hours a day of workouts, nor do I want to, nor does this body wish to be put through that again.
Instead, just as I'm doing with this still new-to-me house, I get to slow down, consider my options, be far more realistic about what's in front of me and retool my life in brand-new and equally-exciting directions.
I get to breathe in what it's like to be surrounded by colors I chose, colors which soothe and delight. Colors which are perfect for the paintings I bought from Oregon artist William Selden, whose gorgeous seaside pieces helped me get through those months I couldn't drive to the coast every week (see below).
I get to breathe in what it's like to have a different body, a repaired body, that needs different care and different challenges and different experiences. Exploring that body is like exploring a new country.
I also get to find all kinds of new, harder exercises which best fit where I'm headed (old age, eventually) and a return to some of the pieces of that former life which I still wish to live, like Africa and Asia and South America and beyond.
I get to surround myself with different friends, which, like my brand-new walls, reflect a very different self, living a changing life, with very different things to offer.
The house I had in Denver would not be right for the person I am now, for the season I am living.
There's tons more to do. More piles of stuff to sell, donate, consign. More aspects of the self which could use scrubbing and airing out. More opportunities to challenge old ideas and old ways of being and old habits.
There's a speech scheduled for March, the start of a reboot to that part of my career which I genuinely miss. I love audiences. Miss the energy. I finally created that opening, and it's likely to grow. Because what I have to talk about is something people apparently want to hear: my funniest stories from travel, and that there is life after sixty. Yes, indeedy.
There's work with the outdoor industry in ways I never could before largely because of all the hard work, the investment, the experiences I have garnered. I most assuredly do not have to do all those extreme adventures again, but having had them, I now have serious chops.
I get to pick and choose which I want to continue, based on the body I have now, not the one I had at sixty.
Some of this has been very slow in forming, especially given my eagerness to return to some semblance of the kind of body agency I once had. After the last five years, I'm so damned glad I can just hike again, climb stairs and walk without assistance. From there I get to build a different life.
There are another ten months before I have the final say on what my feet can do, whether I will ever be able to hike Annapurna, or even our local peaks. At least at this point I've been able to accept that even if that isn't possible, so many other things still are. It just doesn't really matter.
That's just one way to unravel Life's secrets, as promised above, to accept that in some really essential way, it doesn't really matter. It doesn't. Not in the way we're trained to believe it does, anyway.
As I watch all the tributaries begin to form one long, slow-moving river, with all the things still banging around and submerging and then reappearing in new forms later on, I am just starting to appreciate how little everything matters.
What does matter is the relationship I have with the sacred in me, in all of us, and how that plays out in every single moment I'm given. To wit:
I'm so damned pleased to head out for a three-to five-mile hike with a friend that I'm tempted to do backflips.
I'm so damned pleased to head to the brand-new Y and work out- and regularly be approached by people my age who are just being friendly, that I'm tempted to do backflips.
The YMCA is the polar opposite of Planet Fitness in this regard. I am surrounded by people of all ages doing all kinds of things. So many are friendly and seek you out. In that way I love, they become party of your gym family.
Some morph into people whom you invite to dinner.
Now that I have a table and chairs, I can finally do that.
The house is almost ready to receive new friends in the same way my body is almost ready to take on new challenges in the same way that my brand new career is about take flight. I feel like a fledgling on a ledge, shivering in that way that we're not entirely sure, but with all the instincts and abilities that guarantee that yes, you'll be just fine.
Just. Let. Go.
There's a new season at hand. I'm in the October of my life.
Finding the bird in my chest.
The brand logo, above, was designed by my Argentinean friend Rocio. I told her that it needed to express October, joy, exploration, adventure, and celebration of life. Right now she's building a full-scale press kit because I am getting ready to do a full-scale launch.
Things are weaving together into a very different life. And I'm all in for it.
There's a huge difference, and I am just now learning it, between wanting to preserve parts of our pasts and ourselves which are done with us, vs. conserve those parts, like lessons learned, wisdom, perspectives and the like, which absolutely support us going forward.
We see such fights going on all around us as so many of us struggle to release what needs to slide into the mists of our history. Those fears are terrible when we don't trust that what we can conserve is what propels us forward.
We can't preserve youth like a pickle; that's why we end up looking like one.
I've put myself in my fair share of pickles, too which is probably why I am starting to look like one myself.
A new friend is bringing her wolf-dog over today. She is one of my painters, she has dogs and horses she'd like to have attention (my hand is up) and I am working my way into the horse community step by slow step. Immensely likeable person and someone I can't wait to get to know.
The pastor of the local Science of Mind church has become a fast friend. I am not big on standing up, holding hands with strangers and singing dirges, but she is hilarious and brilliant. When we sit down to coffee, in seconds we're in stitches laughing at life and aging and our general human silliness.
That's priceless. LindaR will be delighted that the opportunity to be hugged once in a while is finally happening after years and years. It does indeed make a huge difference.
(Pam just got here, taking a break)
When I left Denver after fifty years, I underestimated some things and overestimated others. As do we all. Any time you make that big a move late in life after decades in one place, it's hard to predict how we'll respond. One lesson I kept avoiding was that I could not create aspects of Denver here in Eugene.
Frankly, I didn't know I was trying to. Didn't know what to do when whatever I did just Did. Not. Work. At. All. So I went back to what I knew worked ten years ago.
Bet a great many of you can relate.
I will end with this. I bought several paintings by William Selden, here is how they look against my brand new wall (they're not up yet, just balanced on a chair so you can see them against that new paint.
The new color, while it doesn't really show as well as I'd like here, perfectly draws out the sea in these paintings. These scenes are what the Coast looks like. They are why I'm here, and why I head to the Coast every Wednesday. The bottom painting, in fact, is Yachats, right off the Beach Road, where I sit and eat a boxed lunch and let the surf roll in my window.
When it's time to start taking out the wall decorations, that's when you know things are getting close.
Like so many things, life is just starting to fall in place. Other things fall apart. I am beginning to just let them, which is getting easier.
That said, my new friend Pam, who just came to the house with her two rescued wolf hybrids, said that if I ever needed anything in town, especially as it relates to my health, that I had her number.
That's precisely what I'd say to a new friend, too. I am building community here.
There I was squatting in the hallway, two hundred-pound wolf hybrids in my face, one of them having buried her head in my lap and soaking up attention, and my brand new friend, my age, just opening up her life and her heart to me.
I was so grateful I wanted to weep.
Is everything perfect? Our nation and the world are in chaos. There are really tough times ahead. I'm not Pollyanna.
But everything is perfect. Perhaps that's the life secret. Seeing all things as perfect when part of us is screaming they aren't. Seeing the perfection in the imperfection, and sitting with it. Basking in it, actually. And being grateful for all it.
I am so grateful I want to weep.
It's been quite a journey, these last few years. Tomorrow I drive down to Coos Bay to buy a few more paintings from Selden at his home studio. I can't wait to decorate my new walls with beautiful things.
The river is flowing. It submerges me regularly, bangs me up against rocks often, but I pop up and keep paddling, as do we all.
With heartfelt thanks to those of you who have written and spoken to me privately and helped me on this journey. You know who you are.
Dear Walkabout Saga Reader:
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