So I ran away, seeking time to contemplate a new life and to seek wisdom from those who were already living it.
My friend Kate is a perfect example. She came north for our annual art camp, which was extended this year from two days to a week, because after all, we are retirees!
Kate's career was that of professional graphic artist, but she is also adept in other art forms -- she's currently working on watercolor but also silver. Her polymer is terrific and she is one mean beader!
From Kate I learn to stretch my creative self. To continue mastery, whether it is a new medium or new subject matter.
And to savor joy. Exercise an inquisitive mind. And find discipline in other areas as well, not the least of which is moving about.
I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with Keith and Carol Adler. Keith was one of my advisors for my public relations graduate program and I'm pleased to count him as a friend. I didn't really know Carol before but now I wish I could hang out with her all the time!
Carol retired first, as an elementary school pricipal, followed several years later by Keith. They retired up north near Traverse City, Michigan, expanding their cottage into a permanent home on a bluff overlooking a lake with a window filled with trees just beginning to change color.
From Keith and Carol I learned the joy of sharing a retired life with someone. While it will be time before I do that, it is nonetheless an aspiration. And I also learned something else -- the joy of rediscovering a part of yourself that had little time to develop as you'd like.
Carol served an astounding lunch -- French onion soup, broccoli quiche, a lovely salad, fabulous muffins and cookies by Keith, who also made the baguette in the soup. Carol says that in retirement they've started cooking again, experimenting, taking time to make wonderful things. It is a new joy, one that didn't have time to blossom as they'd like before. I can relate to that.
I left Carol and Keith to visit Julie, who retired from our museum.
Like the Adlers, Julie and her husband moved north to the village of Empire on Lake Michigan's sand dunes. Their home came complete with three cats. This is George.
Julie explained that she now has the time to stretch her creativity.. She makes amazing "Spirit Dolls" which dazzled me with their beauty. She can take the time to read a book on the porch on a nice afternoon. Or, just sit there and enjoy the antics of George and his fellow felines.(And I have to say, I was ready to take George home with me and let Lizzie cope as she might! He was fabulous!)
Julie and I went into Empire, where we enjoyed a fun antique and gift store. She was a curator and has curated her house. She chooses wisely, things of beauty or charm. Another worthy lesson.
While I was north I visited Virginia. Virginia retired from WKAR about 10 years ago, maybe more. She, too, moved to Northern Michigan, near Petoskey. In the past I learned lots of creative skills from Virginia -- knitting tricks and needlepoint. On this day, this 80-year-old survivor said her words of advice would be to volunteer or take a class. Find new people to enjoy and learn from. Wise words, I think.
Fran is the last surviving "Lady of the Lake" and I've written about her before. She was my mother's best childhood friend and they remained friends until the day my mom died. Now 96, she is lively and active, and she credits much of her longevity in retirement to her activity. (That's Fran on the right and my mom on the left.)
She also cherishes the past. Spending time with Fran is like spending time with my mom, time I haven't had for more than 35 years. She says to remember the stories, share them, and admits she should write them down.
We watched old movies of the lake taken in the '20s -- my mom and my aunt Grace had a brief appearance. Fran is logging those old videos so she knows who is where.
Fran also says that many of her friends have long passed -- she is an advocate for enjoying people of all ages. There is an advantage to younger friends!
I met with my last retiree, Diane, when I returned home. She retired over the winter and is just getting the hang of it. Diane advised not overscheduling yourself. She tries to have one thing a day on her calendar -- lunch with a friend, a volunteer stint, an appointment. One can always add more, she says, but this way you can enjoy it and work with it.
All of these people are wonderful examples of people who are making the most of this time of life. I'm privileged to know them and hope to incorporate some of what I've learned from them to make the most out of my time as well.
My commitment is to savor connections, old friends and new...
...Observe the beauty all around me, even in the small things...
...Learn new skills and finally make time to do things I didn't seem to have enough time to do before.
To discover beauty in all things, from the lace of a curtain...
...to the ending days of summer.
And to look ahead, with optimism and expectation.
This is a new time. And I am jumping in with both feet!
(Postscript, September 2021 -- When I wrote this post in 2013, I had no idea how many of these wonderful people's lessons would stay with me, long after they had passed on. I will always cherish the memories of Keith, Fran and Virginia -- their friendship and their wise words.)