LAND LINE

No one calls us. No. That’s inaccurate. We have friends in Canada who call sometimes to touch base and one of our sons often calls us during his breaks working from home, especially while he is on a walk.

Our younger son got us each a cell phone and pays our new phone bill, so the land line became a useless expense. Even so it took us months to cancel and unplug our big landline phones. We finally did last week. We dickered about who and how to alert this change. In the end, family. We figured most everyone everyone has my email.

Retirement, gray hair, gardening, beauty and telephones in no particular order—

Last week we saw this osprey land on the snag at the headland north of our home. Usually there is an eagle there, or a raven or crow. We had never seen an osprey there and my zoom struggled in the wind, shot from the north in the next beach. She flew right over us in a long lazy turn.

Our courtyard garden. There are four varieties of Siberian iris in this photo—two purple, two pale—though it’s impossible to see that in the photo. Two roses are blooming, the hydrangeas are leafed out. The four rhubarbs (only three of them shown above) are doing very well. I made my first tart of the season last week.

We try to accomplish something each day. At the beach this might be shopping, mail, gardening, weaving, cleaning house, baking. Retirement is more fun for some than for us, I have concluded. Perhaps it helps if people did not love their jobs or make connections with people. If going to work provided meaning to life, not going to work is harder. On the other hand, these recent years have been hard times for most Americans.

Since I loved teaching, not teaching has removed structure and purpose from my routine. Even during my famous “three months off in the summer” (actually 9-10 weeks), I was always taking classes or teaching or writing or working or doing all those things at once. I needed to retire because I could not longer maintain the pace I required of myself to do a “good” job teaching English and writing. I was sick for most of the last year I taught full time. Teaching only the college classes might have worked but admin messed that up for me, moving my classroom, changing my schedule, and generally treating me as a cog in an indifferent machine.

I am not a cog.

I refuse to be invisible.

As my hair turned almost entirely gray—silvery-gray—women who dyed their own hair crossed the street to tell me how good mine looked. This happened several times. When that was happening, I was still youngish, early-mid 40s. I had dyed my hair for a while, but that damages hair, or at least it did mine. My gray hair was a different texture, actually nicer than before I had much gray, and in sunshine it looked bright and shiny. 

Gray hair is still judged as old. And I am old, truly old and with no desire to pretend otherwise. (I wish it were true that dyed hair made 70-year-old people look older, as I read in a WaPo comment, but I doubt that is the perception. People are often stupid about such things.) 

I will be 70 this fall. When I was still in my 30s, a wonderful woman told me, “That’s the great thing about being 70, no one expects you to look young anymore.” But, sorry to say, they do still expect us to be youthful and beautiful. Or we are invisible.  

Thus, one of the challenges is feeling invisible. I am invisible to some people. While shopping in person at a favorite store this spring, I called and called to a store associate standing on the other side of a counter (yes, they are all “associates” not “clerks” these days) but it took the manager to gain the man’s attention. He was tall, young, and male. I am short, old, and female. Invisible.

The genuine challenge isn’t the oblivious clerk, but my own sense of fading. Is this the result of isolation? Even at the start of teaching high school English half-time, I saw 75 students each day. One particularly stressful year, I was teaching 205. The job was hard.

It meant that I was speaking to dozens of people each day, responding to their needs, answering their questions, reading and hearing their hard work. I was exhausted by mid-June when school let out, but antsy by mid-August to start back to school. Another recently-retired teacher warned me to get out of town after I’d retired when school started up in the fall. He said the impulse to drive to work was a killer.

So yes, three years fully retired and in my third year of only rarely speaking to to anyone and hugging only family, I struggle.

I knit a swatch yesterday for a silk noil wrap. It turned out very well, but I am not yet inspired to start that project. I do need one. I decided a few days ago to take a break from weaving. Fourteen shawls in less than seven months. Enough yarn in my stash to cobble together eight more shawls by September if I kept on, but not the colors I want. I’ve given away and sold dozens, but they fill two shelves in the glassed cabinet Gary and I put together in the condo, and I have twenty more here in plastic bins. So maybe I will knit instead.

Gardening? Our garden is beautiful in every season. It was designed that way and to be easy to care for, and without fertilizer or watering, or even much weeding. We are great fans of Gardeners World, but a recent series by one of the hosts reveals just how hard she works to make her cottage garden beautiful for most of the year. Hundreds of pots, greenhouses and cold frames. In spring all those potted tulips are stunning, but by late summer the brick paths are overgrown and her garden seems messy to us, no better in autumn. In winter, to our eyes, her garden is ugly—everything dead and waiting. This seems to be acceptable in a cottage garden. Ours was designed to be far less dramatic, but blooming almost continuously. The rufus hummers are here year around.

Below is our front yard, the one bordering the ocean.

Four roses are blooming, ceanothus, salal, and Jerusalem sage. The rhodie is done, and the honeysuckle and Lucifer are not yet budded. The stone path was Gary’s anniversary present to me a few years ago. The “gravel” on each side is individually collected stones from the shore—mostly agates and jasper. To the left is mostly moss and other volunteers such as strawberry. It needs cutting a few times a year and none of this is never watered. To right is the part of our yard long covered by decking. When the decking was so rotted that soft spots and holes made it dangerous to use, we demolished it. Only a few plantings but many volunteers, no fertilizer, and we prune only one of the roses and pull thuggish English ivy. I have also been pulling montbrecia.

Familiar. We go out early for our walks and try to reach the stairs (a mile) or the “headland” or the “seal rock,” or the “turnaround rock” (1.5 miles). These are our markers. On a good day, we walk clear around Hug Point (2 miles). We go out between 6 and 7am before breakfast partly because Gary has always been an early riser, mostly because we like being the first or among the first to walk tide-washed sand. That early we see locals also looking for a quiet shore and dog-walkers. Locals have their daily path. Dog-walkers are out long enough to empty their dogs.

In summer, if we stay out long enough, two hours or more, there are people with children playing in the sand. Sometimes they ask us what we search for in the rocks. Sea glass is what we’re searching for but we say rocks because that’s mostly what we carry home. Visitors and even locals most often comment on a “beautiful” day when there is sunshine. But for me, it’s any day at all. I look out over the ocean at sky. Blue, pale gray or dark, it is always sky and water. I like the water best when it is green, that particular smokey green color that shows on a bright but cloudy day. But that kiss of water to sky—that is beauty.

This morning we are not getting our walk. Gary has gone to get the oil changed in the car. I am sitting up in bed typing and considering the green silk swatch. I can hear a Eurasian dove flirting. A jay has earlier chased the doves off.

Yesterday, a former student stopped by just as we arrived home for Portland. She had tried to call but found our landline did not go through. Someone noticed! She told me about her MBA and shared news, including a death in her family from covid. But mostly she was smiling and hopeful—she was always a hopeful person. We stood in the drive and talked. I should have taken a photo, but the evidence of her life remains in me.

By the end of next month, montbrecia will be blooming bright orange. Before that, the salal will have berries so that I can make Gary’s favorite muffins. We have spotted the bat, we have seen hummingbirds, and at least four species of bee.

When people ask that most ubiquitous of questions, How are you? He does not respond, Fine. He says, I’m alive.

We’re alive and easy to find.

Beautiful.

8 thoughts on “LAND LINE

  1. First: that is the most beautiful sunset photo! Gorgeous!
    Your gardens are lovely I have always admired them! I like my front garden in spring and summer. I tend to plant haphazardly even though I did plan the front garden. Oh well
    I will have to check if I have your cell #s.
    I had your landline memorized for some reason. Did you mean your osprey photo to be obscured by gray panel?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The osprey is obscured? No. It looks fine to me, but I never know what shows for others. Anyone else having trouble?

      Thank you about the photo and gardens. I will call today or tomorrow. (We had that landline number for 43 years, that might be why.)

      Like

  2. we cannot do than more than four to give a hand to each—c d—no honestly, Clara,
    if Alice is in some strange land —then how would a land line help?
    Not true with the garden sloth or is it more a fig newton of our imagination.
    Would that we could get ourselves back to the garden.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So much to digress here, but what I keep mulling over is how you’re feeling post-retirement, from daily dealings with a crush of people to nil. I miss some of my co-workers but not the workplace and definitely not the work. I guess I’m lucky in that way. There’s so much I do not miss, but I do miss that sense of being needed. At times my job, or rather the people I worked with, validated my existence, especially the longer I was there. Now I have to do my own validating. This is the part of retirement that I wasn’t prepared for. Still, I wouldn’t change things. Oh, and we gave up our landline a few years ago when we realized that the only calls we were getting were from telemarketers 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, yes, telemarketers. That was an issue for us too.

      I loved the work, loved the students, and because I am basically not the least bit social, I miss the necessary interactions, the mental challenges, and the human connections demanded by my job.

      There was another side. Faculty meetings were, some years, so awful I had migraines. The hours (I demanded of myself) were completely nuts. Gary teased that I was never off the clock, and that was pretty much true. I worked a minimum of 65 hours/week when I was full time. Ultimately, it was disrespect and disconnection from admin that made me choose to retire. When the higher-ups failed to check in with me about my decision, that was disappointing.

      I think the past few years have been hard in general and for most people. Four years of a president without decency and respect, the pandemic, and the on-going unaddressed issues of gun-violence and global warming. As a child we had pointless atomic bomb drills (because under the circumstances we were “preparing for, we’d all dyed”; in my last years teaching, we had drug-sniffing dogs, tsunami drills, fire drills, and shooter-in-the-building drills.

      Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

      Liked by 2 people

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