Part of our original downsizing plan was to let go of the car once we got settled in Boston. We haven’t done that yet.
We love the easy access we have to great public transportation. For the most part, we delight in using that. And, for the times when a car could be really helpful, zipcar is readily available. Still, we’re not ready to let the car go yet.
In the heart of Boston a car is not always an advantage. One either finds parking on the street or pays serious money for a dedicated parking place. Sometimes really serious money. We’ve opted for street parking. It can be complicated. The other morning, for instance, Bill got up to move the car by eight AM for the street sweepers. He could only find parking at a meter, which meant I had to move it two hours later. Luckily the street sweepers had finished with our street and I could get a place right in front of our house. Whew! Safe – until we use it for something or the streets get swept again in two weeks.
Is this how I want to spend time? Doesn’t downsizing and simplifying suggest we should give up this car we don’t really need. What about our commitment to a sharing economy? And what about lessening our carbon footprint? Continue reading
The other day I walked to the Museum of Science to see a movie about coral reefs. I’ve been intrigued with reefs ever since reading an article in the science section of the New York Times a little over six years ago about the death of many coral reefs and the efforts to restore them. The article brought tears to my eyes. Coral reefs, sometimes called the rain forests of the sea, are diverse communities that shelter a vast array of species. If any one of those species is at risk, if the diversity gets lost, it puts the whole community at risk. If the coral, the habitat of the community, dies off it threatens the species who live there. Many scientists quoted in the article were pessimistic about our ability to reverse the dramatic loss of reefs in recent times.
Wikimedia Commons photo by Mikhail Rogov
The movie, a visual delight, was more hopeful, but also suggested that reefs could disappear in our lifetime. The opening scenes confirmed an intuition I had about human communities and coral reefs. The scenes flashed back and forth between cities packed with people and traffic moving in all directions and reefs with schools of fish streaming in all directions. Point made: Community is our human habitat, our coral. Continue reading
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening“
I have loved Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” since I was young. Then, I was grabbed with the narrator’s sense of service and duty. Lately, the poem has struck me differently. I am taken by his attraction to the lovely, dark and deep woods. I can imagine him longing to go into them to see what’s there, to feel the magic and reverence that woods can inspire.
While thinking about this at some point I realized that I felt the same attraction and that, wonder of wonders, Bill and I have no more promises to keep. We’ve raised our children. Our fathers died somewhat young and we cared for our mothers in our home for the last little bits of each of their lives. We had various returning nesters that we sheltered. But now they are independent. We have left our salaried jobs and work for ourselves. The only promises left to keep are to each other and to God. We can hold hands and walk into the woods. Who knows what we’ll find there? Hopefully we’ll discover new opportunities for service, expansive ideas, gratefulness for the journey and joy in the small, precious things of life.
What attracts you and what do you hope to find?
As we downsize, I realize that giving up certain things also involves giving up certain roles. At Christmas time we packed up my mother’s dishes (which had been her mother’s) and Bill’s mother’s dishes and took them to Maleita, our oldest daughter. Handing over the dishes as well as moving out of the big house made it clear to me that I wouldn’t be hosting the holiday meals. It’s a role I’ve loved – gathering whatever family and friends were available and enjoying good food and good companionship.
And it’s not just the holiday meals – we loved providing hospitality to people from all over. We were blessed with a house big enough to have people stay. Maybe because my work has often involved intangibles I love the concreteness and sensuality of cooking for people – the colors and scents and tastes, even the feel of stirring a risotto or kneading bread. I love figuring out what people enjoy eating and serving them that. I have to admit to a certain sadness at giving that up. Continue reading
Our room is comforting to me. It feels like home even though we’ve only been in it a little while. There are two large windows overlooking the street with a large tree shading them. Birds sing in the morning. The place is new to us, but there is a comfort in what we kept and brought with us. On the bed is the brightly embroidered bedspread we never intended to buy on our trip to visit our daughter and son-in-law when they were working in India. On the window sill sits a ceramic man who used to stand on a swing until it rotted years ago. It was a present from our friend Judy, who lived near us in three very different places – Detroit, California and Florida. It reminds me that friendships last despite distance.
We have a long history of trying to get rid of things. While we’ve made some progress over the years, we never seemed to get on top of it.
Deciding to move into one 16 by 18 foot room in a community forced us to grapple with our relationship with things in a much more radical way. Both of us are a little sentimental and have pack rat tendencies. We never bought things just to decorate the house. Rather, our house was decorated with things that had meaning for us – mementos from trips and times together with family and friends, gifts from people we love, things we inherited from the households of our parents. And then there were the books! And the art on the walls! Sorting what to give away, what would go into the room with us and what would go to storage invited us to struggle with how much we need, what we value most and what role stuff plays in our lives.
One day earlier this summer, Bill and I walked through our four bedroom house on the water in Florida and had a ritual good-bye. We remembered important things that had happened in different rooms and thought about all the people who had stayed in them. Then we got in the car and began our journey north. I turned to him and said, “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…” to which he replied, “Let’s go exploring.”
Certain benchmark ages cry out for response. Turning 65 (which will happen for Bill in October and me in December) is typically marked by signing up for Medicare. We had something further in mind. For the past several years we’d been getting impatient with Florida. I find the heat and humidity oppressive and physically taxing. We were spending more time in our house, less time interacting with people, exercising or pursuing interests. We were challenged less often and I began to see how easy it would be to live in an increasingly narrow world, to grow old. It was time for something to jog us out of what could easily become a rut.
We have always loved Boston. Bill was born about a half dozen miles from where we now live, but moved away as a child. I fell in love with the city as an adult. Good friends and most of Bill’s cousins live here. Our daughter Kate and her husband, Marton, had moved here. In February they gave birth to Leila, their first child, our fourth grandchild. While in the process of figuring out a living situation in Boston we were told by our friend, Margaret, about Beacon Hill Friends House. We went for a visit and fell in love with the place. They accepted us as residents. A week after leaving Florida, we began the process of moving into our third floor, 16 by 18 foot room overlooking Chestnut Street.