I was forced into retirement due to my accident – doctors would not allow me to return to teaching; very upsetting. I literally cried when I wrote that letter to my school. I had been teaching my whole life and I was already missing my students. I worked through the heartache and settled into retired life. Those of you of a certain age will remember the TV show All In The Family. That’s what my husband and I became, without the bigotry and prejudice. He brought home the paycheck, and as I recovered, I took care of all the household duties. I couldn’t stand the thought of him having to come home from work and having to cook, clean, do laundry, etc, etc. Part of my in-home PT/OT was relearning how to do these things safely. Piece of cake now, but you know what it’s like when you’re first starting out and the little voice in your head keeps saying, “How the hell am I going to do this?” And then we figure it out. I’ve had five years to settle into my retirement lifestyle.
My husband, Jay, and I realized that the most important commodity we had was time. To that end, he retired early so that we could enjoy what we love to do most, before we become too old and/or too infirm to do it – travel the country in CC, our fifth wheel camper. (My kids named it CC for “Camping Castle,” as it is a large, 40 footer.) His last day at school – yes, he is a teacher as well – was June 17; we left for the West on the 18th. Our retirement trip itinerary includes Estes Park, Colorado, Denver, Colorado, Cortez Colorado, and ultimately, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. As I write this, we are in Estes for a few more days before traveling down to Cortez. Jay is just starting to relax, but the tough part will be this fall when he no longer needs to set the alarm clock for 4:45 a.m. That will be a major adjustment, and I am giving him the time and the space to process that.
Traveling to different parts of the country is, in some respects, like visiting other planets. New England is beautiful, but so are the Rocky Mountains, the vast plains of Nebraska, the stark red hoodoos of Utah. Every region of this country has its beauty; you just have to look for it. And along with the beauty, comes the wildlife.
I did NOT see lions, tigers, or bears, but this trip has been serendipitous – we have seen more wildlife in the past two weeks than we have in years. Female elk with their calves (one with twins!) just saunter through our campground. We saw male elk with huge racks in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). On our hike in RMNP we were privileged to see great and small – antelope, moose, deer, marmots, bald eagles, magpies, and some very fat squirrels. Hummingbirds abound, muskrats and ducks of different feathers from New England, and llamas. (Many ranchers have a llama on the premises because llamas will fight off predators whereas many animals, especially horses, have the flight response.) But the most incredible sight was a bighorn sheep – we were driving up I-70 and there it was, just hanging out on a rocky outcrop. I spent seven years in Colorado before moving back home and had never seen one. Just amazing.
My point? We spend much of our time taking care of other things – our bodies, our families, work. But wherever you are, use some of your time to just look. There is a world of wonder everywhere. Use some of your precious time to relax, breathe, and see that wonder – it IS everywhere. When I’m home, I love seeing the mundane – squirrels, chipmunks, finches, and Rosie, the rabbit who has made its home under my wheelchair ramp. Listen for the mockingbirds, the woodpeckers, the cardinals – whichever birds are in your area. A simple bird feeder that sticks to your window, a hummingbird feeder, seed for the squirrels (be mindful of bears, though!) And if you travel at all (and you aren’t driving), look out that window and you may be surprised at what you see. Walk/Ride a path if you’re able and really look – take your time and enjoy the fauna and flora. Download a flower app and enjoy identifying wild flowers. These are just some simple suggestions to get you started.
Enjoying the world around you, however you do it, is cathartic. Make the time; you’ll be glad you did. I am looking forward to what Utah brings.
And remember: You never know how much strength you have until you are called upon to use it.