Six years ago this month, my spouse, two dogs and I began our new lives on the Rock. Hallmark Cards says the correct sixth anniversary gift should be wood, but please don’t bother. We already have plenty of that on this evergreen-encrusted isle.
We “retired” here after a perambulatory career that took us from California to Texas. (I will explain why I put “retire” in quotes in a moment.) It was a momentous decision to move half way across the country to a Rock we hardly knew. It was mid-2009; the economy had collapsed. Financially it wasn’t the smartest time to retire, but we figured the Rock would be a good place to seek shelter or hide out if the world truly was about to end.
From the day the burly guys finished unloading the gigantic, cross-country moving van at our house, we have felt as if we’ve been here all our lives. I realize how presumptuous that is for me to say in a place where a fair number of folks count themselves as third- for fourth-generation Rock dwellers and are able to leave flowers for relatives in Sunnyside Cemetery who died more than 100 years ago.
But what’s so special about this island is how quickly new arrivals such as us acclimate to life and customs on the Rock. Gone are my business suits, food for moths. Banished are the neckties, dress shoes and button-down shirts; I hope somebody picked them up at the thrift store and is enjoying them. Stuffed in the back of the closet are my old sweaters and windbreakers; useless in blustery wet weather that changes every minute. We did use our big Texas umbrellas for a few months until we noticed how the locals gave us that “what a couple of wimps” look for fearing a few little raindrops.
In the place of all that gear, I now have at least six pairs of well-worn jeans, five extra-large sweatshirts (two with hoods), several baseball caps, a dozen T-shirts (mostly received by donating at Rock fundraising events), five plaid flannel shirts, three pairs of New Balance running/walking shoes and a fleece vest. That’s all the wardrobe I need. What else would one wear here?
Gathering dust, too, are the fine china, stemware and candleholders once used at our big-city dinner parties; they just seem out of place at a potluck. Now we dine on Pottery Barn “everyday” dishware, and we like it better after it’s “broken in” by a few chips.
It is amazing how quickly a new Rock dweller loses the acquisitive, I-deserve-it-and-must-have-it-NOW mentality that infects our brothers and sisters in America. Of course we still have Internet access on the Rock, and that means Amazon and EBay addictions lurk close by. But I have learned to satisfy my acquisitive urge by shopping at farmers markets and thrift shops. Just as much fun but much cheaper.
And besides I have no time for expensive acquisitions. “Retiring” on the Rock has led me to a half dozen volunteer jobs that fill up my days, a vegetable garden that takes up half the hours in summertime, and weed-whacking and mowing that take up the other half. Oh, and writing a column for the Examiner, which I find time for somehow.
On this, my wooden anniversary, I realize how much the Rock has changed my life. I am not retired; I am reforested.