Retired in the Country

Some people want to move to the country after they retire. I think that many of these folks may be operating under some illusions about this lifestyle. Let me share how I have experienced these myths; perhaps it will save you some grief.

Myth 1: It’s quiet in the country
Could it get any noisier? Everyone is mowing, trimming, edging, sawing, welding, wood-splitting, and hammering with their big gas-fired lawn tools. We listen to the roosters sounding off early in the morning, the sound of tires on the newly asphalted road much of the night, and the dogs that everyone seems to own barking all night long. How many times have I been awakened by the screaming of some small animal just below my bedroom window, fighting off the owls or the coyotes?

Myth 2: It is healthy in the country
This is another big one. While there are some terrific organic farmers here, the homeowners that I know are very into landscaping by chemicals. They would rather dump a gallon of something labelled ‘Scott’s” or “Montsanto” than bend over to actually pull a weed. Fertilizing is another thing – enough with the 20-20-20 already. The worst offenders are usually the ones who continually declare their love for the land. And I think it goes without saying that we all drink well water.

Myth 3: I can dial into all my meetings remotely
Yeah, um, for those of you who are thinking you can a jump on the retirement lifestyle early, don’t count technology to help you. 10 Mps down, 0.872 Mps up isn’t even enough for one of us never mind two. And out here the utility companies just politely “put your name on the list” when you call to demand a greater share of access.

Myth 4: I will spend my days gardening, cooking exotic meals, or reading all those books I have saved up
Maybe. It’s more likely you will spend your time driving back and forth looking for ingredients (anyone know where I can find some fresh fennel?) or waiting for your daily Amazon order to arrive. Or waiting for vendors who promised to swing by, but are too busy to even prepare bids on smaller jobs.

Sure its beautiful sometimes, and the weather can be dramatic. But you might consider transitioning slowly, until you understand the real costs of giving up your urban or suburban lifestyle.

It’s your journey. Choose carefully.

My Mom Would Have Been 86 Today

Chani Nicholas wrote this in a horoscope post she wrote about the New Moon moving into Aries today, and it couldn’t be more suited to the mom I remember:

Aries … ushers in a call to life. It rallies the spirit. It is the original spark of intuition, initiation, and inspiration. If any sign knows how to embody an almost delusional amount of confidence, it’s this one.

Miss you Mom.

A Revelation at Hand

The world shifted on its axis this weekend as the impact of coronavirus on the human race came into focus. I felt the zeitgeist slip a notch, in contrast to its usual slow turning – borders of all sorts closing, new leaders emerging as previous leaders are shown – in a flash -to be ineffective, new concerns moving front and center and old priorities – once held dear – suddenly not even relevant.  March 2020. Something new has been born into this world.

The Second Coming by W. B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Our Parents, Ourselves

Last week I took my elderly father to the hospital for a medical test (a test that turned out to be completely unnecessary, but that’s another story).  I waited for 90 minutes in the waiting room, during which time I counted eight other women who looked to be my age, and to whom I either spoke directly or overheard discussing, the eldercare they are presently involved with. Seven of the women were dealing with their mothers, one said she had just buried her mom. Three told me they have no children of their own.

Nothing will help you understand the terrifying immensity of our country’s health care crisis like 90 minutes with a few of the unpaid and under-appreciated army of people caring for their parents. A crisis that is just beginning.

Your Full Life

I am realizing that living life to the fullest doesn’t mean that you will be able to live the perfect magazine life you were dreaming of, or make up the life you want … it just means that it is possible to live fully within the set of circumstances life throws at you.


If we really cared about what can only be called an epidemic of obesity – and the resulting health care costs – we would appoint a cabinet level seat to look holistically at the impact of:

    • Easy to acquire, highly refined carbohydrates distributed as “food”
    • Huge government subsidies for the corn industry
    • Junk food marketed to children
    • The use of corn in factory farming to lower the price of red meat
    • Decreasing emphasis on cooking at home
    • Decreasing emphasis on movement
    • Food companies engineering addiction into taste
    • Lack of nutritional training for medical professionals

Data from:

Whispering Trees

When I think of northern Michigan, my first thought is of the trees. The smell of pine needles on a hot still summer afternoon, the incredible riot of autumn color, skinny sentinels standing guard all winter, the moment of spring giddiness when the first buds emerge. Michigan’s trees are stressed now – since the great logging era ended 100 years ago, age, disease, and climate change have decimated millions more trees, and recent trends of not re-planting what is “harvested,” have already changed the northern Michigan my niece and nephew’s children will see. Ash, Beech, Oak, Spruce and Fir are all under threat or dying from insects, fungus, or disease. Hemlock could be next.

Michigan still has 19.3 million acres of forest – that’s more than 50% of the state’s land – so these trees are critical to our identity. The diversity and mix of trees are also critical to the wildlife we have here. 

When the trees are  gone, the birds and the birdsong will be gone too. The silence will be deafening.


Plastic bag caught up in a tree

I’ve become obsessed with a plastic bag caught in a tree near where we live. It’s a common enough sight in urban areas but I don’t think I have seen one here. Every time I drive past it, I think about how long that bag will endure.

Even if I could get my hands on it, there is no real way to get rid of that bag. It will be in a landfill, or in the lake or an ocean for enough years that it may as well be forever. My understanding from a cursory look at the research is that bags last 450 to 1,000 or more years. Burning them releases enough harmful dioxins that experts say it is better to put it into a landfill. Of course, they can be recycled. Another way of existing forever.