From here to where?

I’ve been waking up in the same place for more than forty years, and what meets my eyes is home. Familiar fields with familiar names—the trefoil field, the far field, the barn field—farmed by someone else, now, but still mine and comfortingly familiar. A yard and garden that have evolved as yards and gardens do: old trees gone, new trees planted and grown tall; a vegetable garden beside the house, expanding some years, shrinking others; flower gardens ebbing and flowing as the mood strikes.

The hill, from a distance, seems immune to the passage of time, but I know it has undergone its own evolution over four decades: clearings grown in, poplar stands logged, the sugar bush matured. The river—even the river has changed, lower now, with tag alders grown up along the edge where doomed elms once thrust their branches up and arched over the slow-moving, brown water.

And of course the house—now nearly a century old—has seen old walls removed, new walls built, windows changed, decks added, bedrooms assigned, reassigned, and then converted to other uses as children vacated them.

It’s all been so gradual that when I look at photographs from those early months and years, I am taken aback by the absence of the trees that now dwarf the house, by the dilapidated fence that for years separated the yard from the barnyard, and by the shabby wooden steps and laundry-stoop that pre-dated the spacious deck. These are the changes of a life lived in one place for a long time, and they only deepen the sense of belonging, of home.

These paragraphs from my memoir, Shifting Currents, capture the depth of my feelings about my home. And so, why am I beginning a blog about moving on in time and space? Why are we scouring the real estate listings for another place to live? And why do I think anyone else will care.

Well, first, maybe they won’t. But the pressures—real and imagined—that we’re facing are not uniquely ours. We’re just a little ahead of the huge population bulge whose members are already making plans for their later lives, something we’ve so far resisted. We’re fit and healthy and have trouble imagining frailty. But if it hits, we’d be hard pressed to live here. And, we’ve said for a long time now, better to move out while it can still be an adventure than to wait until we have no choice.

Add to that the fact that we’re among those rare folks who have not only lived in one place so long that our roots are touching bedrock, but who have a son—now a man in his early 40s—who dreams of living and raising his kids in the same place. And oops… his kids are growing up fast. If his dream is to come true, we need to take another look at our own hopes and expectations for the next years or decades—whatever we have left. (Yes, we do find ourselves uttering phrases like that more and more often.)

So. How far to downsize? To move to town? To build here on the farm, close to “home”? How to manage an emotional disconnect from the past? And how will our ultimate choice affect how we feel about ourselves over the next years, how we age, as surely we will? I’ll be musing on some of those questions—trying to apply my personal experiences to some bigger questions about time and place. Not, I assure you, taking you along on every gut-wrenching rise and dip on the rollercoaster of emotion. That would be way too scary!


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8 Responses to From here to where?

  1. nonna3js says:

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts Paula. Leo and I have been up and down that road and look at various alternatives as we too think of our senior years. Right now, we are fairly fit and healthy and the thought of leaving our home is daunting. Would we be happy in a condo? An apartment? How about a smaller home? A smaller home still has maintenance so what about the times we spend away in the winter? We would still have to have someone clear the driveway so what changes? A smaller driveway? Less grass to cut in the summer but still needs cutting and so it goes and we remain where we are once more.


  2. Erica says:

    Mom, I love reading this. It gives me an insight into you that I don’t necessarily get from ‘real life’ which I love. I’m really glad you’re going to blog some about what’s going on now. I remember you saying something about finding each life stage less scary/more doable because you’d seen Grandma ‘conquer’ it. I feel the same from seeing you and your writing expresses things that don’t come out in conversation.

  3. Molly~ says:

    “And, we’ve said for a long time now, better to move out while it can still be an adventure than to wait until we have no choice.”

    While not a question of whether or not we had choice, I had felt for some time that the new adventure was tops on our list when we sold our house this spring after nearly 21 years. Smack dab in the suburbs, it worked well to raise our family, but had grown to be more maintenance than joy. I will say, however, that not having a true plan was perhaps slight mistake in that we are now living in 80 sq ft of a furnished rented space and we are now in goldilocks mode whereby everything for sale seems either too big, too small, too expensive or too much work… hoping to find the one that is “just right.” Of course, heading to Chautauqua in a few weeks will put all of this on hold until the fall…… it absolutely has turned into an adventure!

  4. pdunning says:

    Good. I was worried…

  5. Penny Milton says:

    Paula, you’re a step ahead of us. I will look for your updates eagerly.

  6. Janet Inksetter says:

    You are onto a good thing here…this is a frequent topic of conversation these days.

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