You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come, to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Excerpt from “For One Who is Exhausted,”
from “To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings,” 2008, Doubleday
As usual, Dick had the right idea—soon after my last semester of teaching to migrate west to the stretch of ocean that has calmed and healed what ails us again and again. Ten miles of bluff he teasingly calls South Gualala, just below the little town that pronounces itself (as you see on magnets and T-shirts) Wah-la-la.
A perfect place to begin to sink into retirement, to sleep and eat and read and dream for a week at The Sea Ranch, in Casa Pacis, the House of Peace.
Yes, we love Hawaii, but our retreat for decades on this side of the Pacific is here, and our favorite place to rent is a small house on a meadow with an unimpeded view of the ocean near Walk-on Beach. (Thank you, Klaus and Gundi!)
When people have asked what I plan to do in retirement, I’ve said (not really joking), “Sleep through June.” Though that’s not entirely true, Dick knew I’d need to rest and recover from the past 14 months of near nonstop work to recreate myself as an online writing professor. So much energy went into what I knew was my last year of work, but I don’t regret it: This old dog learned a lot of new tricks, as I’ve written before. Nonetheless, I felt as if I was stumbling into the after, as we all are, considering the what-comes-next and releasing expectations.
I’d always planned to retire the summer I turn 63, and that’s what I’ve done happily, but oh, I’ve keenly felt the need to “draw alongside the silence of stone/until its calmness can claim you.”
That’s the best part of our time in Casa Pacis—the ability to walk the blufftop trial, look out at the great Pacific which, even wind-tossed and choppy, as it has been for our last few days here, offers a calm we find harder to access at home.
The late Rev. Harvey Chinn used to tell his flock (of whom Dick was one) that successful retirement means that you wake up every morning with nothing to do, and by the time you go to bed at night, you only have half of it done.
Since I have long had summers of practice retirement, I know what that means, and I look forward to a lot more of it. I told retired folks for years, “I aspire to your status,” and now I’m so statused, another phase of this lucky, lovely life. Now I get to sink in to this way of being, take up friends on their offers of congratulatory lunches and walks, be excessively gentle with myself.
Which we all need to do in the after.
Here’s what I aspire to now: to remember excessive gentleness with self and others; to walks and yoga and gentle exercise to keep me upright and relatively balanced on my two feet; to time with friends and loved ones, including caring for those who need assistance; to delighting in unexpected treasures that appear before you, often at your feet; to time away to recharge because even in “retirement,” I have things to happily occupy me (a bit of gardening, writing, leading writing groups, publishing others).
And to promise myself not to get over busy, caught up in things I don’t want to do, to learn again that saying a polite “no, thank you” is perfectly OK.
Oh, and take time every day to lie down and read/doze/whatever. Which we’ve faithfully practiced every day here at Casa Pacis. Because, as Dick says about naps, they’re easy, they’re healthy and they’re free. (He’s had a lot of practice at this, having been retired since 2003.)
Here’s to more of that and sweet, unexpected treasures in the days, months, years to come.