Like lots of guys who are about to get their first Social Security check, I've been having some fantasies that would fall into a "mid-life crisis" category if I wasn't so damn old.
I imagine cozying up to a younger and more petite model of what I've been accustomed to for so long, and am getting tired of. She'd be beautiful. Easy-maintenance. I wouldn't have to put up with all the problems I deal with now. She'd do what I wanted, when I wanted, and leave me in peace the rest of the time.
I'm speaking, naturally, of a modern condo or town house -- which would be a huge change from the thirty year-old home on ten acres we live in currently.
There are days when it drives my wife and I nuts.
When you live in the country, with a well and septic system, a large yard, pesky critters like deer, moles, ground squirrels, and such doing their thing, owners of a older home that has been updated quite a bit but still is aging not-always-gracefully, there's something happening almost every day that stimulates dreams of sitting on a condo's small deck, wondering how I want to fill my chore-free day.
Nap? Blogging at a coffee house? Writing the Great American whatever? Saving the world through volunteerism? Mindlessly watching old movies?
Today thoughts like these ran through my mind in between researching the best sort of chlorine pellets to shock treat the iron bacteria in our new well, spraying moss killer on our lengthy walkways, de-burring and de-dirting our dog after she tried to dig up some field mice, and a few other maintenance activities that pop up with clockwork regularity at our non-easy-care home.
There's almost always a but. In everything we do, in every decision, in every choice between the known here-and-now and an imagined there-and-then.
I've been thinking about the pros and cons of condo or town house life for several years. Laurel and I aren't ready to forsake country life at the moment. However, we're becoming aware that our sixty-something selves aren't as eager to deal with all the chores facing us as we were in our early forties, when we moved to rural south Salem.
We've watched friends and acqaintances about our age fly the big house coop and downsize to a much smaller nest. Most seem happy with their move. I'm pretty sure, though, that happiness has less to do with where we live, than with how we live.
I suspect that if I didn't feel like I was being driven crazy by the problems with our new well, balky sprinkler system, and such, wherever I was and whatever I was doing in an alternative lifestyle scenario would bring along its own varieties of craziness.
Which could be less controllable.
As in noisy neighbors right next door, busy streets bringing car horns into our go-to-sleep time rather than crickets, no nature trails close nearby to soothe our frazzled psyches.
Before I spread moss killer on our walks with a large pump sprayer, I attended to a bunch of pesky ground cover that keeps finding its way into the cracks between the pavers.
I used some natural weed control stuff that had a pleasant citrus'y smell. The container has a built in sprayer. All I needed to do was kneel down, press a lever to drench a sprig of ground cover, and repeat with the next sprig.
Over and over.
The sun was out. I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops. I enjoyed the "work," because that wasn't how it felt. It wasn't exactly "play" either. Just a job that needed to be done, and I was having a good time doing it.
It struck me that if I had moved to a condo, with no responsibility for walkway maintenance, I'd still be doing something. I could imagine that it would be a more important something, a more significant something, or a more pleasurable something.
But who knows? Who can say what is important, significant, or pleasurable? It's all in the eye, or mind, of the person experiencing a something.
For some reason I kept thinking of those Tibetan Buddhists who make marvelous colorful drawings in sand. They spend days fashioning them, then sweep them into nothingness in a few seconds.
That's how dealing with our home and property maintenance often seems. There's nothing permanent about handling some problem or doing a seasonal chore. You finish the work, step back and feel a sense of accomplishment, then the next to-do pops up -- much more flowing sand'ish than solid stone'ish.
So I suspect we'll be complaining about how hard it is to take care of our home and ten acres for quite a few more years. My wife and I will gripe about the endless problems while we keep on dealing with them, if not happily, at least with a subtle inner smile.
Some older people do crossword puzzles and other mental exercises to keep their mind limber. Well, today I was able to calculate the number of gallons in a 10 inch well with 350 feet of standing water, learn how many ounces of chlorine pellets are needed to treat it, and research the comparative cost of various online chlorine sources.
Some older people have a regular exercise program to keep their bodies fit. My wife and I do, but we also get a heck of a lot of muscular workout just keeping things in halfway decent working order around here. Hauling fertilizer. Raking leaves. Moving stones. Etc. Etc.
A condo or town house might be in our future. Someday.
I feel, though, that living where we do now is helping us stay as youthful as possible, even with the stresses of stuff continually needing to be fixed and maintained. As the saying goes, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
I can only hope.