Spring Fever

The “Super Moon” of May 5th

My wife and I are prepping our house for sale. We live about 15 miles south of town in the upper Hood River Valley. Our home is tucked into a remote corner of the county. Private timber company land and a Forest Service seed orchard adjoin us to the west and south.  Deer, elk, and coyotes frequent the property.  A bobcat, Great Horned Owls, weasels, foxes, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, and bear are not as conspicuous but also make appearances. To the east and north, neighbors are few and far between in what is primarily pear and apple country.

This morning, under a leaden sky, I made my rounds of the flowerbeds. Rain showers bathed the grounds through the night. Rhododendron, iris, and Oriental poppy buds burst as the blossoms within yearn to show themselves. With the next sunny day, colors worthy of Cezanne’s palette should paint the garden.

A choir of iris getting ready to sing the praises of spring.

We want to move into town where we can walk to stores, restaurants, and the homes of our friends. My health factors somewhat into this decision. Though my cancer, multiple myeloma, is stable; I must acknowledge my energy fluctuates due to imbalances in my blood. Even in retirement, I have trouble keeping up with the many tasks of a property owner. Preferably, we hope to downsize and spend our free time socializing rather than maintaining order against nature’s surprises.

My wife has wanted to move ever since our sons left home in pursuit of their own destinies. I have been less enthusiastic. It took January’s brutal ice storm to wipe out the final vestiges of my reluctance. The subsequent cleanup exhausted me. I’ll miss the peace and quiet but living in a neighborhood seems more attractive after the intimidating winter.

Peering into the Cosmos.

We moved here 35 years ago. At that time, the “back to the land movement” was a characteristic reaction of my generation to the established order of a 9 to 5 workday. The extent of our naiveté was matched only by our good heartedness. In the long run, our idealism led to successful outcomes. We raised two wonderful sons in a safe, nurturing environment.

As a cancer survivor, hope seems to blossom along with the season. My optimism, however, caused me to overextend myself. Spring fever put me on a merry-go-round of medical appointments soon after I retired. While clearing the damage caused by the ice storm, I strained my back. Since that initial week of retirement excess, I’ve visited my chiropractor four times and an acupuncturist twice. Those visits coupled with cancer related appointments, means that in my first 26 days of retirement I saw a doctor 12 times. Make that 13; my cat, Spanky, needed his booster shots.

The tools of the season

The most important thing I learned from all this medical attention is that my cancer continues to be anchored near the shores of remission. The numbers, month to month, have bobbed up and down since my stem cell transplant in 2008. But my current drug regimen holds fast.

So, I chip away at the many chores, adding bows and ribbons to the organic beauty while reminding myself that you only have one opportunity to make a first impression. I scatter wildflower seed. I plant perennials. I prune trees.

Today, I hauled bark dust to brighten the garden paths. As I plodded about, a choir of wild birds sang the praises of spring. Buzzing insects droned in the lilac bush. My cat trod along with me until the urgings of other curiosities beckoned him to explore the woods. Here, amid all the wonders of the natural world, I am at peace. But age and illness have made me a fair weather naturalist. It’s time to respect my limitations.

7 thoughts on “Spring Fever

  1. Sounds like you are making a wise, yet difficult decision. Can’t wait to read all about your new “digs” and life in town. I’m sure there will be things you miss, but also new experiences to delight in as you journey into this new phase of retirement. I’m sure all your hard work will bring a buyer who is so grateful to be able to enjoy the fruit of your labor.


  2. John,
    I couldn’t understand you more. My husband Jeff are going through the very same experience, at the very same time. It’s liberating, but it’s also hard to let go of the past.
    Today, I am planting flowers. Here in Michigan it’s risky to plant delicate annuals before Memorial Day, the possibility of frost is always there.
    Best of luck to you and your wife – I hope the house goes fast. Have you found a new place?
    Happy Memorial Day!


  3. Yes, of course, you are being practical and sensible, planning ahead, accepting limitations, revaluing the remainder. I admire your maturity in the face of adversity.

    Well, I hate the idea of you selling the farm. I know how much it means to you, and how much you love it. As you care for it, the farm nourishes you. The symbiosis has always been obvious and poetic. Always you see the beauty with a fresh sense of wonder and appreciation. Always it gives you strength, wisdom, and, most importantly, peace–well, at least until recently.

    I want to think, he’s depressed and being too damned reasonable. That in a week or so he’ll snap out of the sapping feeling of impotence and come up with a way to stay. You socialize every time you take a walk: maybe not with people, but with something profound and sublime nonetheless. People can come to you.

    But I’m a long ways away, I see through this glass darkly, and your decision sounds wise, but sad. It resonates in me because I’m running out of resources, having been disabled by myeloma for the last fourteen years. I mean, really, who plans to retire at age 53 (I surely didn’t), beat an incurable cancer by 67, and find himself still able to stay in the house he has loved and customized for twenty-five years? The music room acoustics are magnificent. I enjoy the steam bath I designed and built enormously.

    Assuming, of course, the GVHD doesn’t kill me (right now it’s tormenting and torturing me), I’ll have to make an adult decision soon. Actually, I should have been selling the house now, hoping not to be underwater, and looking for something I, my wife, and four teenagers can live in. However, the GVHD and other complications made any serious effort to do anything huge impossible any time soon: what’s the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 11?

    Good luck my friend. Were I a praying man, I would ask for mercy for you.


  4. What Lonnie said. Your post is a bittersweet reminder that our dream of “returning to the land” is not a practical one post MM and probably not going to happen. Seven years ago, we bought an old house in town that needs much remodeling and although the location is wonderful and close to much activity, the age of the house and the restrictions put on us by our Historic Society mean more work than I know my post SCT, newly retired/disabled husband can handle while I run the business from which he just retired. I suppose we all must alter our dreams to accommodate the health and financial issues that come with a chronic cancer, and yet, right now i feel like stomping my feet and saying “I don’t wanna.” Instead, I will make space where I can find it. I will go pour myself another cup of coffee and go listen to the amazing cadre of birds that i’m fortunate enough to be able to experience in the my wild, very unkempt backyard in the middle of a downtown city block.

    And from your writing, I know that wherever you are, you will carry your space in your heart. It’s there and moving won’t alter that at all. In fact, my hope is that less worries and concerns will find it expanding all the more.


  5. You will no doubt master and make magic out of this period of transition. Hard to let go of such a beautiful home and way of life, but new wonders await. Here’s to the coming splash of color and your continued good health.


  6. It sounds rather a wise move to me, although it will be a huge wrench for you both. It is never easy to make these huge changes and leave a place you love so much but I am sure there will be many advantages yet discovered. Hamada and I downsized well before retirement, leaving behind our family home- it was mighty tough at the time but it was the right move for us – he loved it so, here in our tiny country village of 210 people with a small town just 3 miles away. Getting to know all our neighbours, their kindness and being able to walk to church and the pub! I am sending all good wishes to you for this new venture and lots of luck in finding the perfect place.


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