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.
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.
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 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.