"Wait until spring to decide! You'll feel differently about everything then. It's been a terrible winter..."
This is what people have been saying when they hear that my spouse and I are planning to move to a retirement community. And the weather probably does have something to do with precipitating this decision, but only a very little something.
I was already thinking about it a year ago, when I wrote a post in which I wondered how much longer I would be able to keep up my fantasy of the self-sufficient life. I thought about it last fall, when I was incapacitated for weeks with shingles, and again in December, when my husband and I both came down with epic colds. And I first thought about it two years ago, on the January night when my husband developed severe chest pains. It wasn't a heart attack--he's fine--but we didn't know that as we waited an hour for the ambulance to reach us, and then raced forty-five-minutes to the hospital.
The fact is, we're isolated on our little hill, and not just from services and stores (I once drove forty-five minutes to buy a spool of brown thread). When you don't have a job or a child or a church to jump-start your social life, it takes more energy than I have to manufacture one from scratch. The last nine years have offered me a solitude that Thomas Merton would have envied. But despite my eremitic tendencies, I am no Thomas Merton.
Of course the prospect of disposing of tables and chairs and file cabinets and my beloved old canning jars so that we and the dogs can fit into a two-bedroom cottage makes me groan, but waiting another five years wouldn't make the task more palatable. And it would be downright awful to have to do it under pressure of illness. Since it's clear that we cannot remain on our hilltop forever, it makes sense to do it while it's easier than it will ever be.
As for where we'll end up, we'd like it to be in Vermont. We're far too fond of its fields and woods and calmly grazing cows; its billboard-free, mostly empty roads; its herbalists and bee-keepers and philosopher-farmers; its unapologetic granola attitude.
We'd hate to leave all that behind--not to mention the good friends we've made. And we'd miss the winters.
(To be continued.)