Quiet, slow moving, solitary days bring plenty of time for reflection and to learn about one’s self.
Since retiring nearly six weeks ago I have moved over to the slow lane of life. My husband spends fourty-ish hours of the week at work, nearly all of my friends have day jobs, and fatigue from my MS nearly always keeps me home. The first few weeks of retirement were borderline catatonic. I was still recovering from my latest exacerbation of MS and only had the energy to do small necessities required to sustain life. The past couple of weeks, however, have typically brought an hour or two per day when I have enough energy to actually fill my time with something other than sitting.
Slowly, very slowly a couple of simple pleasures from my distant past have started to find traction again. My Grandma Lois encouraged me to develop an interest in bird watching during my childhood. She always had a few feeders in her backyard and taught me how to look for distinguishing characteristics between the varieties of birds which came to eat. She kept a pair of binoculars and a bird field guide beside her back-facing windows and I spent many a happy hour watching the ever-changing line up at the feeders – Cardinals, Goldfinches, Juncos, House Finches, Carolina Wrens, Baltimore Oriels, Purple Martins…the list goes on and on. I especially remember being proud that she was so smart. She never had to double check the field guide for names like I did, not even for the rarer ones that didn’t come very often, like the Summer Tanagers or Pine Siskins.
Todd noticed a pair of House Finches early last week nesting in one of the bushes outside our house. This singular incident sent me down memory lane as I recalled all the happy memories of bird watching at Grandma’s. So, late last week I put up a couple of bird feeders in the backyard and, sure enough, I am just as excited now as I was then to see the lineup of different birds come and go. The first birds to the feeders were Goldfinches, House Finches, and Juncos. Memories of Grandma flooded over me and swelled my heart for this exact trio were always her favorite birds. I particularly remember her being excited to see Goldfinches at the feeders each season and her telling me that Juncos seemed to be the happiest and friendliest of all the birds. My favorite so far this week has been a male and female pair of Eastern Bluebirds. They are simply stunning as they sport a vibrant and dazzling blue on top of their bodies, a solid white belly, and rusty throat, chest, and thighs. To me, nothing says Missouri like our gorgeous state bird. Better yet, the time quickly passes as I watch the parade of hungry birds come and go and listen to their varied songs fill the trees surrounding our house.
The other simple pleasure I never actually knew I enjoyed is cleaning. While growing up my sisters and I used to call my Mom a “dirt digger”. She didn’t always relish cleaning but once she got started she meant business. She would get between tiles with a toothbrush in the bathroom and kitchen or would use a toothpick to dig out gunk from the cracks between the pieces of her car’s interior. I think both my sister and I enjoy carrying on this serious-minded cleaning because (a) we take pleasure passing the moniker “dirt digger” back and forth between us and (b) it keeps Mom close in our hearts. I never clean without thinking of her and that reason alone elevates the menial tasks of cleaning to a loved and treasured occupation. Although I tire out easily and quickly these days, I always want to remain a keen dirt digger, even if it is just for a few minutes at a time.
And so, slowly, slowly, I am finding ways to fill all the time on my hands with both old as well as rediscovered interests. I’m looking forward to uncovering additional diversions to fill in the otherwise uneventful hours of my day. I’m in no rush, I have all the time in the world.