just a part of it

Maybe the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. There I was this week, strimming grass at the vineyard, getting our petrol driven hedge cutters back from being serviced (we have very tall hedges at our main house – see right) and then doing the hard part, actually using them (they’re bloody heavy and awkward to use) and my mind drifted, as it is prone to do, to distant parts and how much more interesting / exciting life would be if we were elsewhere, when we got news from one of those distant parts. If cutting hedges doesn’t seem all that thrilling the alternative as represented by what’s happening on / near our land in Colorado might just be a little too exciting.

The first inkling we got that all was not well came from an email from the management company that oversees the area called Tween Lakes in South West Colorado which said, “thanks to everyone who handled and heeded the pre-evacuation in an orderly manner. I know we all looked out for our neighbours as well. Fire Chief Evans gave us a nice shout out.” Apart from wondering what on earth ‘a nice shout out’ might mean, curious phrase I thought, the message was clear, the area where our land is located was once again threatened by fire. The grass would be far from green I would have thought on this side of the fence. Quite black in fact.

And as if that wasn’t enough the next day I got a Facebook message from a friend in the UK who had noticed this news item and asked, ‘Have you seen this news? Is it close to you land… Hope not!’
The item said :
Colorado 416 wildfire update: Durango blaze grows by third, 2,000 homes evacuated
“Weather conditions remain critical,” the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team said.

So the answer to my friend’s question is, yes, very close indeed and looking quite serious and there were pictures to prove it. I feel bad for the people in that area and how much worse would we be feeling if we had actually gone ahead and built a house on the land? I have regretted not being brave enough to pursue this project. I read a bit in the paper last weekend about how to avoid having regrets. The responses from readers were as follows – 10% said don’t think of it as regret. 30% said it’s impossible to avoid regrets because you can’t predict the future. 60% said, do all the things you want to while you still can. I was much impressed at the time with this bit of advice, particularly appropriate for the retired person I thought, but if I’d followed it and built a cabin (as I have frequently wanted to do) I think I might very well be regretting it now.

My general regrets come out as a form of being in a non-relaxed state. I’m always pushing myself to achieve some goal or other, to engage in some form of project, as I call them, or other. I had a bit of a realisation the other day while walking in the park. It was early morning and we were, as usual, walking the dogs. This is a beautiful park and can get very busy but, at this time of the morning, there were only a few other dog-walkers about and it was possible, preferable even, to appreciate the beautiful quietness of the place. As usual Mrs Summerhouse commented on this very fact. That was when I realised that I wasn’t at all relaxed but I was alert enough to be able to ask myself why this should be.

As we strolled I thought, well, the fact is I’ve never been a relaxed person and so I’ve simply carried this non-relaxedness forward into retirement. Hmm, I thought, I always assumed prior to retirement that I would find it easier to kick back and relax when I was retired than when I was working (I should have known this was unlikely after our 16 months in New Zealand but I’m a slow learner). Then I realised that quite the opposite was happening. I am in fact less relaxed than when I worked. Again I asked myself, still strolling along, why this might be and the answer shocked me. What I think has happened is, in essence, I’ve taken the same ‘amount’ of relaxedness and spread it thinner. When I worked I did not expect to be relaxed when working, it wasn’t that kind of job. So my quotient of relaxedness had only to be spread over my non-working hours. Now this same quotient had to cover pretty much the whole day. They don’t tell you things like this before you retire.

The plus side of being unrelaxed is the inclination to be thinking of new ways to carry on, to be driven by the grass is greener philosophy. Silly I know, but the plus is that out of my many schemes, some of them actually happen and, even more remarkable, appear to add to our well-being, to the quality of our retirement lives even. The downside is well, I’m not very relaxed and I suppose, in the long term, this might even shorten my life.

Of course it would be easy to argue, in this context, that this is a good thing in that I don’t have to spread my given retirement quotient quite so thinly. But it does seem a bit drastic. What I’d like is the best of both worlds, to be relaxed and live in and appreciate the moment, as Mrs SH seems able to do, but still have the future-oriented trains of thought that lead to all my projects and the like. I mean is that too much to ask when a person retires having worked hard for all of his previous life? Yes, I suppose it is. One of these days I’m going to have a project to write a book of advice for retired people exposing all the things they don’t tell you before you retire like, the myths of retirement, like when you retire, you become less relaxed not more.

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