Vacation Time

I pour olive oil into my stainless fry pan and simmer sliced onions until they’re translucent, then add a thick homegrown pork chop, and brown it five minutes on each side. I add a cup of my homemade organic chicken broth and simmer the chop for another twenty-five minutes to fully tenderize it. As it simmers I wash and remove leaves from the organic collard greens I bought a few days ago. I pull some cooked, mashed acorn squash from the freezer, visitors from my compost in last summer’s garden. Next I cook the collards and instead of adding olive oil and a taste of balsamic vinegar, as I’d planned, I pour on some orange-garlic salad dressing I made last night.

So often I’ve heard people say, “I can’t be bothered cooking for just myself.” I find I wish they could experience the deep satisfaction that this half hour of food prep of home raised food gives me this evening. It’s a most delightful task in which I am mindful of every part of the preparation and cooking process, and in which my entire being is so peacefully and happily engaged. To have the time to prepare each step of a healthy, nurturing meal is a profound gift to me.

I retired a week ago, on the cusp of my seventieth birthday, and am in the process of re-creating my life yet once again. It is such a pleasure, these transition days. I have given myself a two-to-four week “vacation” during which I’m settling into my retirement home, going through all my possessions and letting go of those I no longer need, organizing my hobby areas—writing, editing, reading, sewing, quilting, and knitting into efficient work areas so they will be easily practical when I need one for the creative task I’ll do.

I wrote my retirement plan last August in a piece I titled “Two Years from Now: September 2013” and realize tonight that what I am so moved to write about at this moment is actually the first part of my plan. Here are the first two paragraphs I wrote then:

Two Years from Now – September 2013

I will retire at the end of this year and I envision the next chapter of my life as follows. I will well nurture each part of myself much better with increased time: my physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, and professional aspects. I am and have been for quite some time out of balance with these parts and greater balance is my primary goal in the life that will soon arrive. Physical : My health is pivotal. I will exercise well at least three times a week, (instead of just once or twice on a weekend, as I do now) if not more to maintain the good health I fortunately possess. I control my Type II diabetes with diet and exercise, and medication controls my hypercholestremia and hypertension, all of which lurk heavily in both my parents’ heritages.

I will have a dog, Lucy, in addition to Hilary and Button, my cats, and we’ll keep each other well exercised outdoors. I will garden more to raise more of my own food and may have chickens again, as I did on the farm all those years ago. I’d consider raising a pig or vealer but I’m too close to vegetarianism to have all that meat. A few chickens will be enough.

In my younger life, I would have viewed this re-organizational time as chaotic, as I look around and see the gathered (like with like) materials waiting to be structured, but I’m experiencing it as joyful confusion as I ponder how I will assemble this small house for the tasks and activities I want to do in my retirement.

After my “vacation,” I’ll organize my time into some daily commitments to my highest priorities and that will bring healthy structure to this next chapter of my life. Meanwhile, having this time this evening to prepare this food with my fullest attention and enjoyment reaches deeply into my soul.

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About Mary Jo Doig

At the turn of the millennium, I arrived at a cross-road that brought me a splendid, if unforeseen place, almost as if I were a traveler on Robert Frost's The Road Less Traveled. I was single again, my three children were grown and building their lives, I'd experienced a health issue and was working on an improved lifestyle. I also ached to do two other things: (1) change my long human services career in upstate New York's Catskill Mountains, where winter seemed to be at least seven months out of every year, and (2) move to a warmer place in the universe. My decision: did I want to continue on the path I'd been following pretty much all my life, or could I gather my then-fragile courage and start life brand new somewhere else? These were scary thoughts for a single woman in her late 50s. Five hundred miles away, though, I fell in love with a new mountain range, Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, where I knew not a soul except my daughter who was attending college in the Shenandoah Valley, and I moved. I rented a tiny cabin on a mountain in the woods and lived there in solitude for two years, working in a new career by day and, when home, communing with the incredible natural beauty that surrounded me. There I also began to write my life stories, which were aching for release. I joined the Story Circle Network in early 2001, a rich place in cyberspace for women life writers, where I strengthened my written voice and began sharing my stories. I grew there in so many ways and today I'm a long-time editor for the "True Words from Real Women" section of the quarterly Journal, as well as a reader and reviewer of women's memoirs for the SCN Book Review site, another unique place in cyberspace. Then, next year, I’ll again be honored to be program chair for our Stories from the Heart national conference in Austin, TX. I have so many loves: first, my three children: my son, Chip and daughter, Polly, both in Virginia; and my youngest daughter, Susan, in Florida, and also dear family and friends. I must also include my cats Hilary (20) and Button (5). Sometimes I foster cats and kittens for the Humane Society, but Button prefers me not to. My hobbies include reading, writing, editing, cooking, gardening, quilting, knitting, biking, and simply being with the profound beauty of the mountains that embrace my small two acres in the Blue Ridge. The life stories I began writing in 2001 have grown deeper with time, re-writes, and personal growth. Now, all these years later, I believe I've sliced through the layers to reach the heart of my story, and am presently working on the final revision of my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life.
This entry was posted in Animal friends, Change, Family, Friendship, Gifts, Gratitude, Health, In the Kitchen, Mother Nature, Simplicity, The Garden. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Vacation Time

  1. sue rosher says:

    i retired 2004, but i have always held you in my memory as a person who would live her life fully and it appears i was correct!!!!! i’ve enjoyed reading your blog which would not had happened ,had i not recently bought an ipad……the biggest surprise for me was… you have been living in va. since 2004, i’ve visited my sister twice a year at 2232 bluegrass trl. lexington va. i would love to visit with you the next time in the area……..my phone# 315 225 1289, email address. srosher@hotmail.com hope you to hear from you hugs sue rosher

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    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      Hi Sue,
      I moved to Rockbridge County right after Y2K. Remember that? I fell in love with the Blue Ridge coming down here to visit my daughter, Polly, who graduated from Washington & Lee. She got a wonderful job offer in Rochester shortly after I moved down here. But she’s back now and we both have homes in Albemarle County.
      Thanks for writing. It’s nice to hear from you again and I look forward to catching up one of these days. I just sold my Rockbridge County home this week but love, love to go to Lexington where I have so many friends.
      Hugs back, Mary Jo

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      • sue rosher says:

        mary jo , i have the dates i will be in lexington area, october 14th-21st hope that we can have lunch or dinner or just a cup of tea and visit. we could met at one of the walking trails in and around lexington if you prefer walking and talking. you have my cell # and if you have verizon too , its free minutes. am soooo looking forward to seeing you again….hugs sue rosher

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  2. Sue rosher says:

    Hi hope you got my 8/31 comment. I forgot to suggest meeting in waynesboro or Stuart’s draft if that is more comvenient. I always make a trip to the cheese shop and martins and p Buckley moss Museum when I am down there. ……..take care. Sue

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