It’s Labor Day as I write this. One of those odd days in the year that no mail is delivered but our weekday routines go on. The NPR news is more sensible than it is on the weekends. There’s less talk of pop culture and football, a little less “human interest” and we don’t have Scott Simon’s sententious homilies.

Labor Day is a transition. Summer is ending. Tomorrow there will be yellow school buses everywhere. On the island it’s the beginning of our period of dry dock, when the car ferry is being repaired, overhauled and painted in Seattle. For three weeks we will have only a passenger ferry. That means most people need a car parked near the ferry dock on the mainland.

This year the stress of dry dock has been increased by official announcements that parking on the mainland will be drastically cut back because the Lummi Tribe has refused to allow cars to be parked on their roads. These announcements have been retracted by other announcements, but it isn’t at all clear what the parking situation will be.

The season changes gradually, and yet there is a sudden difference in bird visits to the feeders. The bright colored birds of the summer are gone. Some of them (the finches) have flown away to Mexico. Resident birds can find plenty of food elsewhere. Blackberries, thimble berries, snowberries and more are abundant.



Rose hips. Do birds eat these?

I don’t need to replenish the seed and suet every day.  As I look out my window now I see chickadees, nuthatches and juncos at the feeders: little brown birds that don’t eat so much of what Jerry calls “bird welfare.”

Tomatoes are ripening all at once. I have about 15 ripe tomatoes on my kitchen counter now. The lettuce is bolting. Three pole bean plants are producing more than Jerry and I can eat.

We are getting ready to go to Alaska. Jerry packed the truck with tools and materials for our fall project in the Alaska house — converting a back entry room into a small bedroom so we don’t have to navigate stairs to get to the bathroom at night.

One of my sons is getting divorced — a sadness and a worry. He loved his wife and 2 children and they were his life. My other son has stresses in his life and his job that make him unhappy and sensitive; that worries me. Thank goodness my daughters seem to be in reasonably good order.

Jerry and I are feeling our age — 79. I find the approach of my 80th birthday (6 months hence) scary.  Although I am still fit for my age, I have less stamina, less energy, more aches and pains than when I approached 70. Jerry feels the same. We are thankful to be making this journey together, but we know we are probably entering our last decade.  Death is a transition I am not eager to make. William Saroyan said, 5 days before he died: “Everybody has to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?” My position on death has always been; I know I am going to die, but not today. That’s still my position, but someday (perhaps soon) that will no longer be a true statement.

Every day I wonder whether I am slipping mentally. I have trouble concentrating. I am forgetting people’s names, words, things I did last week. Is it the dreaded A word? Or is it stress from my kid’s troubles.

I cannot see as well as I did. I guess my cataracts are “ready” to be dealt with.

After dinner Jerry and I walk a mile and a half circuit from one side of the island to the other and back to our house, which sits in the middle of the narrowest part of the island. The world looks serene and lovely at this time of the year. On the east side the rising moon hangs over the water, the sun lights the showy top of Mt. Baker turning it pink;

Mt Baker

when we get to the west side the sun is setting over Vancouver island,


the reef netter’s boats and the fish buyers boats silhouette against the silver water of Legoe Bay; then the road passes through dense woods where trees almost shut out the sky. Sometimes we see deer or rabbits or a heron or an eagle on our walk; sometimes small planes fly overhead and Jerry remembers the days when he was still flying. When the weather is especially pleasant and the wind is quiet he says: “This would be a nice evening to fly.”

As I write this Jerry, sitting at his computer, reads me headlines :

“Unruly Alaska Airline passenger bites crew member.”

“Forty percent of Europeans suffer from mental illness.”

We giggle. In a few minutes we’ll drink a glass of wine — on the back deck because it‘s still warm and sunny.

What on earth am I complaining about?

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21 Responses to Transitions

  1. I agree with everything you wrote. Death is getting less and less theoretical all the time, and I’m sliding down the low end of a life rainbow. Heaven would be redundant.

  2. rosie says:

    oh what’s a little memory loss! Although it is annoying to have to go down three flights of stairs and then back up them again to remember why I went up to the office in the first place…

  3. Lucy says:

    I am now on the verge of an anxiety disorder about whether I am one of the forty percent…

    I suppose we all hope an exception might be made in our case. Though I’m not sure that immortality would be so appealing either.

    What beautiful mountains you have.

  4. Annie says:

    Great post. The onset of fall does make one pensive about the passage of time, particularly the later passage of time. Winter is coming.

    Love the photo of Mt Baker, it looks so huge! When I lived near Vancouver I could just make it out, it appeared to float on the horizon. But it was not so huge.

    Enjoy your wine, and your Jerry.

  5. A lovely post. Thank you for sharing the beauty that surrounds you.

  6. Ernestine says:

    I continue to enjoy all you share.
    Can relate to a lot of it and I will be 77 in October.
    Time is going by so quickly.
    What a gift is your Jerry.
    I smile as I walk beside you as you share.
    Have a good night.
    Alaska, now you are brave.
    Our children
    years ago we thought when they were a
    certain age – we would not be as concerned over them
    It never ends.
    I miss my son who moved to Thailand last year
    miss him so very much.
    But thank goodness for my computer.
    The computer that I did not want 5 years ago….

  7. Deborah says:

    Wonderful post, Anne. Really it is, and even if your memory isn’t bang on, there’s absolutely no sign here of any kind of mental slippage. When my grandmother was about 85, and had just lost her last friend, I asked her if her age bothered her, if she was afraid of death. She wasn’t, she said, but the one thing that bothered her was that she would no longer be able to help her children. At the time, I didn’t understand that, but now I can relate completely. I hope your sons find their way back to happiness.

    I could imagine that at nearly 80, the trip to Alaska and work that awaits you could seem a little daunting. I wish you well, and a good journey.

  8. Pauline says:

    I read somewhere, sometime ago, that the “heaven” we are headed to is a reflection of what we love most here, that we create our heaven as it were, as we go along with our lives on earth. Whether or no, the thought appealed to me so I’ve done my best to make each day a bit of my idea of heaven, just in case. The practice not only improves my daily outlook, it improves my sense of what’s ahead as well. Sounds like you and Jerry are doing that, too. Your energy and appreciation for what’s around you, your continuing concern for your children, your desire to travel and learn, all are great examples for the rest of us to follow. Thanks 🙂

  9. wisewebwoman says:

    A heartfelt post Anne. Reflected in a conversation I had with a dear friend last night.

  10. Happy Granny says:

    Your writing is so strong and laden with feeling. I almost shivered when I finished. I wish you and Jerry the best. You have had and will continue to live a full and useful life. I, too, identify with the worries about adult children. I jokingly refer to them as a “life sentence.”

  11. “Do not fear death, but rather the unlived life. You don’t have to live forever. You just have to live.”

    Those lines were from the movie, “Tuck Everlasting.” I think, having read your blog for several months now, that your life has been well-lived, indeed.

    I hope you and Jerry have a good season in Alaska. I also hope your sons’ lives improve for them. Now matter how old we and our children become, we parents will always be concerned for them. It is a natural consequence of having brought them into being.

  12. Along with all the synchronicity I experience with your beautiful words– sadness about things we cannot do nothing about like our childrens’ choices–please let me say the only thing definitely true. Americans, particularly us aged ones, are over-speculated about by everyone. Because they are all so fearful of their own aging.

    I just don’t want to know the symptoms of Alzheimers–and that other one whose name slips my mind at the moment. Can we please just live our little lives, have some good times, angst about the state of the union, support worthy causes for those less fortunate and not pay attention to every Tuesday’s “Science” section in the New York Times. Okay, I’ve said it now. Feels better.

    Admire your photos and your thoughtful musings; thanks for all that!

  13. annie says:

    Your walks sound lovely, make me feel a little lonely for some company on mine and to share my glass of wine on the patio. as for your age, you are as young as you feel. And you both are so busy and active. Its wonderful.

  14. Hattie says:

    I am very sorry about your children’s troubles. I know all about that! Right now is a good time for my daughters, but they have had a lot of troubles in the past. We enjoy these times of family peace.
    How I envy you the blackberries. They certainly look wonderful indeed.
    You know what’s funny? I started playing word games on my Kindle and found that they really help me mentally! Who would have thought it. Such a simple thing, and something most people discover sooner than I have. Word games!
    And have a wonderful trip. I long to see Alaska some day so am of course very jealous.
    How lovely the world is, and how we hate to think of leaving it.

  15. Now I want to snack on berries and go to Alaska. : )
    I love your photos – really beautiful. I have memory lapses already. I blame pending menopause … but maybe it’s age, or maybe I’m just trying to remember TOO MUCH! : )

  16. maria says:

    Worry about your kids can certainly take it out of you at any age. Believe me, even with 20 years younger than you, I am having some of the same experiences of forgetting people’s names and even what I had for lunch by the time dinner rolls around. Worries over one of my troubled sons have much to do with this, I know that for a fact.

    My mother will be turning 90 at her next birthday, and she still travels. At 87, she went from Budapest to Santiago, Chile, where she boarded a bus and made her way across the mountains to Argentina. When she turned 80, she told me how she no longer felt like she was 70, but now, she talks about how the years have slowed her down, and how at nearly 90 she can’t do what she did at 80…. We all look back, even as we keep trudging forward — and what you have ahead of you, sounds so full of life, so who cares about the pace of it?

    And I hope your sons find the equanimity to weather their troubles. Believe me, I know how hard it is to watch them suffer.

  17. Mage Bailey says:

    Yes, I hear my G coming in. Both of you leave me smiling.

  18. Darlene says:

    Anne, we never stop being a mother, do we? I am so sorry for the stress you are having with your son’s problems. I share it as my children are both going through a rough patch, too.

    I also share the frustration of not remembering a word that should come to mind so easily. I started finding it difficult to concentrate several years ago. Decision making is also harder. You are fortunate to have Jerry to share these aging woes with. Treasure him and enjoy your evening glass of wine.

  19. Parmanu says:

    At 38, I cannot begin to imagine what 79 would be like. Your posts here give a glimpse of a mind at 79, and I am gladdened by what I find here. (And nothing in these pages show any sign of you “slipping mentally”.)

  20. Tabor says:

    You may be aging but your photographic skills are wonderful. What a lovely lifestyle.

  21. What a beautiful, poignant post, Anne.

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