Yup, that’s David Bowie singin’ to you, but in what context? What’re we talking about Henry? Music? Philosophy? All of the above and a lot more. I’d made a promise to myself never to write to you unless I had something to say. My due date was about a week ago…but I kept my promise to you. But today, boy-oh-boy, I have something to say.
When we’re young, we tend to be braver, more flexible, mostly because we have less to lose, we’re naive and don’t really realize just how big these decisions are. And sometimes, we just have no choice. “Fred, we’re transferring you to Japan, Spain or Timbuktu.” “Where’s Timbuktu?” “You’ll see.”
Later in life, we settle down, we get comfortable…which sounds like a good thing, though with that, the fear of changing the status quo begins to permeate our very existence and we come up with formidable excuses to plant ourselves in one spot and just stagnate.
Here are the top few: Can’t move, we have family here: Yes, that’s true…until they move because of a job offer or whatever, which happens about every three or four years now. Or… We have friends here. True as well, though have you noticed that as you mature, the conversations with old friends can also become comfortable? Many end up on a Friday night, discussing medications and the pros and cons of one hip replacement socket vs. another. Friendship should be dynamic. Friendship should grow and morph lest it wilt and eventually die.
When Pamela and I decided a couple of years ago to move to an entirely different world, our friends raised their eyebrows and said, “Huh??? Why? Aren’t you too tired? Aren’t you frightened to begin such an utterly new chapter?” The answer was: “Hell, yes!!!” Part of the trouble was, we had eaten at every restaurant in Bucks County, not once or twice, but 40 or 50 times. Worse, we had a pretty good idea what tomorrow was going to be like.
We had our house tweaked to the point that those who visited, couldn’t even conceive of our moving. We’d spent 30 years tweaking CrossBow to our own particular version of perfection…and then sold it. Why? Why? Why? Because, life doesn’t (shouldn’t) consist of coasting gently into oblivion…at least for us. Every last droplet can and should be wrung-out, so that in those last glimmering moments you can show two thumbs-up and laugh out loud at the preciousness and the ephemeral nature of all our lives.
Let’s use the metaphor of a football game. What’s the worst football game you can watch? When the score comes up 42 to 0? What’s the best? When you’re in overtime with a tie score and everyone in the stadium is screeching and howling. Then you go out and celebrate the game,, bright-eyed and ALIVE!
I’ve devoted more than a couple of essays/blogs to the massive positive change we’ve made, entering the Third Chapter of our lives, and more than a couple of you have wondered if that would change after a few months.
Short answer: Change feels good, better than good…it feels GREAT. Pam and I are the happiest we’ve ever been in our lives, which is saying something. Every couple of days, I e-mail my son in PA with the same litany: “Cameron, every single day down here is different. No two are alike and it’s exciting! ” Challenges keep the mind supple, increase appetites across the board, and generate weird and wild discussions.
At the moment, we’re negotiating to have our first River Arts Festival in the area. Blue grass, dancers of all shapes and sizes, painters, sculptors, writers…plus a pig roast and (this is a stretch) the first Shine Competition.…..we’re talking moonshine and it’s pretty damned good around here. The glitch is: You can’t sell it…not even a thimble-full, but you can serve it if it’s free. We’ll see on that one. The discussions, suggestions and ideas about the show? Mind-bending.
Yesterday, was a different kind of excitement: We’re making an architectural bridge out to a little island in the middle of our pond. The devil’s in the details and we had to chain the rear end of my Kubota to a large tree, so that we could work without the Kubota sliding beneath the surface, never to return. At the end of the day…high spirits! We’d succeeded and…I still have a tractor.
Years ago, I attempted an expose on the Asheville area. The goal: To find someone, anyone who had a dagger out to slice-and-dice the area. After two weeks of interviewing, I couldn’t come up with even one person. Try that test on your area. And after having spent three months now, meeting many, many new friends, still haven’t found one. A bunch of times one answer kept coming up. “Henry, the reason is, everyone who lives here, CHOSE to live here.” This has contributed to some very high spirits.
For those whom we’ve offered our guest cottage to try out the concept, I’m happy to report that my son, Cameron, our daughter-in-law, Melissa, and our grandson, Gryffin, just spent a week here.
We’ve panned for gold in stream, swum beneath the waterfalls, consumed a large number of Dos Equis (sans Gryffin) and explored possibly one-tenth of one percent of the stuff to do around here.
The guest house works. It is fully independent right down to its own driveway. If you’re still brave enough to consider an extremely fun and exciting third Chapter in your lives, come on down and see for yourself. I guarantee you’ll return home…changed slightly, and maybe for the better. We’re hoping the kids will come down for our First Catawba River Arts Festival and help judge the “shine”. Right now it’s just a dream, but then that’s how this whole thing began.
Ch…Ch…Ch…Changes. Turn and Face the Strange. This last chapter of our lives shouldn’t be a coasting chapter. Reach out and grab life by the scruff of its neck…and shake it and bite it. Turn and face the Strange…and make it your friend.
Questions we’ve been asked by our friends…a lot:
Have you developed a southern accent…yet? No and Yes. Writing dialogue for 30 years may have inoculated me. Writers must be able to channel a 12 yr. old girl, an ego-maniacal newspaper editor, a little old lady, a southern gent, a woman in a cancer ward. Yeah, part of my brain is now wired-in for southern speak. Watching Tim Olyphant in Justified probably didn’t hurt either. “Boyd, you just like to rob banks and blow shit up.” And “Thank ya kindly,” sounds better, kinder than, “Yeah, okay. No problem.”
But what about doctors, hospitals, medical treatment? Is it up to par? Mission Hospital in Asheville is rated in the top 15 of all the hospitals in the US. Its veterans’ hospital: #1 as rated by veterans. Our GP down here? Best we’ve ever had….and he’s two miles away. Treatment of patients: Best. They really listen and they treat us like old friends.
Stuff: There’s little or no status consciousness here. Need a seven-series BMW? Not at all…period. Think you need stuff? You don’t, but it’ll help if you have a good sense of humor. These folks LOVE…LOVE…LOVE to laugh.
What about being bludgeoned by religious zealots? Not once in three months. The Golden Rule works very nicely down here.
Politics: It’s more balance than expected, but we had to keep our heads down in PA just about as much.
Southern Hospitality: Strangely, everyone calls Pamela, “Miss Pam”…which she loves, and everywhere we go we’re treated like old friends. It continues to boggle the mind.
Weather/climate: “nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the mornin’,” but, this weather is also WILD. Sunny day to drenching rain in 2.5 minutes…often, and our picturesque stream has a Jekyll-Hyde capability.
There’s gotta be something you don’t like about the place. There is: The same mountains that make you feel like you’re being protected by big sleeping giants also plays holy hell with computer speed. Watching movies is sometimes a serious challenge…but it’s worth the trade-off.
P.S. Looking to build our first still (for medicinal purposes only), I’m thinking steam punk with some whirling gears and propellers, lots of old brass and copper, maybe some flashing lights. Anyone in the market???