For what it’s worth, right this second I’m sitting high up in a tree house that looks like a schooner with a little iPad balanced on my knee. It’s one of those rare gorgeous days when everything is just right. We had a rain last night so all the plants have had a good drink. Not too hot, just a breeze, and we’re poised, getting ready to switch gears into Fall. Sounds pretty good? Yeah, maybe…
Truth is, we’re also poised at a rather large cross road in our lives. Your specifics will differ, depending on who’s reading this. You’re in a Manhattan apartment hearing the traffic, or up in the Colorado mountains, down in D.C., or in Iran, or Florida. But if you’ve been on the planet a while you know down deep in your gut what a cross road is.
You’re sitting there and you know there are very large decisions to be made. At a crossroad, you actually have four decisions, though most would think there are three. The fourth, of course, is to stay where you are and not take that jump. But then it occurs to you that making no decision is one in itself.
For the past 28 years Pamela and I have created our home pretty much from nothingness. We dug ponds (six) sculpted the land, erected outbuildings, and as artists redefined pretty much every board, wall, window here to make it exactly what we wanted. And now, for the last six months we’ve been meticulously and somewhat cold-bloodedly converting it to…not sure what the term is…normalcy. We even hired a stager just to make sure everything is super normal. The entire house is now some shade of beige or mushroom from a Sherwin Williams paint chip.
Friends come over now. They peer around and look at us in astonishment. What the hell happened? they ask. The fireplace room used to be right out of Madrid or Barcelona. Mobiles hanging, turning slowly, art…everywhere. But that’s not how you set up your house to sell so you can take one of those cross roads. No one put a gun to our heads. We just knew it had to be done.
“Why???” is another question we’re asked a lot. “You made your own little private paradise and Bucks County, PA, is GREAT.” Yes it is, and yes you’re right. But nearly 30 years is a long time to travel down that same path, no matter how twisty and scenic it is. Truth is, a number of years ago we had come to the realization that we had pretty much done everything there was to do in our “paradise” not once, not twice, not 20 times, but maybe 50 or a hundred. And so we walk out of paradise voluntarily and yet wistfully.
This was one of our BIG chapters…a huge hunk of the “book” we all write for ourselves.
A long time ago, in pilot training, there was a week or so of parachute training as well. For the record, though I’ve always loved flying, I’ve also had a pretty bad case of acrophobia, fear of heights. Put me in a cockpit and I can spike 20,000 feet in two minutes with the right aircraft. Put me on a ladder, however, and getting up above that twelfth or fourteenth rung and it’s white-knuckles and gritting teeth. Such was the week of parachute training. But there comes a time when they tap you on your helmet and yell, “You ready?” and…you either give a thumbs-up or you’re out of the course. There’s a tiny but very important crossroads there. In my mind the options were: death by falling, washing-out, or jumping and hoping for the best. I jumped, but didn’t like it. Still hate ladders…really hate them.
I read an article on the Millennials the other day and was happily surprised by a lot of what I read. For most of them, given a choice between a job they really like and a higher paying job, they’ll take the former. I think that’s good in the big picture as well as the short term. Ultimately, it isn’t money that makes you a success but doing something you like…and doing it well.
If you’ve read the NY Times for a while you may know that during the elections, Gail Collins could not resist bringing up the fact that Mitt Romney made a lengthy road trip with his dog accidentally attached to the roof. For better or for worse, she worked that fact into every article.
In a similar vein, I’ve been harping of late on my own pet peeve: STUFF. Though it’s everyone’s prerogative to learn this for themselves, it will ultimately occur to you that stuff ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Having just waved bye bye to an embarrassingly large dumpster filled to the brim with “stuff” that I barely knew I had, it was a surreal experience and yet an enlightening one. The moment the stuff disappeared down our little twisting driveway…it was forgotten.
To the Millennials and the Boomers and every generation in between, a bit of advice. Choose your stuff wisely, because 99% of it isn’t that important. And….when that cross road appears before you, either suddenly or highly expected, reach down and grab a handful of guts and choose the road you really want to take. If you don’t, you’ll never forgive yourself for the error.
Still sitting up here in the tree house. All summer I’ve been trying to track a big snapping turtle that’s taken over the pond. He just surfaced and…Man, he is Big! Usually we play a version of “Run Silent, Run Deep” an old WWII submarine movie, but this time…this time I’m wondering if maybe he isn’t the new owner of CrossBow.
Your article reminded me of the old Eric Clapton album, Crossroads. I think I had a lot less stuff when that album surfaced. You inspired me to take a quick look at my own place. OMG, what will I ever do if I have to move?
You are right, all those really cool things that I accumulated at the time seemed so important, and now looks like tchotchkes. Maybe that’s maturity in full swing. Thanks for the nudge. Tomorrow I’m cleaning house.
I’m just in awe of the fact that someone can spell (gotta look up at your email to do it) tchotchkes. Left to my own devices I’d still be typing in Chachka or something. When it all comes down to short strokes, if you have someone you love, some good friends and family, some good dogs, and your health, you are rich.
Oh, a little tip: When the guy asked me how big a dumpster to rent, I said, “Gimme a big one.” Very glad I did.
This article hit the spot with me. I am currently moving to Sedona, AZ to work with a hospice group.
I have purged so much “stuff” I am immune to the idea of NOT being able to part with any material object at this point. So I relate to your move.
I came to Cleveland expecting to stay a year maybe 2 and I will begin working with the hospice group the exact day that I began the job with then national city now PNC , only 16 years later.
This is a whole new chapter for me as well and one I expect to truly enjoy.
Take care and all he best for you and Pamela on your next chapter.
Good to hear! Having been a Tucsonian for over a decade…Sedona is beautiful!!! And there’s skiing not that far from you up in Flagstaff.
There are many more people than we think…quietly turning the page on new life chapters. Good luck!
I just read through your latest article. Although I’ve never been to your home, I feel like I have from seeing the pictures over the years and also reading about it (I believe it was the setting for Playing on the Black Keys). It seems like such a special place … I felt sad knowing that the Harveys won’t be there anymore.
Change, even good change is often upsetting. But it’s also necessary. Any time Pamela or I get too wistful, I say, “Okay then. Let’s just stay”…and the tune changes. I want my “book” to have a number of different and exciting chapters. It’s the spice of life.
Could not have said it better, but we have a long way to go.
Close to the cross road but not there yet.
Hello old friend.
Here’s hoping we have a bunch more crossroads to pass through.
I have enjoyed your articles. Keep them coming.
I am surprised you are leaving beautiful Bucks County but completely understand the need for change.
Thanks for your comments. For what it’s worth Pamela and I went on a vacation a while back to a gorgeous tiny town on St. Martin. Was chatting with a French sales gal who confided that she was counting the days till she could leave for vacation. I couldn’t imagine a prettier place then right where she was that second. She wanted to go to the UK for a change of scenery. Change is good.
Hello dear Henry
When you are at the cross road, choose the wider road that looks like a runway, and start flying by your wings of imagination, and philosophy,. Then the exciting new chapters of life will be in front of you. The colorful chapters full of love and happiness. Take care and I wish all the best lovely chapters of life for you and Pamela.
Sincerely yours David.
Thank you my long time friend. You said it beautifully. As you point out, as we age, our philosophy and imagination become important pillars for our existence…sometimes our very survival. My very very best to you and your beautiful family.
Love getting your emails.
I’ve had a philosophy to collect till age 65 say and then start to jettison till you reach, oh,about 75-80.
Then you slide into the golden years with just those very prized pieces and the fond memories (God willing, of course)of how you acquired them; from whom and with whom.
One of our favorite pieces, never to be “down sized” is our Harvey fountain.
Flowers or a friend
from the other side of the road.
Pam and Wade