Half a Lifetime Ago

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On Halloween day in 1985, I packed up my clothes, a roll up mattress,  grabbed one lonely pumpkin from our small garden, locked our rental house door for the last time, climbed in my car to head north out of Seattle. I don’t recall looking back in the rear view mirror at the skyline after nine years living in the city. My husband had moved to Whatcom County two months earlier to start his new job. I had stayed behind to wrap up my Group Health family practice in the Rainier Valley of Seattle. I was leaving the city for a new rural home and a very uncertain professional future.

I knew two things for sure: I was finally several months pregnant after a miscarriage and two years of infertility, so our family was on its way, and we were going to actually live in our own house, not just a rental, complete with a few acres and a barn. A real (sort of) starter farm. Since no farm can be complete without animals, I stopped at the first pet store I drove past and found two tortoise shell calico kitten sisters peering up at me,  just waiting for new adventures in farmland. Their box was packed into the one spot left beside me in my little Mazda. With that simple commitment to raise and nurture those kittens, life seemed very complete.

I will never forget the freedom I felt on that drive north. The highway seemed more open, the fall colors more vibrant, the wind more brisk, our baby happily kicking my belly, the kittens plaintively mewing from their box. There seemed to be so much potential even though I had just left behind the greatest job that could be found in any urban setting (the most diverse zip code in the United States): an ideal family practice with patients from all over the world: Muslims from the Middle East and Indonesia, Orthodox Jews, Italian Catholics, African Americans, Cambodians, Laotians, Vietnamese. I would never know so much variety of background and perspective again and if I could have packed them all into the Mazda and driven them north with me, I would have.

We started our farm with those kittens dubbed Nutmeg and Oregano, soon adding an ethnic diversity of farm animals:  Belgian Tervuren dog Tango, Haflinger horse Greta, Toggenburg goats Tamsen and her kids, a few Toulouse geese, Araucana chickens, Fiona the Scottish Highland cow, then another Haflinger Hans and another, Tamara. I worked as a fill in locums doctor in four different clinics before our first baby, Nate, was born. Again, we had new commitments and life felt complete– but not for long, as we soon added little brother Ben and seven years later,  sister Lea. Then it really was complete. Or so I thought.

Thirty three years later our children have long ago grown and gone to new homes of their own, off to their own adventures beyond the farm.  Our sons married wonderful women, our daughter is in her third year of teaching fourth grade a few hours away and we have a granddaughter growing up in Tokyo.

A few cats, two Cardigan Corgi dogs, and a hand full of ponies remain at the farm with us. We are now both gray and move a bit more slowly, enjoy our naps and the quiet of the nights and weekends.  My work has evolved from four small jobs to two decades of two part time jobs to one more than full time job that fits me like a well worn sweater 24 hours a day.

My husband is happily retired now,  volunteering, serving on boards and being a full time farmer on our larger 20 acre place of fields and woods.  Retirement looms closer for me:  I have never not worked outside the home and don’t know how I can stop when the need in health care is greater than ever.

There was freedom that rainy Halloween day over three decades ago as Seattle disappeared in the rear view mirror. I would no longer sat captive in freeway rush hour bumper to bumper traffic jams.  I celebrate my daily commute through farm fields, watching eagles fly, and new calves licked by their mamas. I am part of a community in a way I never could manage in the city, stopping to visit with friends at the grocery store, playing piano and teaching at church and serving on various community boards. Our home sits in the midst of woods and corn fields, with deer strolling through the fields at dawn, coyotes howling at night, Canadian geese and trumpeter swans calling from overhead and salmon becoming more prolific every year in nearby streams. The snowy Cascades greet us in the morning and the sunset over Puget Sound bids us good night.

It all started October 31, 1985 with two orange and black kittens and a pumpkin sitting beside me in a little Mazda, my husband waiting for my homecoming 100 miles north. Now, thirty three years and three grown children and one granddaughter later, we celebrate this Halloween transition anniversary together, still pregnant with the possibility that life is never truly complete when there is always a new day just around the corner.

 

 

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October

14 thoughts on “Half a Lifetime Ago

  1. Love this fullness of looking back and rejoicing! What an overflowing life. Your black kitty doesn’t look too happy, but love the pix!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful post…I found your pictures on FB and started following you since then. Absolutely love the photos you post, poems and thoughts. Many weekends as a child, I made a 4 hr trip with my 2 older sisters and parents to my grandparents and great grandparents farms in WV. I’m a primary teacher and have been for 16 yrs now, but I’ve been feeling the call of counseling. May I ask what your Myers Briggs type is? I’m an E/IFNP. (60% E, 40% I, or so says the last test I recently took, lol) So much of your tone in your blog speaks to me…I’m curious if we are similar in types. I’m 45 and a mother of 2 children I love dearly.

    Krista in Western Maryland

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  3. Thank you Emily, for the great reminder of the new adventure ahead. I was a bit discouaged this morning… So here I’m moving into my new home, downsizing from the 38 acre farm I shared with dear Eli to 1.2 acre, and feeling discouaged. I went down to feed Scharly, unloaded 5 bales of hay, moved pavers next to my shed for a horse cabinet, took care of my 8 chickens and felt much better. I read your post and felt appreciation…thanks Emily. I’m coming up on the 2nd year. Lots of memories. Thanks for letting me share.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Emily, over my life, people’s lives have spoken to me…a gift from my mother who always said, “look at that, what is he/she doing now?
    One of my great watches has been of people who retire and when they do that. I had an allergist who did not retire until he was 96 years old…he was beloved….and I was inspired. I am still conducting my practice of Educational Therapy for dyslexic students and finding God meeting my needs to continue to teach these little ones to read and enjoy English.
    It seems that in this day and time, retirement is a non-event. We go on because it is more healthy to have time to serve others in our field….Blessings to you in you dilemma of retiring.

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  5. I loved the 1980s. I was running hither and yon to calligraphy conferences and antiquarian bookfairs and discovered the beauty of marbled paper. It was a wonderful time of freedom. Teaching second grade was a joy as I watched the children learn and grow. I enjoyed being a student myself each and every summer.
    These last two months have been all consuming watching my father decline. Trying to provide care at home and feeling like I am making the wrong decision at every turn. Sadly, in the last ten months he has lost three doctors. His family practice doc retired. This week, we discovered his urologist retired and now we know his endocrinologist has left the practice where he served us. We had followed him from his previous practice, because we liked him. It is hard to find a doctor these days one trusts and appreciates.
    This aging process is becoming a huge challenge. I keep asking myself…what’s a daughter to do??? There are no easy answers. The facilities are the pits. Getting home health help is not easy. And one’s energy just runs low.
    I continue to trust God as I look for the manna each new morning, but each new day brings more decisions to be made and not many answers to be found.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Linda,
    so sorry to hear of so many transitions of care providers when you need continuity and wise counsel the most. May you and your father feel some peace in your time together even when things are so challenging. I wish I had really concentrated on that togetherness in the final months with my mother.
    love and blessing,
    Emily

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  7. Dear Laura,

    I know you must miss your lovely farm but it sounds like you have some of your most cherished creatures with you though on a smaller scale. You miss your Eli so much.
    love and blessings to you,
    Emily

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  8. I rarely comment but I am a faithful reader from across the country in Massachusetts. Your photos and posts ground me and renew my faith in multiple ways. Thank you.

    Like

  9. I hope you are considering writing a book in your retirement, because your writing is brilliant, and very inspiring. (Of course you would need to include your stunning photographs as well.) Food for thought…….

    Like

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