Change has been a constant in my life. Sometimes I think about various periods of my life in terms of a cat’s nine lives. Right now, though, I’m thinking about decades, as I turn seventy. How is that possible, a voice in my head asks? I keep thinking I must be doing the math wrong; it’s never been my forte. I still feel like the same young person in my brain, a little more mellow, still reasonably physically active, still curious about the world, pursuing arts, and wondering what the next decade holds. It’s a time for reflection, in reverse. Each decade seemed to carry with it a new direction.
The day I turned sixty, I flew from Lhasa, Tibet to Shanghai, China, one leg of a three-week journey around China with my son Adam, a few months before moving home from living in Japan.
My sixties became a homecoming to my mountain house, which I had rented out while living abroad, and I settled into a new life, a quiet place to write. This time I would live alone in the house. I redecorated with my own and the artwork of others, painting color on some previously boring off-white walls, and fell in love with a calico cat from the local animal shelter to keep me company. I positioned my desk in the bay window. The open space that makes up my wild yard is peopled with creature residents or those passing through: rabbits under a sprawling bush, squirrel and chipmunk in the trees, bright blue jays, robins, hummingbirds, and other birds I haven’t named, deer families, bighorn sheep, an occasional bear or moose, and, rarely, evidence of a mountain lion.
After tutoring part-time for a few years, I found a calling as a volunteer in my small community at the library and for a new Cultural Arts program bringing music and arts to a big old restored schoolhouse building. (A labor of love) Still traveling, I’ve found a few non-profit agencies whose worthwhile projects I have participated in, another way to experience a land and its people, and have taken some interesting journeys beyond.
When I turned fifty, we had an open house party to celebrate my new decade and my son’s high school graduation. He left for college, and my empty nest held two big dogs: Orion, the yellow lab we watched being born on Adam’s birthday, the year after my husband died, to his best friend’s dog, and Mario, the gentle tweedy-brown mix, larger than Orion, who grew up with my son. What could I do in this new life? My job situation had changed and I yearned to travel more. I spent eight years of that decade teaching abroad in Guatemala, Prague, and Japan, and travel to many countries. A decade of exploration, making friends from other lands, speaking other languages, learning about other cultures.
As I turned forty, my second husband and I moved up to the mountains from Denver, a house on the side of Saxon Mountain, by a lake, a choice for a quieter life in a small welcoming community, although we still commuted to the city for work. I had moved my aging parents—my mother with a host of physical challenges, my father with Alzheimer’s—from New Jersey to a care facility in Denver, so part of my forties was a sandwich decade, caring for children and parents. My husband died of cancer when I was forty-five, my parents a few years later. Grief was a partner through the end of that decade. And Adam and I started traveling; the world was waiting.
At thirty, I left my first marriage. The man who became my second husband and I soon started a new journey together. A baby, a stepson, a family. We left our jobs and started a new business, computer consulting in the newly evolving digital world, a busy challenging life in the prime of my adult years. Good times, love, good food (he was the cook!), mothering, nurturing employees, inspiring clients, growing into the person I had become.
I was just a few days past twenty when I graduated college. My last year in college I was a partner, with five fellow art students, in a pottery shop in a rural craft town, Sugarloaf, New York, just over the New Jersey border. We met with Jarvis Boone, the woodcarver, to talk about renting the space. “We need potters!” he boomed. A former chicken coop in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain became our shop; we had to clean out chicken droppings and feathers. The walls were paneled with weathered wood and we showed our pots in spaces created with rocks and unused beams from the nearby railroad tracks. The guys built two potter’s wheels behind a counter, and a rugged rock-walled kiln appeared in the back. I made enough to pay my share of the rent that year, but I didn’t stay long; travels were calling.
My then boyfriend, who became my first husband, and I took a road trip around the country, came home, packed up, and moved out to Colorado, leaving New Jersey in our past. Ready for a new adventure! During that decade, I found a career at the Denver Public Library (Libraries in my life), threw pots in my spare time, and settled into a work-a-day life. Hiking the Colorado mountains, tent camping, filled much of our weekends and time off.
My stints at the library, as an entrepreneur, and teaching community college part-time while working full-time, although they didn’t coincide with calendar decades, amounted to ten years each. Is that my limit before I seek something new?
Enough looking backward. What’s next? Now that I’m vaccinated, although most of the world is not, I’m starting to ponder what to do with my seventies. I know I will continue to live in this little mountain town with my volunteer commitments and friends, but there are other experiences out there to be had. Change has been a constant in my life; why stop now? My imagination is kicking into gear. Let’s see what happens.
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Email me at: Ruth@RuthRosenfeld.com