Decades

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.

Adam and me, Zhouzhuang, China

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.

Textile vendor, Antigua, Guatemala
Building shadows, Staré Mesto (Old Town), Prague, Czech Republic
Sakura (cherry blossoms), Fuchu, Japan

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.

Georgetown, Colorado from Guanella Pass Road

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.

Our Denver house
Adam and me

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.

Pat, cat, and me, Sugarloaf, New York

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 first house, Denver, Colorado

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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Published by rkrontheroad

Writer, photographer, traveler

54 thoughts on “Decades

  1. Firstly – happy birthday! And secondly, thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m so sorry to hear of your husband’s passing so young. It looks like you and Adam have wonderful adventures together, those memories must be special; and you’ve done so much in your 6 decades so far – I’m looking forward to following along for the 7th 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Happy Birthday Ruth! What an absorbing and moving read. I loved the way you counted down through the decades, Benjamin Button style. What an incredible life you’ve had so far and wishing you more amazing adventures over the next ten years.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love your backward writing idea and thank you for sharing your story.
    You are so strong, energetic and amazing woman. I wishing you many new adventures, surprises, magic and happiness ahead. Happy Birthday Ruth!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sure it was fun to write and it’s fun to read too. Something different. Interesting sometimes great ideas come from usual and simple things. Thanks again for sharing your life story!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. If I didn’t have children it would be hard to pinpoint events in my life coinciding with round-number birthdays. But once I place their age with my age, all sorts of memories come back. Thank you for bring us along on this journey, Ruth. As a fellow Coloradoan I especially enjoyed the detail and photos of Georgetown and Denver. We live in a beautiful part of the country.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are many ways we recognize the milestones in our lives, and kids, of course, are a big part of it all. Once I started thinking along the lines of decades, I realized it was a pattern for me. Thanks for reading, Dave!

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  5. What a beautiful reflection. You’ve lived such an interesting life, with more to come, I’m sure. How exciting that the world is your oyster right now. I look forward to reading about whatever ends up grabbing you. And happy birthday!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Loved the retrospective, the photos, Ruth. I found something special in your words about turning 70. As I approach that milestone b’day, I look at things the same way. I also wonder how it’s possible. Isn’t it interesting the disconnect between our age and how we look and have changed, and how we are inside? So much of how we are inside/who we are doesn’t change, really.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post and the reflection, Dave. I agree completely. What’s sometimes disconcerting about this age, though, is that younger people often don’t recognize that dichotomy and write us off. I suppose I did to some extent in my earlier years. Wishing you well as you approach your 70s. May there be much more to come!

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      1. Haven’t thought about that song lately, but I do remember that line. I’m going to play it again now for the rest of the lyrics. I wonder how old Paul Simon was when he wrote that?!

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  7. Firstly, happy (belated) birthday! And secondly, thanks for an absorbing ride taking us back through the decades. I’m just a few year behind you but although I’ve been fortunate to travel quite a lot, I don’t think I’ve had quite such a varied or adventurous life as yours. Hopefully there’s time to fit a fair few more adventures in yet, for both of us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the good wishes, Sarah! Your travels have an intimate look at remote places that are always fascinating. I’m sure we will have more interesting stories to tell in the coming years!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great way to remember the decades! You have given me some inspiration for my 60’s but am still flailing about, unsure what to do. I loved the photo of you as a little girl – we looked a little alike. K x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ruth, Happy Birthday!!! I love how you reflect on every decade of your life here with milestones, accomplishments and changes. Sounds like you are a very creative person and I really like the way you write. Love the photos and particularly the one of you as a little girl. Thank you for introducing me to your blog. I will be spending sometime looking through some of your older posts very soon.
    Keep enjoying life and having fun 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a lovely way to celebrate your 70th birthday by looking back decade by decade. Your life has been exciting and varied. So fun to see who you were, knowing you’ll be going forward toward something else unique and memorable.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I just love the way you backtrack your life decade a time.. very interesting! Same here, I don’t want to waste anymore time, I want to feed my curiosity of the world. Let’s see what the remaining holds us. Good luck! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that you are in a different carriage but the same train – sending you a wave! Thanks for your kind comment, Jo, and wishing you well in the future also.

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  12. Why stop now indeed! I too recently turned 70 and like you wonder how it’s possible. I also have no intention of stopping (as soon as Covid allows it). So interesting to look back on all those decades. I enjoyed learning more about you, and I’m inspired to do a little decade strolling myself. My post about turning 70 was more along the lines of just don’t call me old!
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having followed some of your adventures in Wonderland, I certainly would not think of you as old. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your own thoughts. On to see what the future holds next…

      Liked by 1 person

  13. You had quite a jam-packed life thus far … I can’t see you stopping now. Isn’t there a saying: “Seventy is the new Fifty” or something like that? My mom (now in her mid seventies) always talks about the ‘old people’ – and then they’re just 4/5 years older than her – but she is still very active and definitely don’t see herself as ‘old’ ☺️.
    May you conquer the seventies with a bang!!

    Liked by 1 person

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