In Georgia, October is a sweet spot. The temperatures are finally cool enough that being outside during the day is not an accomplishment in heat endurance. I put my bathrobe and warm slippers on in the morning and wear shorts in the afternoon. There is day after day of blue sky with green trees changing color day by day.
And for me, this October 2016 is a sweet spot personally. It’s been a little over a year since I returned from my cross-country bike trip and four months more than that since I retired from thirty-one years in higher education. It has taken me all that time to relax into being retired from Athens Tech. Last fall, I was anxious about how I was going to live the rest of my life. This fall I have a rhythm that isn’t based on an academic year, and that doesn’t demand that I have a plan for the rest of my years.
Yesterday, I got up around 8 AM and made myself a cappuccino. (Since our trip to Sicily and Morocco, I’ve stopped drinking regular coffee and taken the little espresso maker out of the cabinet for everyday use. Espresso has less acidic. The foamed milk is an everyday treat.) I read another section of the Sunday New York Times before moving upstairs to my office where I continued writing up my blog into a book manuscript, something I started in the spring but then paused over the summer of daughters and wedding celebrations. Yesterday it was Fourth of July in Gackle, North Dakota, something that involved not only memories but online research to know better the places I passed through and the people I met.
Around 1 PM, I had accomplished my writing goal for the day and did a few chores around the house, putting up clothes folded the night before, sweeping and quick-mopping the kitchen floor, and doing the picking up that makes the house feel calmer to be in. Then it was off to the outside world. I rode my Salsa bike up to the Omni for a lower-body workout, smiles of hello with the young dark-haired woman at the desk who checks me in and Jamal, the manager who was my student sometime in the last decade.
Afterward, I eat my hard-boiled egg that I had waiting in my bike bag as a snack and ride downtown on Barnett Shoals onto busy Lexington Highway and then off on a short stretch of the Greenway before climbing up from the N. Oconee River to downtown and then over to Hendershot’s. There, I meet up with Jesse, a young guy who’s committed his life for the time being to community activism. I ask him again why we are meeting up and he tells me that I have knowledge of the community he doesn’t have and similar motivations to those he has. We clearly both enjoy exploring the machinations of the local political scene.
Back at my bike, I have a Whats App message from Alessandro and Clare in Paris about a potential apartment they are interested in. I text with Sara about celebrating her birthday on Thursday. And then I am back on my bike in the 5:30 light, riding down Milledge through 5 Points and then out College Station. By the time I reach our home on the eastside, I have ridden over ten miles. Richard is working in the garden which we have resurrected from overgrowth this past summer. I leave him to work more and start work on dinner, some chicken thighs sautéed and then simmered in a stew of leeks, onions, and mushrooms. Over dinner, Richard and I talk about the apartment in Paris and Clare and Alessandro’s challenges with French bureaucracy, which is now more reality than a stereotype. After dinner, we try out an episode of Spiral, a French detective drama that Rosemary has recommended, and then we read and go to sleep.
On my way up to the gym yesterday, I met a neighbor, Chris up the road, who was out chatting with another neighbor, Gigi, a recent transplant from the Northeast, another Yankee my age down here in the South. Chris is a decade or so older than me, a widow with grown children up in Connecticut. We three chatted together for a few moments in the glory of the day that yesterday was and Chris chuckled saying that her children in the far north felt reassured with her living so far away because she was in Athens, a world they called Disney World because of the way it compares to so many other places.
Yesterday as I rode my bike around, I did feel like I lived a Disney World life, the Disney life of an early-retired 58-year old woman, no longer driven by the structure, demands and politics of a 40+ hour work week at a community college. I was and am able to create my own life and to make it meaningful. I don’t have to have it all figured out. For now, I have the months through next May planned, and that’s fine. From there, we will see where things go.