Here I am at my new website. This is really an exciting moment for me. A year and a half ago I first started really thinking about, and writing about, what it would be like to move from a career-life to the life of a retired woman. I grew up firmly rooted in the feminist movement and believed that I could have it all; career, family, travel, joy. Sometimes I really did believe that I had the best of everything: a career that was engaging, challenging and rewarding; three wonderful children; good recipes for home-made bread and raspberry preserves, because after all super-Mom had to both career woman and earth mother; husbands (got to smile when I write that) that shared my life; and lots of adventures. My identity was all of those things. And then I realized that before long the picture would be oh so different; no more career, kids grown up and living their own lives, husband (just the one now) busy with his own life and children, and generally less interest in baking or canning although I do spend more time preparing gourmet feasts. Leaving my professional life behind, I was about to become a “housewife” and that didn’t sit so easily with me. And now … here I am … busy and happy (mostly) and launching a website which includes my blog and information about the women and retirement workshops I’m ready to do. The first one’s already scheduled for the Crones Counsel Gathering in Atlanta, Georgia later this month. If you know of anyone who organizes these kinds of events or workshops, please do forward my website info to them. Can’t wait to gather with more women who are travelling this most interesting road.
Meanwhile, before I get to what was going to be what I was going to write about (now there’s a convoluted sentence … if you read it very slowly it should actually make sense), I want to tell you about an amazing thing that happened this afternoon.
It’s the holiday of Sukkot, a Jewish holiday whose names derives from the Hebrew word סוכה (sukkah, plural – sukkot) which is a kind of temporary “hut” that reminds us of the 40 years in which the Jews wandered through the desert after the exodus from Egypt. In Leviticus we are told: “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day [of Sukkot], the fruit of the beautiful [citron] tree, tightly bound branches of date palms, the branch of the braided [myrtle] tree, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days”. So there we were, David and I, in the kitchen this afternoon gathering up our lulav (palm branches) with a stalk of myrtle leaves on one side and a stalk of willow leaves on the other. In our hands, the etrog. Some say the palm branches represent the spine – our strength, the myrtle represents our eyes, the willow represents our mouths, and the etrog represents our hearts. We need all four things working in harmony – what we see, what we say, what we feel, and how we carry ourselves with strength. Another interpretation I’d recently heard had the myrtle representing strength and the willow representing grace; I’d also heard that one should be placed so it’s a little higher than the other but I couldn’t remember which was which. What a wonderful conversation followed as David and I tried to work through which we’d put higher; strength or grace. In the end we decided that one without the other wasn’t enough … you need both together; we placed them at exactly the same height. With a deep whiff of the fabulous smell of the etrog we celebrated Sukkot together … in the kitchen.
Now, on to what I was meaning to write about. When I worked, and had to travel from one place to another mid-day,
I was always fascinated by the fact that there were so many people wandering about during work hours. Who were they? Why were they free (when I wasn’t)? Today, as I walked this afternoon from the subway to my class at Ryerson – in the afternoon – I realized how I now just take it for granted that lots of folks are free during the day. Indeed, I realized this a little earlier when talking to my mother (who often comments on how busy I am … yup, some issues around that I think, but we’ll work it through) and told her that I’d been home working away at the computer most of the day so that tomorrow I could have a “run-about” day … dentist appointment, buy new boots, exercise, take Motti to buy an etrog then maybe out for a late lunch, teach a bar mitzvah class (my one paid working hour of the day) and then on to choir rehearsal. My goodness how the rhythm of life has changed!
The days of summer are already a thing of the past here in Toronto. We were heading out to a friend’s last night at 8 p.m. and it was already dark. Short days are with us again; they’ll get shorter and shorter for a while until by mid-December we’ll be living in relative darkness other than between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. I think that the artist David Milne captured just how bleak that is in this painting he did in 1935 that hangs in the Art Gallery of Ontario, don’t you? When I worked this was a much bigger drag than it is now because it meant that most of the time I was travelling to and from work in the dark and unless I was able to get out for a walk at lunchtime – and it wasn’t too cold to go out and I didn’t have any lunchtime meetings – I rarely saw the sun except for on the weekends. And now I can see it … if it’s there … any day of the week. What a huge gift that one is.
So as I walk down the street in the middle of the day now I’m not feeling like quite such an “odd woman out”. Thing is, I’m still wondering who all of these people are. Okay – so some are Moms (or Dads) with small children who aren’t in school yet. That I understand although I myself had to go back to work within a few months of the birth of my children because I just couldn’t afford the luxury of a long maternity leave. Some are my peers – folks who’ve likely already retired or left their jobs; I understand that too. Some are students living the lives of students which means that day and night are pretty much the same and they’re free to be out most hours of the day unless they’re actually in a class or studying or working a bit. But what about the rest? What are all of the folks in their 20s, 30s, 40s and even 50s doing with time to wander about during the day? One thing is pretty clear; they do tend to have smiles on their faces and they aren’t rushing, rushing, rushing. Hhmm … a new community for me to explore more in the coming years. Nice.