Monthly Archives: October 2012

Light.

* * *

During the early Fall of 1987, I rented an Eichler home although I didn’t know anything about the home’s designer history.  The home had an amazing amount of light, a cool open atrium in the center and floor to ceiling glass down both hallways that wrapped around. Four bedrooms, a fireplace in the living room with floor to ceiling glass on either side of it and a fenced yard in the back for my two dogs.  At the time I was driving a 1981 black Corvette with a glass T-top and parked it in the driveway just outside the front door.

Eichler atrium

One of the bedrooms had sliding glass doors onto this area and I put my bookcases, desk and used it as my home office.  It was lovely to have the screen door open to the courtyard and still have privacy.

Eichler home entry and atrium

It’s interesting how popular this design has become and how 1960’s the feel is.  Likely because of the 60’s television shows the past several years, such as “Mad Men”, “Pan Am”, “Playboy Club” and the most recent iteration of “Vegas”.

What is strange is I have never been a fan of modern art and architecture,  preferring natural woods over chrome and glass.  The incredible natural light this Eichler home and ones like it have was my favorite thing.  What’s interesting to me is that my next home was a cabin in the redwoods.  It doesn’t get much more different that that I suppose.  Hip 1960’s vibe to rough and rugged.  Got rid of the ‘vette and got a late 1960’s Toyota station wagon.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under California

Wind.

Broken tree outside front door blown down October 29, 2012 during Hurricane Sandy

* * *

“The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven not man’s.” – Mark Twain

* * *

*

“If there’s no chocolate in Heaven, I’m not going.” – Jane Seabrook

*

*

“The connections we make in the course of a life–maybe that’s what heaven is.” – Fred Rogers

*

It’s been a very long day that got increasingly louder when the wind picked up in the afternoon and tonight. The tree just outside the front door split in half (at least that’s what it looks like in the dark), and fell across the patio.  Siding was  stripped off and banged while something blew around loudly in the attic.  It will all look different in the morning light tomorrow, I’m sure.

Here’s to gratitude for being warm and dry.  For the power staying on even after several episodes of serious flickering.  There’s a full moon over the Atlantic ocean tonight.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nature

Safe.

log cabin in redwoods

* * *

Anticipation can be wonderful or torture depending on a number of factors. Age is one. Remember how Christmas seemed it would never arrive? I remember impending snow storms and how excited we kids were about school closings and instead spending the day outside building snow forts.

Seriousness of a life event such as a wedding, moving and divorce influence how anticipation affects people.  As do the threat of natural disasters. With a hurricane on its way, I’ve felt increasingly anxious. Being alone with my pet dog and keeping us both safe. What constructive actions can I take beyond the stocking up on supplies (and keeping the television off with cable news and weather channel’s increasingly urgent “we’re doomed” hype…)

Back in the late 1980’s, I lived by myself (with two dogs) in a cabin in the redwoods south of San Francisco, California. The first couple of months were really scary; the sounds that suburbia and the forest makes are worlds apart.  Slowly I learned about self reliance in ways that were different from frequent business travel alone in unfamiliar places.

For one, it was quiet. It took some getting used to not hearing traffic and other sounds that humans make.  There was also a great deal of left brain mind chatter that eventually calmed.  Feeling extremely afraid and not sure what of.  Of being alone.  Worrying a huge redwood tree would fall on me during rain and wind that northern California experiences.

If there is a mantra I’ve created to help myself get through painfully fearful times, it’s “I felt this way before and I didn’t die (or other verb) then; I’ll be just fine now.”  There have been many wee hours of the morning when sitting in the dark, I’ve thought of that mantra and even wondered if dying might not be a better alternative than the terror.

The day to day builds bedrock even when I was completely unaware of it happening.  When I ran out of hot water, I rolled the heavy propane tank over to my old liftback Toyota and drove the forty five minutes to the propane gas station in Pescader0.  The trash bags were taken to the dump there too.  When I ran out of milk for my coffee and the closest grocery store was twenty-two miles each way, I bought “instant-moo” powdered creamer as well as other canned food items. The rough wood kitchen cupboard became a decently stocked pantry.

*

*

There was a cord of wood just outside for the small stove the cabin had for heat. The 1950’s round-edged refrigerator worked fine. There was even a horse named Sarge who used to stick his head into the top part of the kitchen Dutch door as he looked for fresh carrots.

Late one night I was walking alone and suddenly felt the hair rise on the back of my neck. I sensed rather than heard something over my head. When I looked up and over to the right I saw an owl land on a utility pole.

*

Northern spotted owl

*

When there were the inevitable rains and wind, I still jumped when a branch struck the cabin roof.  I started saying that fear-mantra less often and knew what peace and quiet was.  The quiet was inside me.

So here I am twenty-five years later 3,000 miles away from that cabin. When I remember how fear felt back then and what it’s like today, it beings a smile of recognition. “I felt this way before and didn’t die (or other verb) then; I’ll be just fine now.”  Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have the chance to live in a cabin in the woods again and being so close to and with nature.

The difference is that nature is wherever I am.  It’s not a geographic thing where nature is only in my favorite places in the American west. Nature in all of its exquisiteness, power, quiet and beauty is everywhere.  I’m still planning to move though.

* * *

Redwoods on the Sequoia Trail, Big Basin Redwoods State Park

http://www.redwoodhikes.com/Big%20Basin/Sequoia.html

* * *

Leave a comment

Filed under Nature

Frankenstorm.

Inyo National Forest, California

http://oddstuffmagazine.com/gorgeous-wilderness-of-americas-by-marc-muench.html

* * * * *

For decades, it seemed as if the meteorologists and the milk+bread sellers were in “cohoots” prior to a big storm. Days ahead of time, local newscasters harp on being prepared. Water, batteries, snacks. Everyone admonishing everyone else to get out there and get milk and a loaf of bread.

Living in California for 14 years taught me alternatives for preparing for potential disaster. Rather than days of warnings, earthquakes came seemingly un-announced.  (unless you watched animals’ behavior change just prior..)  Always have bottled water, canned goods and a very well-stocked pantry. Use the hot water heater tank’s water in a pinch. And nobody really talked about “what-if”, not really. Sometimes folks would joke about “earthquake weather”. It felt more like a mass version of geologic amnesia. Didn’t anyone read John McPhee’s “Assembling California”?

Over a decade later since moving back to the east coast to help care for elderly parents, that chapter is now over and I’m planning a move away for the last time.  But the “we’re doomed” local broadcast television news messages that create such a heightened sense of urgency and rachet up stress – seem so overdone. Are we all such sheep?

Preparing for any storm, much less an historic one, is prudent and wise. Tomorrow I’ll venture out into the Saturday crowds and get bottled water, peanut butter and jelly to have simple sandwiches by candlelight if the power goes out.

The thing is, when living on the west coast not knowing a major earthquake was imminent, and being bombasted for days about an impending storm here on the east coast? I’ll take the known unknowns there or wherever in the west I make my next home.

Forested road Redwood NP

 

Leave a comment

Filed under California

Gives all new meaning to the term “homeless”.

This was an amazing, thoroughly enjoyable read and I wish I had
thought of it and saved up to do it. Maybe next lifetime unless I
win the lottery in this one. (right..)

Favorite quote from this article:

“We also enjoy the freedom of not being weighed down by our “things.”
Indeed, one of the benefits of living home-free is that people we meet
on the road are interested in us and could care less about our house,
our antiques, our art or other possessions. It’s a remarkably
forthright way to relate to others.”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443720204578004131575356160.html

http://homefreeadventures.com/

October 22, 2012

The Let’s-Sell-Our-House- And-See-the-World Retirement

How one couple walked away from all they owned and are putting down
new roots— one country at a time.

By LYNNE MARTIN

I’m 70 years old. My husband, Tim, is 66. For most of our lives, each
of us lived and worked in California. Today, our home is wherever we
and our 30-inch suitcases are.

In short, we’re senior gypsies. In early 2011 we sold our house in
California and moved the few objects we wanted to keep into a
10-by-15-foot storage unit. Since then, we have lived in furnished
apartments and houses in Mexico, Argentina, Florida, Turkey, France,
Italy and England. In the next couple of months, we will live in
Ireland and Morocco before returning briefly to the U.S. for the
holidays.

As I write this, we have settled into a darling one-bedroom apartment
a hundred yards from the River Thames, a 25-minute train ride from the
heart of London. We have a knack for moving in. Within a few minutes
of plunking down our belongings in new digs, we have made it our own:
The alarm clock is beside the bed; my favorite vegetable peeler and
instant-read thermometer are in the kitchen; and our laptop computers
are hooked up and humming. Together we begin learning how to make the
appliances cooperate.

Given all that, I suppose a better way to describe us is gypsies who
like to put down roots. At least for a month or two.

Why we’re doing this is simple: My husband and I—in a heart-to-heart
conversation during a trip to Mexico—realized that both of us are
happier when we’re on the road. We enjoy excellent health and share a
desire to see the world in bigger bites than a three-week vacation
allows. The notion of living like the locals in other countries
thrilled us, and after almost 18 months of living “home free,” we are
still delighted with our choice. Even a “cocooning” day is more
interesting in Paris or Istanbul.

How we’re doing this is more complicated. But we think our plan would
work for many retirees with a reasonably healthy nest egg. A budget on
the road—as in a stationary life—depends on how a person prioritizes
expenditures and what kind of lifestyle he or she wishes to pursue.
Someone who needs a large wardrobe or thrives on giving lavish dinner
parties wouldn’t find our life appealing. (Rented places seldom offer
much in the way of attractive dinnerware.)

We certainly have moments when we question our sanity. Being up to our
knees in water, completely lost in the middle of a torrential
rainstorm in Istanbul, or discovering that we have locked ourselves
out on a third-floor Paris balcony does give us pause.

But we’ve learned three things. First, coping with new situations and
making complicated travel plans even as we’re on the road keep us
sharp.

Pay as They Go

Second, we aren’t alone. We meet fellow retirees on a regular basis,
some who are taking extended vacations, others who are leading a life
similar to ours, and some who have settled permanently overseas. A man
I met early on in our travels said to me, “There are a lot of us out
there who have figured it out.”

Third and most important, the rewards far outweigh the risks. The
moments when we glance out “our” living-room window at Florence’s
skyline or turn a corner in “our” neighborhood and see the tip of the
Eiffel Tower winking at us make the scary times worthwhile.

Taking the Plunge
Becoming international nomads sounded appealing, but we first had to
find a way to afford such a lifestyle. Serious number-crunching showed
that selling our home in California would allow us to live comfortably
almost anyplace in the world. Not having property taxes or a roof that
needs fixing can pay for a lot of train rides.
A few specifics about money. Our financial adviser sends us about
$6,000 a month, generated from investments. We also collect Social
Security and a small pension. We have a “slush fund” of about $20,000,
which allows us to make advance deposits—for housing, cruises,
flights, hotels and so forth—without affecting our cash flow.

We follow some simple strategies to keep our budget in line. Stays in
more expensive locations, like Paris or London, are balanced by living
in less pricey countries like Mexico, Turkey or Portugal. We dine out
several times a week but eat at home much of the time. I like to cook,
and food shopping is a great way to learn about a country. (Finding
baking soda in Buenos Aires isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds.)

People certainly could live on less than we do. Accommodations are a
good place to start; the cost of rentals overseas varies considerably
with size, season, location and amenities.

And when all else fails, walking and gawking are free everywhere.

Ocean of Opportunity
Although we have used airplanes, trains, buses, taxis, cars and
ferries, our favorite means of transportation is now trans-Atlantic
repositioning voyages.

When cruise lines move their ships seasonally, they offer big
discounts. Not many people can spare several weeks in the off-season
to cross the ocean. But it’s perfect for us because we not only reach
our destination, but we also are housed, fed and pampered for more
than two weeks each time. Traveling by ship, we arrive in sync with
local time and get a quick peek at interesting places that we probably
wouldn’t choose for an extended visit.

We are not married to any particular cruise line. Tim shops for the
best deal he can find that fits into our schedule, although we
sometimes schedule around the cruises. Prices vary. In May, our
Atlantic crossing—16 nights with an ocean-view room—cost about $2,500
for the two of us. That included all of our food, and a wine package
for me. Our return trip in November from Barcelona to Miami with the
same cruise line will cost about the same.

Our repositioning bookings extend into 2014 and form the base from
which the rest of our travels plans will grow. At the moment, we have
reservations for next year to live in Portugal, Spain, France,
Germany, the Netherlands and Russia. We are already confirmed for a
Paris apartment for June/July 2014.

In our experience, vrbo.com and homeaway.com are the most reliable
sources for short-term rentals. They offer a wide range of properties
to fit almost any budget, and because we usually stay at least a month
in each place, we can sometimes negotiate a slightly better deal.

Settling In
We have had the best luck renting properties whose owners live
locally. They offer information about transportation and shopping,
grant reasonable special requests and are usually quick to correct any
shortcomings. When I mentioned to our apartment owner in Paris that
the pots and pans were a bit tired, she appeared the very next day
with a new set of cookware and two wonderful stainless-steel frying
pans.

Of course, challenges await us at each destination. A partial list:
learning how to negotiate the grocery-store routine; using local
transportation; connecting to the Internet; getting decent haircuts;
operating heating and cooling systems; deciphering exotic DVD players.

Producing meals in an unfamiliar kitchen is often a particular
challenge; microwave instructions in French or Turkish can
considerably delay meal preparation, And every washer/dryer we
encounter presents a whole new group of mysterious settings.

So Far, So Wonderful
Connecting with people we would never have encountered in our regular
lives is the most thrilling part of our lifestyle.

In Paris, my favorite neighborhood cheese vendor chose a slice of Brie
that he guaranteed would melt perfectly at the precise time our guests
arrived, and it did; we met two brilliant young Serbian educators and
an internationally known Italian poet at a dinner party on a terrace
overlooking Florence; and the owner of a gorgeous 16th-century hotel
where we were staying in Kusadasi, Turkey, whiled away an afternoon
with me playing fast and furious backgammon. Such moments make the
uncomfortable times—like being stuck in a London traffic jam while
still learning to drive a stick-shift car on the left side—more than
worthwhile.

We also enjoy the freedom of not being weighed down by our “things.”
Indeed, one of the benefits of living home-free is that people we meet
on the road are interested in us and could care less about our house,
our antiques, our art or other possessions. It’s a remarkably
forthright way to relate to others.

Most days we’re up by 8 a.m., and we read our newspapers online with
our coffee. If it’s a “tourist” day, we try to get out in the morning
before the crowds fill up the museum, historic site or event we’re
bound for. Sometimes we just attend to life with grocery or clothes
shopping, or catching up on our laundry and our reading.

Strolling along the Thames on the way to have a haircut turns a
mundane chore into an event, and many times we enjoy a chat with an
interesting stranger along the way. My husband devotes some time every
day to making travel plans for the future and writing a novel, and I
try to work regularly on my blog, homefreeadventures.com. Many
evenings we watch our favorite shows or a movie we’ve rented online,
and we usually stay up too late, just as we used to do at home.

Online Connection
Since we have eliminated homeownership, we have few bills to pay. We
use an online bill-paying service, and we buy almost everything by
credit card so we can rack up mileage rewards. One of our daughters
receives the mail, which has dwindled to almost nothing.

A good Internet connection is essential. Our computers link us with
family and friends, help us plan future travels, and are our source of
entertainment in places where movies and television in English are
elusive. Each of us has a laptop and an iPhone, and our Kindles house
our library and travel books.

We have Medicare and supplemental plans, and when we return to the
U.S., we see our doctors for annual checkups. We also have
international health insurance covering medical emergencies and
evacuations. The plan has a big deductible to help reduce our
overhead, since our experiences with health-care providers abroad have
been very positive. For instance, Tim awoke one morning in Mexico with
raging flu symptoms. A doctor was at his bedside within the hour,
administered an injection and gave us a prescription. He charged about
$50, and Tim recovered quickly.

Of course, we miss our family and friends terribly, but they have
forgiven us for leaving and welcome us enthusiastically when we rent a
house near them for a visit. Even our financial adviser has grudgingly
admitted that our plan is working well.

For us, giving up 2,500 square feet of gracious California living for
a 500-square-foot apartment in Paris or Istanbul is more than a fair
trade-off. In place of our heavy-duty gas stove, big-name pots and
pans and enormous refrigerator, we now find ourselves using
Barbie-size sinks, bar fridges and some pretty sketchy cookware. We
share bathrooms with one sink and watch movies on a 13-inch computer
screen.

At the same time, we enjoy lunches where the paté comes from heaven,
drives through the luscious French countryside where even the cows are
beautiful, and strolls along the Arno River in Italy for our
after-dinner exercise.

We don’t plan to quit until the wheels fall off.

Vintage suitcases art print

http://www.etsy.com/listing/72264646/vintage-suitcases-8×8-inch-photograph

* * *

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

We all have many stories.

This is a new blog that I started to capture stories. My own, those I find online in the digital tundra and from people I meet in my daily travels.

I’m not sure anyone will be interested in reading these stories. The ritual of getting quiet, getting a story down on digital paper and finding complementary images is almost like a meditative process.  If done everyday, the blog eventually becomes a tapestry of stories and pictures.

One thing I noticed many years ago is that we all don’t have the same moods and feelings each day and thank goodness for that.  On days or nights when I feel sad, there is somebody who is having a really great day and is feeling joy.  So there’s a sort of balance inherent in this process of posting and reading the blog posts of other people.  We give each other support, congratulations and share our experiences – our stories.

Autumn Beauty In Fall Foliage

* * *

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com! This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

Happy blogging!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized