T. A. Powell
Ironic as this may seem, for the first time in over 37 years I have stopped looking at real estate.
Why is this odd?
Because, for 37 years I have somehow always thought I needed to be somewhere else. Now, this is not the kind of blog I suppose you expected to hear from me. I suppose more pages about crime and clandestine serial killings and intrigue are more of the ilk you desired, but today you’re going to get just me. The tired, unvarnished me that has been somewhat sick of late and spiritually stalled in their process.
Now, while food poisoning is not a fatal disease—it did pull the rug out from under me long enough for me to slow down and realize a multitude of things. I too, am beginning to slow down. Not in the sort of way you might imagine; the fire is still there, the energy, effort, and the get up and go. It’s something else—something inside that has changed the colors of my perception.
First let me say…
I have been blessed with so many things; family, opportunities, talents, friends and scenarios…and, as always…spirit.
I turned 61 this month and while I remember it happening to the others around me, it never really occurred to me that it would happen to me. Save a savvy wrinkle or two, which merely goes to highlight the twinkle in my eyes and the cleft in my chin…I’m still a rather handsome and spirited young matron…though my yellows have now begun to turn to burnished golds and burnt sienna…and that’s ok. It’s just that, before that Wednesday…I was something else. After that…I was 61.
A workhorse all my life, I have been both ambushed and nurtured by this rather abruptly sponsored sabbatical of under-cooked shrimp and have realized that for the last two decades I have been working, and/or working and going to school non-stop, on top of all the research and writing…the publishing and while, it has been beneficial and worthy of merit…this relentless need to compete with myself has begun to wear itself out. I have achieved all desired, save but one or two things for financial reasons and yet …either I am more compromised by my most recent illness or their value has suddenly waned.
Yesterday was the first day in four that I have felt even close to normal. So, last night, while walking the dog for his nightly constitution before my husband pulled down the drive, the setting sun shown so sweetly upon the cottage that I had to smile. The shingled walls shimmered with the last rays bouncing off the rippled lake below, the roof capped with a new and utterly complimentary pallet and similar juxtaposed dimension played against the new deck finery…painted in all its terra cotta clay pot splendor, sparked with cayenne peppered umbrellas in contrast to a canopy of variegated greenery and fauna, as our house literally sits on a hill—hidden amongst the trees. All of this, pasted against a crisp blue sky, dotted with pink-tinged cotton candied clouds that lolled their way across that landscape as incoherently as the dog.
And in that moment of appreciated health, a steadied leash and a grateful heart—my cottage on the lake looked like one of the hundreds of dotted domiciles quaintly posed upon yellowed postcards I have coveted for years from the coastlines of Italy…and suddenly, I realized that my cottage of New England flair had now become my private Positano, perched above a sandy beach embroidered with shadowed perfection and bent European light.
I say all this because today, a favorite movie of mine helped me pass the time of day before doctor appointments and loads of laundry and I paused. Two weeks ago, at the end of a production run and an exhaustive yearly schedule… I looked at my phone over breakfast and saw one of the hundreds of International Living posts and there it was again…Positano, Italy, with its sculpted cliffs and spiraling roads, all smashed against a gorgeous sea. The rain outside suddenly made my Georgia as dull and unexciting as my laundry bin…every day black and gray sports socks, dull colored underwear, faded towels and clothes that either fit too well or not at all to hide my age.
I was fucking 61…and although even by most, I have accomplished a great deal…it felt as though I had accomplished nothing. Bounding off a comment made a few nights before at a Birthday celebration about living cheaper overseas, I stared at the glob of biscuit on my husband’s platter and alarming announced that I wanted to retire early and travel—before we got too old…before he got too old. When he said we could not afford to do that yet, I said “Fine…then let’s just sell everything and move to Italy.” I figured, if I couldn’t afford to live here and visit there, I would reverse the equation.
Appreciative he didn’t slam dunk his objections right away, he finished his breakfast and then playfully entertained my comments. What about your job? What about the kids? What about all your furniture you love so much? The dogs?
I’d work the job three more years.
The kids could visit.
The furniture…hmmmm...that was a tough one. Hands down-- I had to keep my writing desk. Everything else was negotiable, if we could not afford a container.
The dogs? Of course, they would come and be happy Italian dogs!
I’m not certain if he really believed I would do it, but I was having my Frances May author (Under the Tuscan Sun) moment and refused to be denied.
“But you’re not even Italian. You don’t speak Italian.”
True that. But if Frances May could do it…
He said we could try to make a five-year plan; after all we had just taken out loans to re-roof the house in November and then again in March and April to replace the HVAC and bury his mother. Two years earlier, we have buried his aunt…he had been power of attorney (POA) for both and the toll on him and our finances had been great.
I countered with a three-year plan. In three years, I would be 64. In three years, Don would be 71. If we didn’t do it soon, there would be no need. Suddenly he looked very tired and it was only Sunday.
How the hell would he last three more years if by Sunday he was already fatigued?
In an instant, all the cliffs and brightly colored houses on those curly Italian cliffs turned into enormous building blocks, heaped atop winding endless cobbled blobs of asphalt and stone I knew my husband would be too tired to climb and too numb to enjoy.
Everyone I knew traveled…took vacations. Each year I proudly manned the plows and took stay-cations on our farm, here at the lake and though I am not complaining…just once it would have been nice to see the world from another view without anybody’s agenda but our own.
While he paid the check…I stared at my phone until the screen faded and went to black.
Maybe our moment has passed. Maybe my obsession with living and “Under The Sun” Tuscany life or reveling on the coastal shores of Positano, while I shopped in open air markets and ate al dente every night was only meant to be on a postcard…meant for other people younger, sexier and far more fascinating that I. Maybe plucking olives, ripe from the trees of Cortona and grilling fresh bass from the sea was only meant for those braver than I; those who bucked convection and selfishly left others behind to find their folly.
Why did 61 have to be so responsibly dull!??
Chained by obligation, domestic debt and a career that I both love and yet know deep down that I could walk away from if opportunity presented another far greater adventure…I now wait to see what life will decide for me.
Or, maybe I just need to decide for myself and make plans for the life I wish to lead. I had done that to get here…taken a leap of faith… I can do it somewhere else too. A basket of laundry mocked me in the hallway and it’s not that I believed they didn’t do laundry in Italy, but it would be Italian laundry! As I mated another pair of socks and sucked on a bargain Popsicle to calm my stomach, I yelled that I would not let age deny me of the right to live my life and enjoy the adventures meant for me!
A tear touched my cheek, as I carried the basket up the stairs, where the carpet too, was as worn as I.
“I will not be hemmed in by consequence and comportment.” I swore, as I stuffed sock drawers and linen closets.
And then the phone chirped. It was a child texting requests for picnic plans and a day at the lake. Forty minutes later, another grown kid with a request for me to gather an old piece of furniture from the storage shed out in the back at the top of the hill. Once again, I was reminded that my life is not really my own. Bits and pieces of it belong to other people, places and things… some of it even to the past, like the chair.
Laundry done, I grabbed the keys to the storage shed and climbed the cliffs of my own backyard—gathered a chair and sighed.
As, I locked the doors, I turned to look down from a winding stair of concrete upon a sandy beach of my own…heard the rush of the holidays laden waves, marveled at the way the sun changed the colors of the newly minted summer apparel casually laden upon the freshly painted table and chairs…smiled at the shadows of the clouds, as they lazily drifted across the canvassed petals of the striped umbrellas and thought…
Maybe, in the most subliminal of ways, God has already answered my prayers.
Maybe, God in his wisdom has incrementally allowed me to create my own Positano here and my brief detour of health was so that I would slow down long enough to see it.
Even now, as I write here at my desk, there is a leak in the upper shower that drips just as sweetly as a faucet owned by Frances May. There are huge sunflowers bursting beside me, hidden behind an antique azure blue bird cage that reminds me of the Mediterranean Sea and that I am not hemmed in by anything other than my own thoughts.
Positano…one day…maybe today…maybe for real tomorrow.
Satisfied for the moment, I grabbed a fancy beach towel, an insulated water bottle and a fancy new swimsuit--appropriate for my age-- and me and my Sketcher sandals took a stroll slowly down an old familiar winding rocky path to a waiting beach below, I did not have to travel half way round the world to enjoy.
It may not be Italy, I thought…but if I squinted my eyes, eased with the rolling waves and tilted my head just so…the umbrellas looked just as colorful, the cottage just as charming, the skies just as blue and the toilet just as far away as if I was in Italy!
Today’s blog brought to you by…
The necessary rant of a caged bird, who has suddenly found that her faded and worn cage is actually her beloved home.