We (speaking of my wife and I) do not need unmitigated comforts. To paraphrase, life is as life does. You take the bad with the good. That’s how this life-thing works. But we also do not want to spend our latter years basked in the stresses of constant contact with a world spinning out of control.
Comes a point when you just have to let it go. Retirement, perhaps, is one of those points.
Trite as it might sound, life, indeed, is short. Too short. Carving out a small niche of sanity in a world constantly tapping our shoulders for our attention, those voices are singing our song, ringing from the recesses of our nearing years of retirement. We want only to slip away into the obscurities of simplicity, left alone to enjoy the peace of the remaining few years God grants us.
Chris and I often talk, our fingers wrapped around our steaming cups of coffee, about where we will spend our retirement, that chapter of our lives creeping ever closer. I playfully (with a sobering twinge of realism) remind her that our 9-year age difference probably means she’ll be spending our retirement without me. But we can dream … can’t I?
We love the mountains. We have always preferred the relative seclusion of the mountains over the salty humidity of the crowded ocean coast. That’s just our preference and is in no way a commentary against retirement decisions that attract folks to warm, coastal areas of the nation or to maintenance-free retirement communities.
But, to retire to a simple three-room log cabin in the North Carolina or Georgia mountains or foothills, despite the obvious risks that accompany seclusion in one’s later stages of life, would be our capstone to lives lived simply. We brought nothing into this world, but we can exit with the simplicity of thankfulness in our voices and a song of praise in our hearts.
This mountain niche and cabin of which I speak? Nothing fancy, nothing opulent, nothing pretentious. Just a quaint, modest, unassuming patch of mountain ground, the cabin’s space warmed with plenty of firewood and kindling, its crackling oakwood fires roaring through the dead of winter, our bowls supplied by a bottomless kettle of hot homemade turkey/beef/chicken vegetable soup bubbling at our beck and call. If we have only that and each other, nothing more, we have everything. Well, maybe that and cornbread, too.
I want to dip my mug into the gurgle of a clear, snowmelt-fed mountain stream nearby and wonder about the countless lives that stream had sustained over thousands of years.
I want to eavesdrop on conversations between bobwhites and whippoorwills, surrounded on our own simple perch by mountain laurel, honeysuckle, and wildflowers.
I want bluebirds and cardinals and mockingbirds to grace the trees and to overflow our ears with their music. I want the roll of distant thunder, as well as the gurgle of that nearby stream, to fill my spirit with a spectrum of reassurance. I want the swirling buzz of honeybees and hummingbirds to complete the symphony.
I want to fall asleep to the haunting serenity of owls and the staccato of crickets.
I want to see hawks, falcons, and eagles (not the sports teams) sweep the blue air.
I want to gaze into the infinity of space, its black fabric pricked with timeless, hazeless starlight, its billions of galaxies spinning ever-on, silently, God’s endless blockbuster of creation in full, unpolluted view.
I want to sit with Chris on the front porch in the evening, talking about things that have gone before and things that might have been, the fire-orange beams of a setting sun spilling between the branches.
I want all these tastes, all these sounds, all these sights, and all these smells riding on the breezes and into our senses. I want us to take it all in, before we are taken.
I want access, of course, to some of the conveniences and comforts of civilization, but without encouraging its access to us.
I want to die to the sounds of “Simple Gifts” or “Morning Has Broken” or “Take Me Home Country Roads.”
This idyll would be our — my and Chris’s — precursor to heaven ... if not heaven itself.