Green Frog Cafe

"Living in nature, listening to the rain, Green Frog Cafe, that's where I want to be. The hemlocks are green, the creek is tricklin, there's geese on the pond, the forest sighs. Green Frog Cafe that's where I want to be, home of my soul, spirit of the mountains." Ruminations of Rhona McMahan

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Retirement Anxiety

I am often surprised when I talk with friends and family around the country and abroad to find that some people actually read this blog. For the past year various people have said to me when I see them after an absence that “I wondered what happened to you, I checked your blog but you have not posted for a long time.” This always makes me feel sorry and a little bit disgusted with myself, because the truth is that I compose paragraphs for the blog all the time. The problem is that I usually move on to other things before I actually sit down to write. This is probably an example of the tendency toward attention deficit which older people sometimes exhibit. This morning, having struggled for hours to penetrate the simple instructions of Google on how to reclaim my blogs, I am finally in the position to write a new entry. Actually I already did: the one about agreeing with Chelsea to get married. Now I want to make a more general post.

Just about everyone these days is taking stock of their lives and wondering what the future will hold as we enter a worldwide recession. I am among those people who have been especially upset to have financial meltdown occurring just as they approach retirement. The past year has been one in which my mind turns constantly to thoughts of how I will survive after August 31, 2011, which is the final day of my employment at Hofstra University, roughly two months before my 70th birthday. Writing today 4 weeks after my 67th birthday I have various alternative plans, but no certainty as to which way to go.

One of the changes in attitude which have come to me in my 60’s is that my vision of my future life course has become so foreshortened. He sense of the contingency of life has come to the fore or thought. Long range planning may be needed, but then again it may be irrelevant since there will actually be no long term. The current economic miseries afflicting the economy will go away someday. Property values will rebound, employment will increase, commerce will once again be buoyant, but no one knows when. In the great depression of the 1930’s things did not come back until around 1941, coincidentally the year of my birth. There was a decade of hardscrabble and human hardship in spite of Roosevelt’s “New Deal”. Is this what we face today? If we do, what will it mean personally as we try to cope?

Here are some of the things I am considering as I try to plan my future over the next years. Becoming a journalist, a novelist, a writer of children’s stories, a junk dealer/recycler, landlord, operator of a bed and breakfast, maker of ornamental detail for Victorian houses, proprietor of a bookmobile to go with our existing on-line/flea market bookstore, opening a bricks and mortar bookstore, a part time college professor, purveyor of second hand bicycles, writer of economic/market studies, writer of history/biography, organizer/leader of educational tours, creator/operator of a micro-homestead, renovator of things (furniture, buldings), beekeeper, and so on and on. Some of these things I do now, but probably not at a professional level in some cases.

As I wrote the list above an idea occurred to me that a journal on the possibility of creating a micro-homestead would be a project with magazine article potential as well as an eventual book. I am already committed to growing more food on the .81 acres we have in Pine Hill. This would inevitably lead to doing some canning. I do not know what the potential for raising food our place has. We are envisioning something on the order of a Victory Garden approach. Chelsea wants to acquire a burro to live in our backyard ( a steep slope upwards from directly behind the house for about 150 feet). What would we do with a burro to make money, we ask ourselves. I am more oriented toward raising a few goats or sheep. We already have rabbits, for companionship, not meat.

Thinking about it, I realize that I have never commented n the blog abut the place in Pine Hill, New York, which we “bought” last March with the help??? of the Ulster Savings Bank. Pine Hill is a dull and peaceful hamlet located along the Route 28 corridor about 35 miles west of the Hudson River, Kingston and the NYS Thruway, and 20 miles west of Woodstock. The culture in this area traces back to the Revolutionary War, Dutch Colonial period, and earlier native periods. It has been the home of the “Hudson River School” of art in America. It has been affected by serving as a vacation spot for people from New York and New Jersey for 150 years. Today there is a strong cohort of 1960’s counter culture people (The Woodstock Generation) mixed in with the local people accustomed to living in an economy dominated by tourism. Local agriculture has died off in the past 50 years, but the local food movement, the CSA Movement, and general concern for food quality has suggested the possibility of a rebirth of farming in the area. The farmers market and farm stand economy is great during the summer.

Our house is an 1890 Victorian “cottage” with 5 bedrooms, two baths, and three porches. It lies along the “new” Route 28, which cut through the front yard in the 1960s. When we tell local people about where we live they say “Oh, that’s a nice house.”

The house has a very good feeling, and we hope to avoid destroying this in the way we affect it during our stewardship.

Chelsea runs our bookstore out of this house, and also does Tarot readings.

Adjusting to living part time in Pine Hill, about 3 hours from Brooklyn and Long Island, has dominated our lives in the past 8 months (actually for the past three years). Commuting weekly between Brooklyn and Pine Hill is a strain. I am usually in Brooklyn (while teaching at Hofstra on Long Island) on Sunday through Wednesday nights, and then in Pine Hill on Thursday-Saturday nights. This life-style is actually easier than the one I lived in 1974-79 between Manhattan/Brooklyn and Paddy Mountain (Central Pennsylvania). The flow of traffic and transportation is so much easier between the Catskills and New York City than it is between Union County PA and New York City. The Trailways Bus from New York City stops right in front of our house. The Right-Wing Christian influence is much less in the Catskills than in Central Pennsylvania. But no Amish. The Hasidic Jews take over Fleischmans, the next town west of Pine Hill, during the summer, so that it almost looks like the set from Fiddler on the Roof. Our family room/dining room looks out on the ski trails at the top of Belleayre Mountain.

I am trying to figure out if a retirement life is possible for me in Pine Hill. Employment seems to be much easier to arrange in NYC than in the semi-prosperous Catskills. My mind is in a fever about this which ebbs and flows.

I always remember the saying from Arabia which goes something like “we say that a person who tries to see into the future is either insane or irreligious…God will determine the future.” Or impersonal chance in the course of nature, say I.

Engagement and Rights of Citizenship

Gay Marriage is a human rite
Gay Marriage is a human right
Gay Marriage is an American right
Love and Family Values
Loving Partners Rights
Resonance With the Cosmic Ecosystem

This is a little poem, or is it a T-shirt epigram, which occurred to me this evening as Chelsea and I hashed out Thanksgiving, Christmas, and our respective approaches to our respective families. Along the way I agreed to get married with Chelsea. We have been together 17 years in February, and we feel that our relationship deserves the same social and civil respect and status as all other marriages. We have been talking all day about how my children do not take our relationship as seriously as marriages which are currently sanctioned by the state.

The passage of Proposition 8 in California has raised the energy of the queer community and allies right across the country. NYC City Council President Christine Quinn wrote in a message to the GLBT community that the demonstration last Sunday in front of City Hall amazed her. She said the crowd (estimated by the police at 20,000, which means it was closer to 50,000) stretched in all directions from City Hall as far as she could see. The vote on proposition 8 (which outlawed “gay” marriage in California) has been a wake-up call to people that full-fledged American citizens are being deprived of their civil rights by a vote taken in the largest and most progressive state in the union. We are not going to stand for it anymore.

I was not able to attend the rally. One of the organizers was Rev. Pat Bumgardner of the Metropolitan Community Church of New York, of which I am a fallen away member. My old friend Sylvia Rivera is the patron saint of the MCC-NY. Her ashes are placed on the altar each Sunday, and her memory burns brightly in the congregation’s commitment to social justice. I am sure Sylvia would have been there in the flesh as she was in spirit.

I am not anxious to remarry, after two failed attempts over a span of 25 years. Nevertheless, it is the right thing to do. I have written elsewhere that Chelsea and I are living one of the great love stories of the ages. Certainly it begs to be commemorated in a marriage sanctioned by the state and recognized by all of the myriad religious and spiritual believers of all the myriad beliefs out there in the universe.