I found myself in a familiar place this afternoon, sitting among the brilliant gold leaves, still mostly clinging to the aspens, watching the river. From my perch high above, I pondered recent events in my life. Leaves littered the ground like pirate’s treasure. It is a place I have returned to often when the world is uncertain or I need an island of calm. It is a place that reminds me of the beauty of the world around me. I’ve seen this valley on horseback. I’ve visited in the green of summer and cooked hotdogs with boys I thought came only for the food; when their noise still could not overwhelm its peaceful beauty. I’ve visited it coated in the white of winter when we turned off the roaring machines that brought us, and let the snow swallow the sound in gulps, leaving the silence echoing across the valley.
My boys called it ‘The Quiet Place.’ I dubbed it “The Pines” after the trees that grew from it’s sandy soil. I’ve come here and laughed with loved ones and I returned when their loss seemed unbearable. I’ve come here to listen to the echoes of voices long gone but still part of the earth around me. This spot has seen and heard everything my heart had to offer, and taken it into itself with infinite acceptance.
I came today, to this gold drenched place overlooking a wide and powerful river that cut its way through the banks, to reminisce. I sit here watching the wind rustle the leaves clutching tenaciously to branches. I am grateful for their determination. This golden time is too short. It’s a balance and a breath in time. The summer has drifted off but her perfume still lingers and winter’s harsh beauty is expected, but not here yet. It occurred to me how this spot and this time is representative of my life. I retired months ago, and my husband will follow in a month, at which time we will both move from one idyllic place in Northern Alberta to another in Southern British Columbia. As much as I love this season, my home, and this special place in the pines overlooking the Peace River, it is all temporary. It is still familiar and comforting, but the place, like my life is stalling at the top of a breath, ready to begin the next phase. We are both in pause. And I in this moment am full of expectation, gratitude, excitement, nervousness, and grief.
This will likely be the last fall I take the time to enjoy here. The last time I will have opportunity to just be and watch the time pass and the leaves fall. The last season I will watch the light play games with the horizon leaving everything bathed in golden warmth. When I return here to visit, if my experience is to be believed, I will be in a rush of people, stuffing our lives into a small envelope of time. But for right now, I get to say goodbye a season in a place, that while it is remote, and ordinary, it is miraculous and beautiful in a way only a dear old friend can be.
This retirement thing is a challenge. I feel like I am in a waiting room for an audition for a play. That play that is the rest of my life. It doesn’t quite seem real. I fill my time with teaching English, learning Spanish, and cleaning closets and windows. I fill time and enjoy my solitude, as I must, in this weird time when socializing is something to be avoided. Byron is a month away from joining me, so my days are spent rattling around in a nearly empty house that looks like a college kid’s dorm. Cast off furniture populate spaces without the clutter one would expect of a home that I spent a quarter century in. A home that raised two boisterous and busy boys. It is our home and yet it is not. The chaos and love that filled it no longer echoes in every room. I’ve drawn that energy back into me in preparation for leaving. It is a building now, contemporary grey walls instead of the riot of color I loved so much. Most of our belongings are already gone. The walls are bare. It is not sad, so much as quiet and still, like a photograph of a memory.
I’m leaning into this new time in my life. Filling it with things I’ve not taken time to do. There will be travel, sunshine, whimsy and mostly time in my future. Time for family, time for writing, time for the things I love to do but rarely had time for. And while this seems like a space between episodes it doesn’t feel as empty as I feared it would. Because right now, I’m sitting in gratitude for the slice of heaven this place represents and the people who have shared it with me. Like the leaves around me it and this gold saturated afternoon. I am simply being here with the leaves, and the breeze and the smell of summer fading into fall.