Moving

Shifting On – Knox County VillageSoup

On September 13th, I’ll be leaving my Rockport home and moving to a new home, an apartment in San Luis Obispo, California, a beautiful and charming seaside town of 50,000 people equidistant from San Francisco and Los Angeles. I will be living next to my youngest daughter, Cynthia, a security engineer at Amazon, and her wife, Ally.
I don’t feel like leaving Maine, or especially Rockport. I love the place. It has been my home for 45 years. I think it’s unique among America’s small towns. Not only is it beautiful and healthy in dozens of different ways, it is populated by an extraordinary group of people – intelligent, savvy, good-natured, liberal in the best sense of the word. I don’t think any other American city of this size can compare.
However, I’m 84 and at a dead end. It’s not that I don’t enjoy feasting on Netflix and writing something that doesn’t have a special meaning. It’s not that I don’t like to endlessly exchange opinions with friends and acquaintances on every imaginable topic. All of these pastimes suit me like a good suit. But I need another adventure.
I’ve traveled quite a lot since my wife died a few years ago. I’ve been to Washington, DC I’ve been to California several times. I was in Florida. I even visited Australia. And I enjoyed every minute of it, even though traveling is not a picnic. But my travels have only temporarily thrown me off track. I drive home, sit in my office, start my computer, turn on the television and the days go by.
My daughter invited me to San Luis Obispo to become an integral part of her life and social circle. We’ve always got along well, with just enough conflict to keep us going and laughing. I am impressed with what she has made of her life and I am curious to see how it all turns out. Your invitation comes at a time when I am more than ready to jump out of my rut and dive into a great new adventure.
And this adventure will change my life in almost every way. I’m going to move from a 2,500 square foot house to an apartment less than 1,000 square feet. I’ll be right in the middle of it all, with neighbors on all sides. I will go from four seasons to a single season where the temperature fluctuates between 70 and 75 degrees. No more plowing. No more winter tires. No more propane. Everything within walking distance. I will go from maybe a dozen restaurants, some of which are excellent, to 75 different restaurants of every ethnic variety, whose meals can be delivered to my door in minutes with DoorDash.
To do this, of course, I had to sell my house and that means empty it. I couldn’t and didn’t want to take everything with me, all the decades-long collections, memorabilia, documents, gimmicks, bells and whistles, gee-gaws, curiosities, souvenirs, letters, manuscripts, books, unpublished papers, research material – a huge collection, I assure you. I’m not a hoarder, but I made good use of my attic.
So for the past few weeks I’ve been going through this mountain of materials, the warp and woof of my 84 years on planet Earth, from day one to this morning, and broken it down into “save” (and take away). donate ”and“ throw away ”. This is a process that involves thousands of decisions, each of which takes two or three seconds.
You may not be surprised to learn that this was a deeply emotional process. But that surprised me. I thought it was nothing more than an efficient exercise of logic and practicality. I underestimated the raw power of memory and its ability to move myself into the past, sometimes into the distant past, which often triggered unexpected thoughts and feelings. Some happy, some less.
I remember one thing in particular: I was a very busy boy all these years. Twenty-two published books and half a dozen that never saw the light of day. Dozens of documentaries for PBS and other broadcasters, a number of TV commercials, and an accumulated research library of about 10,000 volumes (all of which go to the Rockland Public Library.) Three marriages and two children and all related papers. At least a dozen jobs, all in a single occupation. Forests have been felled to meet my writing needs, and they have filled my attic and closets.
It is said that when you are about to die, you watch your life go by before you. Well, you get the same effect by clearing a house filled with 45 years or more of ever-growing possessions. It’s hard not to judge yourself in the process, to measure the shape, size, and even the worth of your life. Have you lived up to your own youthful daydreams? Fortunately, the answer is complicated. But more yes than no.
According to the guys at the dump processing load after load of my accumulations, I dumped about 2,000 pounds of stuff to use George Carlin’s word for it. Things that I no longer need, have not consulted for decades and that I will not miss. And I’ve packed a lot less things that I can’t part with yet. This job will go to my children.
And so I set off on September 13th to a well-known place and to unknown adventures and discoveries. I am excited and scared at the same time. And I am grateful to my friends and acquaintances here, who have filled my life with ideas and antics. I will be physically distant in the future but easily accessible.

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