Retirement IS all it’s cracked up to be. I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough to do once I left the working world. Our parents had instilled in us a strong work ethic and we passed that same ethic on to our children. I forgot how to play and explore new things. For years I had said, “When I retire, I am going to ________ (fill in the blank).” There was never time for much of anything outside of work.
All that has changed. In the past four months I have had a chance to reinvent my life. I have taken up photography, yoga and hiking, and tried my hand at watercolors. I have taken up knitting again and have almost finished my first project. I am reading books I never would have touched when I was so busy. I started this blog. Obviously I have solved the problem of not having enough to do once I quit working.
When our son, Casey, took up photography a few years ago, I was inspired by his passion and dedication to learning his new craft. He has a great eye for landscape, but also for sports photography and pictures of people – not portraits, but people engaged in living. He bought cameras, lenses and printers, Photoshop for editing, and other equipment necessary for a photo business. All I had was my smartphone camera.
When we got to Desert Trails (our winter RV park-home in Tucson), a few weeks after I retired in November, our friend, Gail Hanley (also from Steamboat and our neighbor here in the park) invited me to a meeting of the photo club. This club has been in place for several years and the people are quite accomplished. There are professionals and amateurs in the club, and most have fancy cameras and lenses. All I had was my smartphone camera. I went to the meeting and was instantly hooked. I had no idea about photography but felt I could learn as others shared what they knew. I DID learn.
Each year the club chooses six topics to take pictures of. This year it was My Hometown, Landscapes, Signs and Graffiti, Windows and Doors, Reflections and Something Old. We went on three field trips which gave me (and Cooper who went along on the trips but didn’t join the club) an opportunity to see places I might not have gone (ghost town of Ruby, Barrio Viejo – means old neighborhood, and Pima Air and Space Museum). Each week we would share photos taken to fit the various topics and have them critiqued by the others. This proved to be very valuable, because I learned about composition, taking unique photos that others won’t usually take, and tweaking with a photo editing program.
At the end of the winter season, the club displays the best photos in each category, chosen by a team of judges. The team also allows two photos per category for each person in the club. Each photo is assigned a size (8×10, 5×7 or 4×6) for display. An open house is held to show the rest of the people in the park the body of work and those attending get to vote on their favorites. The winners in each category are chosen by popular vote. The People’s Choice overall award is also determined by popular vote. I am proud to say, I got a first place for my photo of Steamboat (in My Hometown) and a third for my “Catch a glimpse” photo (in Windows and Doors).
(See the picture of the bear on the top row? That was taken in our side yard out of our picture window in Steamboat, too. And the iconic Steamboat picture has only green stoplights. I am a real stickler for positive messages.)
Here are some but not all of the other pictures I submitted.
As a going-away/retirement present, my friend, Susan DeWardt, gave me a paintbox/easel filled with watercolor supplies. For years I have said, “I wish I knew how to paint watercolors”. In the fall, when the leaves are off all the bushes that line Highway 14 going to Walden, I comment on the beautiful red branches, golden leaves and blue water. Every single time I take that drive, I say I want to paint it. Now I can.
This past weekend, Cooper and I drove to Palm Desert to surprise my sister, Paige, who was going to visit her friend Laura Rogers. Laura contacted us and arranged the surprise. Laura is a watercolorist and vowed to show me some basics, if I would bring my watercolor stuff. I did. She did. Here is my first attempt at watercolors. I think by learning photography, it will help me with composition in watercolors. Who knew I would love both so much? I am seeing the world through a whole new set of eyes.
Thankfully, I have no pictures of me doing “downward dog” or any other yoga pose, but, suffice it to say, I wish I had taken up yoga sooner. Brady told me my “piriformis” needed stretching and showed me a couple of exercises to do for it. The yoga instructor reminded me of the same ones. We do them in class. I have had a pain in my back right hip for years (since all my leg surgeries a few years ago) and by regularly doing yoga, the pain has noticeably lessened. I can even forget about it until I slack off. Needless to say, I am not slacking off, if I can help it.
We started a bookclub at Desert Trails. We have been reading books based in Arizona or with people/authors from Tucson. Our first book was about the Papago Indians (now known as the Tohono O’odham ) titled “Yes is Better than No”. Our second book was “My Beloved World” written by Sonia Sotemeyer (supreme court justice), who is not from Arizona but led me to the book “Lazy B” written by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who IS from Arizona. I never would have read any of these books if I had not been a part of this club.
Retirement has given me a new-found sense of freedom to explore those things I have wanted to try (or in the case of photography, didn’t even know I wanted to try). What it has given me, even more than that, is the TIME to do these things. I can change my mind on a whim. My Day-Timer isn’t ruling my life. Sometimes I think that Benjamin Button got it right. Youth is wasted on the young. What if we could live our lives backwards and get younger year by year. At least, in retirement, we have a chance to explore like a child, if we just do it.