An Epiphany

Last September 29, we returned home from two magical weeks in Greer, Arizona. We had spent the latter part of May camping there in our 21′ travel trailer, and looked forward to returning in the fall to enjoy some fly-fishing.

Two years before, when we bought our second travel trailer, we took it out twice before winter hit. Months went by and the Winnebago Micro Minnie sat in storage. Then in February of 2020, just as the world began to close down, ours opened up. The trailer became our magic carpet to welcoming places during a scary time.

We fished the reservoirs at Dead Horse Ranch in Cottonwood, returning in March to do it again. April was spent in Payson, exploring Christopher Creek, Lower Christopher Creek, and Upper Christopher Creek, all peaceful and inviting. And for the first time, I caught a trout unassisted. Yes, I picked the area along the creek, selected and tied on the fly, spotted the trout, cast, and caught the fish! To me this was a big deal.

In May, we took the trailer up to Show Low, and stayed on a horse farm. Son Dave and family came up from Pinetop one day, and the adults got to ride a tractor for the first time! Gene and I fished Show Low Lake and Show Low Creek, both beautiful spots.

Later in May, we took the trailer to Page Springs and rendezvoused with our youngest, Katie, and her family. We played Zingo with the three little ones at our picnic table, fished Oak Creek, saw a blue heron and a vermilion flycatcher, walked the Black Hawk Trail at Bubbling Ponds Preserve and Hatchery, and went wine-tasting at D.A. Ranch Winery in Cornville.

In June, we were back in Greer. Dave and his family came over from Pinetop to hike along the Little Colorado and have dinner at Molly Butler’s. While there, a whole herd of deer came strolling down the hill to the children’s playground next to Molly’s!

Later in June, daughter Katie and family brought their pop-up trailer to Greer, to the space right next to ours. There’s nothing like having your grandchildren at your trailer door first thing in the morning. It makes your heart sing!

So, 2020 flew by, and though we couldn’t be with all the family in person, we were with some of them, and we were fishing, hiking, birding, and just being, safe as possible from COVID-19. And I’m deeply grateful.

This past year, we left the trailer in storage, except for three trips: Page Springs in April, Greer in May, and this last one to Greer again, in September. For that one, we had reserved our favorite spot at a small RV park above the highway. We got settled, and took a deep breath, awestruck by the pine-dotted meadow, golden with wildflowers. I set out the hummingbird feeder and the wild bird seed, and within minutes, the birds came to feast: Rufous Hummers, juncos, sparrows, finches, towhees, woodpeckers, Steller’s Jays, red-winged blackbirds, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and more. A Cooper’s Hawk sat on the fence rail, watching and waiting. And later, an owl swooped across our trailer rooftop! And the chipmunks! Smart and amusing, they scampered across the fence railing, jumping on the feeder tray, then down to the ground to eat the seed spilling from the swaying dinner plate. 

We fished Big Lake with the inimitable guide Cinda Howard in her beautiful wooden boat, and learned a great deal about casting in the wind. And we fished Luna Lake, and caught a bunch of Cutthroat Trout.

It was a beautiful trip.

But getting to this point was not easy; trailering is a lot of work. And the older you get, the harder the work becomes. Backing into your spot at the end of a long drive, for example, can be a major frustration, even though we have a pretty good system, because every guy within running distance wants to “help” and share his technique. Then it’s time to make sure your baby is straight, so you don’t have trouble walking around inside or sleeping. And then there are the hook-ups, which provide extra electricity, unlimited water, and sewer service.

While Gene is getting us situated, I usually unpack the car, put things away, make the bed, and get dinner ready. And after a glass of wine, life is good again. We were glad to be there. Fall in Greer is spectacular!

But when it was time to leave, it was hook-up time. And when your man has to use a long metal lever to lift the stabilizer bars up and into position, and then jump up and down on them to get them to lock in, and then, after washing up, climb into the driver’s seat and drive you home through some pretty difficult passages, well…. let’s just say we had an epiphany coming home: we’ve finished this chapter in our lives.

We will continue to travel, but not pulling a trailer, at least not often. And since I’ve always wanted an Airstream, Gene came up with the brilliant idea of buying one and leaving it up in Greer. And we can continue to fish, hike and bird, but it will be a lot easier in a 30-footer with a bed that stays made, closet space, and room to cook. And we can just drive up and back, and not fuss with anything. It’ll be like having a cabin without all the details.

It’s been a lovely adventure, exploring Arizona in a trailer. But we’re 73 now, and it’s time to get real. And that means tweaking the way we travel. We don’t have to give up being embedded in nature; we just need to get there differently. Key takeaway: “Be flexible; it keeps you in the game.”

And to my young friends who are looking forward to retirement and doing something similar, I hope you’re asking yourselves, “What am I waiting for?”

Epilogue: It took three months to find our “dream cabin on wheels,” but last week we drove to Las Vegas and bought a 2016 30’ Airstream Flying Cloud. The dealership is delivering it on January 17th. We’ll store it in Mesa, Arizona, until May, then take it to Greer. Yes, we’re thrilled!

My Ikigai


What is an ikigai? Roughly translated from Japanese, it’s a “reason for being.” Some people explain it with a diagram of four intersecting circles: your values,  things you like to do,  things you’re good at, and what the world needs. The convergence of those things is your ikigai.

For me, it’s writing. Writing is the thing that can get me out of bed in the middle of the night because I simply must do it. Anne Lamott says the key to writing is keeping your “butt in the chair.” That’s not a problem for me. My problem is getting my butt out of the chair!

And when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I may think about is rewriting what I’ve written. It’s a self-imposed challenge to get a piece perfect. Of course it’s an impossible task, so I’ve learned to “cut bait” and move on. But I do love the process.

Another thing Anne Lamott says about writing is, “Every single thing that happened to you is yours, and you get to tell it. If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” I love that. And I can think of plenty of stories about people in my life who “should have behaved better.” But those are for another time.

Today is not a good day for a sad story. Today, in honor of France and all they’re going through with COVID-19, I’m going to write about a French stranger who was kind to me last May, while we were traveling the country.

Gene and I were staying in a little hotel right on the Place de L’Horloge in Avignon’s city center. He was in bed with a bad cold, so I offered to go find dinner to-go. Across the Place is a gigantic “food court,” a line of outdoor cafes, with men in front of each one hawking their wares. There are large poster menus on easels in front of each restaurant.

I found a menu that had soup, and asked if I could get it “to-go” because my husband was sick in bed. The man said, “I’m sorry, madame,  we only can package hamburgers and pizza to-go. I said, “Thank-you anyway,” and turned to leave. He said, “Wait, madame. Where are you staying?” “Across the Place at Hotel De H’horloge,” I answered. “Well, Madame,” he said, “if you can wait about 20 minutes, we will fix a tray for you, and if you will please bring it back, you may take it to your husband.”

I ordered minestrone, caprese, and lasagna, paid, and sat down to wait. In about 20 minutes, out comes my lovely man, who’s about 5′ 8″, carrying a gigantic tray covered with a white linen cloth. He lowers the tray, uncovers it, and shows me crocks of hot soup and lasagna, a plate of caprese, dinner plates, cloth napkins, silverware, and little salt and pepper shakers. I stand up, he looks at me, and waves over a tall waiter, explaining to him in French that he needs to follow me to my hotel room with the tray.

Off we go across the Place, into the hotel, up the tiny lift, and across the hall to our room. I knock on the door and Gene answers, expecting me with a ham sandwich. Instead, here we are with a huge tray of food, which the waiter proceeds to set out on our desk, as if it’s a dining room table. I thank him politely, give him a tip, and away he goes.

Gene and I stand there, eyes wide open in disbelief. We put towels on the bed, plate our beautiful meal, and begin to eat. Five minutes later, there’s a knock on the door. It’s the waiter. “Pardon, Madame,” he says. “We forgot the bread!”  With that, he hands me a basket of bread and disappears. You see, in France you would never think of serving a meal without bread.


Back in the Saddle

Retirement is a Misnomer; My Purpose Hasn’t Changed

It’s been two years since I retired from my full time position with Arizona Theatre Company, and the main thing I miss is the writing. So I’ve decided to take my daughter’s advice and start blogging. Even if no one reads my blogs, I will enjoy writing them. So “I’m back in the saddle.”

Why is the word “retirement” a misnomer? At least, for me? Some people die — literally — of boredom, once they retire. They feel purposeless and don’t know how to fill their days. They get depressed. They give up on their new-found freedom.

Not me. I haven’t looked back. This is time I never had when I was working, time to do things purely for pleasure and in the process, be inspired every day by the interesting people I share the planet with. It is “indescribably delicious,” as the Mounds wrapper says. And I feel lucky.

What things am I talking about? Well, I will tell you in upcoming blogs. But for now, let’s just say I’m having more fun than anyone deserves to have! And I think it’s because, like the Japanese, I have an  ikigai (pronounced like “icky guy”), a reason to wake up in the morning. The reason may change from day to day, but it’s nearly always there.

And in the next blog, I’ll tell you about it.