Right from the beginning it was clear that Renè and I were opposites. And then we took a pre-marital test. Yep. It was confirmed, we had nothing in common. What was revealed though was that we recognized our differences. We also found that our values were almost identical. So it certainly was a sign of good things to come. Or so we thought. How you think and the things you do are not the same My hubby and I have always had very little in common. Perhaps not in the important areas. We are very similar in our morals and values. Of course through the years we have become even closer aligned in our thoughts regarding religion, politics and humanity in general. What I am talking about is activities we share. Things we can do together. When we were young I often commented that we needed to find common interests. I thought one day we would be retired and sitting across the table from each other thinking “Who are you?”. Well he convinced me that all would be well and when retirement came we would be doing lots together. Well… retirement came and we still had very little in common but all was well none the less. It works.
There is a misconception that when we retire we will do all the things we didn’t have time for in our younger years. Renè wanted to paint in the golden years, and not the house or fence. You know what I mean. Landscapes. Sport scenes. He has been retired for 7 years and hasn’t picked up a brush. I bought him canvasses and paints and a whole set of brushes years ago. The supplies sit unused on a shelf in the hall closet. As we have already learned, I was going to write the epic novel. I guess I can’t judge.
It turns out that life is practice for just that. Life. According to Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do”. He goes on to state, “Excellence, therefore is not an act but a habit. ” Forgetting excellence for a moment, it would seem to me that all of our life becomes a habit. We often do what we have always done. It suits us. Sometimes because we find comfort in repetition or maybe because it doesn’t occur to us to change things up. One year I decided to do something new on the fifteenth of every month Something I had never tried before. Trust me, it is extremely difficult. I ran out of ideas real fast. We do what we do because we like to do what we do. With sentences like that it is no surprise really that I am not a novelist.
So what does Rene do in retirement? What he has done most of our marriage and his adult life. As he is fond of saying “Same good, different bad.” He believes he is basically the same as he always was. Since childhood. Me on the other hand… Rene’ believes I become a different person every three years. I tend to bore easily. I try new things and I stick with them for a few years and then abandon them for the next bright shiny thing that goes by. I have a sort of 3 year form of A.D.D. All kidding aside, I also have the real, short term version of A.D.D. Sports, religion, politics, world views, health, marriage. You name it. I have bounced all over the place in regards to my views and actions. I truly believe it is because I love to learn. Reading exposes you to so many new thoughts and ideas. Thankfully I was able to work for years as a consultant so I could move from job to job and company to company. When you do it on purpose and market yourself and your skills as something companies need, it does pay well. You become a respected expert of sorts rather than just being a bum who can’t hold a job. The former was a bit of a façade with the latter being closer to reality. Ultimately, it was never boring.
One thing that has been a constant throughout my life is gardening. I love it so much it chokes me up sometimes. As a child I saw that same passion in my own mother. Racing into the house to cook supper and race right back out after she was done eating. Only coming in from the yard long after the sun had gone down and she could no longer see what she was doing. Although our first apartment in Calgary saw us living hand to mouth, I somehow managed to scrounge together enough money to plant flowers on the patio. It brought such peace and calmness to my soul. I still have those 2 long plastic planters I bought 38 years ago. They have moved around the yard and the plants they held have changed through the years. They are constant reminder that even though we had very little money, there was enough for beauty. Priorities.
Today, I have not just one garden, but two. My cabin in the mountains brings an entirely different form of pleasure. I unwittingly seem to provide food for the deer that wander through our yard. They just like the tops of the plants so we coexist in a relatively peaceful manner. My favourite spot in the whole world is the small alcove off the kitchen, where I sit with a cup of coffee watching the wildlife. Windows all around provide me with a vista like no other. It is peace. In my city garden, we have squirrels and rabbits that like the tender new shoots of my perennials. My approach is not as Zenlike to the city rascals and I am often seen yelling at little bunnies and chasing them off, arms waving all akimbo. The A.D.D. situation abounds in my garden as well. Plants are moved now and again. Patio stones are ripped up and replaced or moved. Borders are changed. Plants are changed. Trees die and others are planted. This yard has evolved as our family evolved. A poor young family who had grass and a few plants. Then a deck built with help from Grandpa. Swing sets and sand boxes. Basketball hoop on the garage. Broken basement windows from wild baseball pitches. Dead grass from sleepovers in the tent that didn’t come down for 2 weeks. Graduation pictures in front of the trees that were planted when the kids were young. A firepit where we whiled away the hours on warm summer evenings. All leading to the old people yard . No more dead grass but still lots of room for grandkids to play. And in the end a front porch where the two of us sit rocking in the evening and watch the neighbourhood go by.
Photo albums show the lives of our growing family and in the background, the life of the garden. I have spent years visiting with passersby while I tend to my front yard. A conversation with an older neighbour follows a familiar vein. She often remarks on how hard I work and I reply that it is not work for me. To which she asks, “When are you going to be done?” And I smile. When is a jogger done? A golfer. People who quilt. Ladies who knit. Kids who read comics. People who sew. Crafters. Slow pitch teams. Curlers. When will they all be done already? As I sit on the sidewalk and pull a few straggly weeds from between the stones, I realize I have become what I have lived all these years. I am a gardener. I will never be done.