This new-fangled way of living called retirement is so different for me from the way I am accustomed to living. I’ve been let out of my cube life of thirty years for only two weeks now, so still feel like a blind man bumping into walls without his white stick to help him feel his way about. Yesterday I found myself, during shopping errands, talking with a clerk in the big box store about the price and the quality of sunflower seeds for feeding my forest birds. I’m not sure that I ever had a conversation like that. I also noticed that on a weekday the stores and streets are not full so full of young people, unless they are young mothers pushing baby strollers. The week-day public in this beach town tends rather to be the gray-haired set, a crowd with the luxury of free time. I see them reading food labels, leaning on garden hoes in their front yards, walking as slow as me up and down the beaches of the Monterey Bay. I had not given serious thought to me becoming a member of this rank, and now I have joined their club.
The larger writing projects I have been considering for quite some time still linger in my vision of retirement goals, but the urgency of the writing just does not seem so imperative. Reading a quote of Gore Vidal, who passed away yesterday, he says that the Nobel prize should be given to readers, not writers, because there are so few of them. That sums up my doubts about writing anything of very great length. Moderns live for delight in the moment: a quick joke, a video clip, a TV comedy, but few have room in a hectic life style to sit and read for any duration. And of course, for those few who do have the time, so many fine things have already been written, that there is hardly any urgent need for more. Here I am wanting to write a novel, a memoir, and a book-length non-fiction piece, when I have hundreds of unread books sitting on my Kindle, begging for my attention.
Maybe words are my problem in life, rather than my salvation. I have always felt so bound to the written word, as if I belonged to a cult of book worshipers. My eyes enjoy seeing words as much as they do scenery. Written words feed my imagination more easily with new ideas. Viewing images or immediate physical reality does not turn on the same mechanisms in my mind. I get tired of looking at or reading words. I then set down my Kindle or book, and turn my gaze to things around me to snap out of my trance.
Perhaps this retirement goal of wanting to write the great American novel is misguided, a lingering fantasy from my youth that would make me more happy if it would simply die. My thirty years of life in a work-place cube has prevented me from looking at rivers, lakes, mountains, clouds, and seas; has caused me to value words more than real life.