Affirming Davis

October 8, 2014


Wednesday gardening day: pruned the Meyer lemon; hacked the matilija poppy; planted arugula, collards, kale and chard; weeded, watered, wore ourselves out. It was a one-nursery day. Yadda. Pant.. pant. Yadda.

The really fun part of the day, however, was meeting up with a woman named Wendy, who used to be a kindergartener named Wendy, who I knew then, but haven’t seen in forty years, when we both left high school on different life paths.

Maybe that’s a silly way of saying Wendy is visiting Davis this week with her husband Barry to see if this is where they want to settle for what is likely the last chapter in their lives. It’s a huge decision and one they are considering with impressive intention. Their son just graduated from UCD and they’ve visited him many times over the years. They have liked what they’ve seen, and now are doing a lot of due diligence… meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, meeting with city officials, meeting with real estate agents, meeting with rabbi Wolfe at Bet Haverim, and…. meeting with people who live here, like me.  They plan to rent a house here next summer to see what a central valley summer is like, and if they can take it, they’ll rent for a whole year, while renting out their house in Huntington Beach. If all that goes well, they’ll sell their house and move here.

Okay, so none of that may interest Life of Wry readers–sorry for all the detail–but I found it fascinating.. this business of considering one’s last chapter. How do you want to live the last 20, 30, 40 years of your life? Where? What are the things you want to be doing… what’s important, meaningful? Work, consult, travel, write, volunteer, veg? Be near family? Nurture friendships? Who matters? What do you love? Where’s your magic?

I thought their approach was well thought out.  And I imagine (hope) Jim and I will ask ourselves the same questions. The thought of taking the easy path, finding yourself in a certain place due to inertia or by default is so missing an opportunity. A future characterized by decreasing options because you let time run out is so depressing.

We have another set of friends who decided ten years ago that they wanted to live in Mexico, specifically Progresso, a coastal town on the Yucatan Peninsula, not too far from Merida. They began ten years ago to prepare–bought property, fixed it up, rented the house out, but visited enough to start to get a lay of the land. Then they decided all the things they wanted to do in the U.S. before moving permanently to Mexico. They built their dream home on a forested mountain ridge in the California foothills, they lived there for many years, then sold that and lived on a sail boat in the San Francisco Bay. They thrived and were professionally respected in high level jobs (one of them especially), they took up, and in most cases mastered, hobbies and activities (sailing, hiking, travel, photography), and so on. All stuff they identified as bucket list items.. they checked them off the list. They both just retired, and to the very letter of their plan (which, incidentally, was detailed in the Sacramento Bee and in a story on local television), began to divest of, sell, or donate all their stuff— cars, boats, household items, excess clothes. It’s been an interesting process to watch. Their swan song was a friendship tour.. going to places they love up and down the state, visiting friends and saying goodbye to everyone (and inviting everyone to visit them in their new home). They’ve also documented the whole ten-year process… who knows… could be a book one of these days.

But see? Thoughtful, proactive, smart.  I’m taking all this in.. I want to be so intentional.

Back to today’s meet up…

Wendy and Barry are giving the possibility of living in Davis a thorough evaluation, so it seemed important to give them my best and most honest assessment.  Well beyond the usual Davis stuff. I loved offering my opinions and experiences and having them be part of their calculus. It was a fun, and I think very helpful, data dump.

For instance, given she grew up in Palos Verdes (in generally the same neighborhood I grew up in) and given they’ve lived the last 25 years in Huntington Beach, it’s safe to say they are climatically predisposed to cool ocean breezes in the summer and relatively warm, temperate winters. They are very concerned about the heat. I hate the heat. We had to have that conversation. I said get out of dodge or buy a house with a pool.

More interesting was the conversation about the liberal bubble that is Davis; life in a college town; the active, engaged citizenry; the opportunities for volunteerism; the diversity of cultures and faiths; the art scene; the proximity of mountains, coast, wine and San Francisco.

While sitting there, people dropped by our table (Mishka’s of course), some joined us and offered more lively opinions. I even got to introduce them to our mayor pro tem, who talked seriously with them for 15 minutes about the challenges facing Davis and how their life and work experiences could be put to use on various of our commissions, as one example. It wasn’t bullshit; it struck some very real chords, especially with Barry.  I was so delighted.

A guy sat at an adjacent table strumming on an acoustic guitar. Thanks, guy.

Davis looked great today and it was affirming. It’s good to look at your town (your life) with a critical eye now and then, to see it as others might.

AND, I’m eager to go through a similar exercise, to look inside, to look at Jim and me together, and to figure out that next part. I think we’ll end up with the Davis-Plus plan: Davis plus travel, Davis plus some new activities…

…but I don’t want to get ahead of myself here.

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