I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, October 19, 2014

On Vashon Island

Jann, Linda, me, Deb, Sandi: the Vashonistas
I am sitting in a bed at the old farmhouse on Vashon Island, where the five of us fellow bloggers have come for a retreat, This is the third time for this event, although Sally is missing this year. It's amazing to me that we all agreed so readily to get together once again, but now that I'm here, I'm already hoping that we'll do it next October as well. It's been wonderful to reconnect in person, although I keep track of all these ladies through their blogs, which is how we met in the first place.

I drove through the rain on Friday 80 miles south to Linda's home, and we took her car to the ferry across to the island. Jann drove by herself and Deb and Sandi traveled here together. Driving up to the farmhouse was like coming home. It's become such a familiar place, and we have now shared more than a week's memories here, combined from these last three years. I'm sad to think that today, Sunday, we will need to say goodbye both to this place and to each other for another year.

I am the oldest of the group and have been retired for longer than the others. Actually, Deb and Sandi are still teaching and have retirement to look forward to. They had to take a day off in order to come. I keep forgetting what it's like to be working until I listen to them and realize how much my life has changed since I was in that world. Deb, the baby of our group, needs to work at least two and probably three more years before reaching 65 (or 66) when she can access her Social Security and Medicare benefits. Sandi will work for the rest of this year and probably next as well, since she needs to find a way to live with a reduced income, and the longer she works, the easier it will be.

That's true of so many of us of a certain age: I know I had to wait until I was 65 and a half before I could retire and receive full benefits from Social Security. Medicare automatically kicks in at 65 in the United States. Although it doesn't offer what it once did, it's still something and very important to seniors, and is a big part of the planning we must do as we decide how we're going to live for the rest of our lives. It makes me grateful for having gotten into the system when I was young, since one's benefits are figured based on what was paid in during your working years. Although I couldn't possibly live on just my Social Security, it makes a huge difference.

We haven't had the wonderful weather we enjoyed during our first trip here, when we explored the beaches and some other parts of the island, but it hasn't mattered all that much, since we don't need to get out to have a great visit with each other. I have been in stitches listening to Jann tell some of her stories, and Linda has shared what it's been like for her to now live four months of the year (in the winter months) in Arizona. She suffers from seasonal affective disorder and this has made all the difference: getting away from the short rainy days that constitute the Pacific Northwest winter.

I think it helps me to get outdoors every week during the winter, when the Senior Trailblazers trade our High Country hikes for ones around town, which are just as challenging sometimes, and almost as beautiful, sometimes. The rain presents a challenge, but I do find that getting out into the weather makes it easier for me to appreciate having a nice warm, cozy place to return to. There have been times when I've wondered if I'd lost my mind, as I struggle to stay dry in the pouring rain, and trying to keep my hands from getting too cold when we stop for lunch. But I've got company, and that makes a huge difference.

Vashon Island is the only place off the mainland in this part of the country where I think I might be able to manage living on an island. It's got a very quaint and relaxed atmosphere, and there are plenty of things to do to keep one from boredom. But then again, as I look at the trees changing color and think ahead to the winter, I'm not so sure. I don't like being hooked to a ferry in order to travel places. As we waited to board the ferry on Friday, we saw what looked to be school children returning on foot, lots of them. It made me wonder if they attend school on Vashon and live in Seattle.

Because one of the women who arranges for visitors to come to the farmhouse also arranges tours to Italy, both Deb and Sandi have decided to join a small group of women in the coming spring. This two-week trip will take them to places in southern Italy off  the beaten path, before experiencing Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan. I'm envious, but because I'm retired, I just don't have the funds. Well, that's not entirely true: if I chose to use my savings, I could go, too. It's just a matter of choices. But as I listen to them and their excitement, I wish I could join them.

Today we will travel back to our respective homes and will probably all write about our adventure in our respective blogs. And next week I will have my partner next to me as I write. This morning it's been difficult, because I want to join the early risers and share more stories before we need to part. In fact, that's why I'm going to cut this short this morning. I don't want to miss out! See you next week, dear friends. Stay well and hug somebody for me, okay?


John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Isn’t it great how a short ferry ride can take you to such a different setting … this is just one of the neat parts of living in our Pacific Northwest. Well, it does sound like you ladies had an excellent get together! I sure like that photo of the group with all of the mobile devices … laptops, tablets, phones … and I can remember when connectivity on Vashon was pretty limited. It is also neat to see some of the other followers of Eye On the Edge. I often enjoy their comments. What did you guys do for dining? … does the old Farmhouse have a restaurant? It really looks like a place I should check out for a weekend retreat. Your comments about Social Security and Medicare are right on. They definitely will not cover everything but I sure hope they last as long as I do. Ha ha. Every once in a while I hear someone from a different political viewpoint than mine say they don’t like our social programs. It’s funny though … I don’t see them declining their SS or Medicare. Thanks for sharing your visit to Vashon! Hope you have a fine week ahead. Take care! John

amanda | wildly simple said...

It seems a year has flown by since your last gathering at Vashon Island! I remember thinking it was wonderful then, and even more now that you all have met up yet again. Enjoy today!
I will hug some special young people here for you. :)

gigihawaii said...

How nice to be so compatible with these women. But, you seem to get along with everyone, anyway. It's too bad you can't join two of your friends on their trip to Italy.

barbara judge said...

DJan -- Enjoying your words about your gathering on Vashon Island. Friendships are so important as one ages. May you have many more gatherings in the years to come. -- barbara

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Well, it didn't surprise me at all that you were getting back together this year, or that you all agreed very quickly! Safe travels as you return home. And yes, I believe that getting out into the weather, and the daylight, does a lot to keep you on an even keel in winter. (Doing that in a warmer and sunnier climate as Linda does probably helps even more!) :)

Rian said...

DJan, I too am always anxious to hear about the Vashonistas visit to Vashion Island. It sounds like a fun adventure. Hope you all get to continue it indefinitely!

And I agree with you and John, that while SS may not cover everything... I'm very grateful that it's there.

Arkansas Patti said...

If the ferry ride isn't too long, I think it would be a great place to live. Every time you took the ride, it would add adventure to the trip.
So glad you ladies had such a great visit and hey, why not twice a year?

Far Side of Fifty said...

Oh what they hay...go to Italy with your friends! Remember you can't take it with you:)

Red said...

As our generation of seniors has had opportunity to get senior benefits. I worry about those coming after us. They're not saving and how much retirement money will be available?
Once again it sounds like a super retreat.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I have been thinking about you gathering this month even while far off in Berlin. I think it's cool how you all made it start and keep it going!

The Broad said...

Here I am reading about your wonderful annual get together on Vashon Island -- while visiting family in very far away South Korea! I send you a great big hug from the other side of the world!!! Your post made me smile all the way through! Though I have spent over 30 years in the UK I have enough of a working life in the US to qualify for SS -- and while it's not a large sum, it makes a huge difference!

Rita said...

What a delight! Spending time with the ladies--well, it wouldn't matter if it was sunny or rainy while you were there. It's the company. :):)

Retired English Teacher said...

I loved reading this, even if I had to read it with a tinge of envy and regret. I missed being with you all so much. I could feel myself settling into the routine as I would have picked up on the friendly banter in the kitchen while preparing meals and catching up on news. I could see us all sitting by fireplace in our jammies. I know you probably were the first to bed and the first one up. I missed you all so much. I know I made the right decision to stay home, but oh how I missed it. XO

Friko said...

It’s wonderful to read what blogging friendships can turn into. Quite amazing, really. Who can tell that we get on with each other in real life, even if we find we have much in common in the blogworld.

I am glad you all had a good time and I hope you’ll have many more.