Cleaning off my desk after an eight month hiatus

I am going to revive a 40-year-old writing approach of mine.

When I was an absurdly young managing editor in Ypsilanti MI. at the now defunct Ypsilanti Press, I used to write a twice weekly column. I frequently “cleaned off my desk.” It was a device I used to address a bunch of interesting ideas I didn’t think deserved an entire column.

You will find this blog post to be a collection of thoughts mainly about my numerous travels since my May 10 retirement.  I hope you find this fun. I am inspired by Mark Twain’s famous quote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”

  1. Alaska’s majesty overwhelms. Northern Minnesota, Western and Northern Michigan and several parts of Arizona entrance you with their beauty. But Alaska overpowers you. Glaciers , snow-capped mountains and massive forests that go on forever impress you and enrich you in a way that makes nature and God one.
  2. The pride, loyalty and commitment to their state by Alaska residents inspires. Everyone we met seemed like an impressive and commissioned salesperson for Alaska. Residents can speak candidly about their political and financial problems, but their sympathy for the “lower 48”  and our failure to measure up is amusing and heart-warming. Their unbridled enthusiasm for everything Alaska is palpable.
  3. Perhaps the greatest highlight for many of my fellow passengers on an Inner Passage cruise of Alaska were the countless frolicking humpback whales we saw. Not me. I was mesmerized by the human mammals mesmerized by the whales. Nothing turns mature adults into crazed sixth graders like whales leaping and fluking in the water.
  4. I have attended Conspire an annual summer spiritual conference three times. It is conducted by my favorite theologian, Father Richard Rohr in either Santa Fe or Albuquerque. No preaching here, but what always amazes me at these conferences is the deep level of “searching” I see among the participants. The thirst and longing are obvious to the point that I believe ‘searching” for meaning is a primal drive.
  5. Visited Chicago for the first time in many years this past summer. It may be the Second City, but its vibrancy and strength energizes. If you are there, don’t miss the Chicago River Architectural tour. It is a tremendous way to appreciate the city’s architectural imagination and excellence. You can also learn that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow got a bad rap, but that fire helped make  Chicago an architectural wonder because the city got to start over.
  6. Amsterdam teems with hipness. Diversity is a key part of the fabric of the city and there is a comfortable swagger that screams “cool.” The canals fascinate. I never knew that for about  $700,000 you can live on a houseboat on many of those canals.
  7. I am not a big museum guy, but if you are ever in Amsterdam the Rijks Museum and the Van Gogh museums are stunning.
  8. Almost everyone knows about Amsterdam’s “coffee shops,” but the most shocking thing a visitor notices is bicycles. Yes, bicycles. They zoom through traffic like out-of-control cheetahs and motorists will tell you bicyclists think they own the road. Many, many people travel to work or shop on a bike and their interests are represented by a strong bike lobby whose power is, in the eyes of cab drivers, “ridiculous.”  The daily dance between cars, pedestrians and bikes drove my blood pressure into the stratosphere.
  9. The “world’s steepest cog railway” up to Mt Pilatus near Lucerne is a scary, invigorating experience. Mt. Pilatus is impressive in its own right but the cog wheel train seems to teeter on the hill more than a few times. It is a “must-do” in Switzerland.
  10. Making a connection to Phoenix out of JFK airport is very close to my blasphemous vision of hell.

And that’s how I spent my vacation!

Tim J. McGuire is the author of “Some People Even Take Them Home.”

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The qualities of new love at 66–It’s different

Grief to new love trilogy–Part II

Within five months of my wife Jean’s death it was clear my relationship with Candace Hadley was genuine.

Relationships at 66 are different than those at 26. My brief bout with loneliness was brutal for me. I had a wonderful 39-year marriage and it was obvious to me I loved loving and being loved. One of the things I missed most was laughing with a partner. Candace and I laugh together in silly, juvenile ways and with sophisticated humor only a few would appreciate. No matter how old we grow together, I pray the laughter will always remain.

I think one also wants a sense that they are needed and both Candace and I felt that with each other. Another thing that is crucial to a late life marriage, in my mind, is a shared sense of values. Candace and I quickly realized spirituality was important to us–we shared a passion for the writings of Richard Rohr. Politically, we are compatible without being carbon copies of each other. Our differences make things interesting. Very significantly, we have both dealt with cognitive development issues in our family. That particular shared experience is vital.

The other shared experience that is critical, in my mind, is the loss of a spouse. I know many widows or widowers build great relationships with divorced people. I think that would have been very difficult for me. My late wife, Jean, and Candace’s late husband, David, are integral players in our relationship. We talk about them often and we frequently share grief experiences and life experiences. Since Jean’s death is relatively recent, that has been especially indispensable to me. Candace has been an incredible grief coach and just the other night asked me: “How is your sadness?” She has been most attentive to making sure I tend my two gardens and grieve appropriately, all the while loving me and knowing that I love her. I still keep pictures of both Jean and Candace, in some cases side by side. And, Candace still proudly displays some of her husband’s excellent paintings. We are our history and neither of us wants to deny that.

A truly fascinating element of finding a new partner after long marriages is that you have to get used to a new set of expectations. I like to joke that after 39 years of marriage I damn well knew the rules, but now the rule book has totally changed! Things that didn’t matter suddenly are important and vice versa. Figuring out how to disagree, and even agree, can be a fascinating new adventure.

Adventure is the key lesson of new love at 66. It’s an exciting adventure in creating a new life of happiness. The adventure needs to be enjoyed, not over-analyzed.

NEXT: Grief to new love Trilogy Part III –Let them say what they want.