When Barry and I met more than 40 years ago, we knew we had many interests in common, among them hiking, backpacking, bicycling, camping, road trips, international travel, and explorations wherever we happened to find ourselves. Back then, for example, every Sunday we’d check out a different scenic spot in the Vancouver, British Columbia, area, where we lived. And on one of our first dates, we visited the airport, gazing up at the posters of exotic places on the walls, a portend of what was to come.
What I didn’t realize then was that as the decades passed, we would find even more things in common. Sadly, we are not part of a trend. I was surprised to learn that divorce rates among seniors, known as “gray divorce,” have surged in recent years. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2021 found that while the overall divorce rate in America is around 34 percent, the percentage of adults who divorce between the ages of 55 and 64 is statistically highest, at 43 percent.
In our semi-retirement years, Barry and I still love spending time alone, but we also have found more and more shared interests, including:
Barry was already a kayaker when I met him, having first kayaked in his early 20s. He had even built two kayaks. He loved being on the water, but never had the opportunity to do it on a regular basis until we moved to an apartment in Old Town, Eureka, 1.5 blocks from Humboldt Bay.
I tried kayaking but wasn’t excited about it, so Barry would always go out on his own, until one day about 8 years ago. Strolling along the Eureka Boardwalk, I saw a figure in the distance who seemed to be standing on water. I was transfixed. Could all those stories about Jesus be true, after all?
As the man got closer, I saw he was on what looked like a long surfboard. I later learned it was called a stand-up paddle board (SUP). Within a month, I bought an inflatable one and gradually learned how to paddle. Now Barry and I go out both together and alone, not only in Eureka but on trips in our van.
On the water, we’re like kids doing a parallel play, wandering at our own pace, meeting up somewhere. We don’t paddle side by side or at the same pace, because kayaks are usually faster than SUPs.
When I go out by myself, I love debriefing afterward — filling Barry in on where I went, how the conditions were, what adventures I had, if I misjudged the tide and got stuck in the mud (which has happened more than once!), and describing the seals, herons, and other wildlife I noticed. Barry paddled recently while I was out of town and sent me a photo of a sea lion perched on one of the docks in our nearby marina.
2. Exploring The Pacific Coast In Our Camper Van
On a trip to Britain before we were married, Barry and I bought a Bedford Dormobile van and traveled around the country for 3 months, visiting many of Britain’s spectacular national parks and selling the van at the end of the trip.
Although we loved the experience, owning a van was never practical after we got married because we couldn’t afford (or justify) three cars. But after our Honda Civic died, we decided to replace it with a van, and now we are the happy owners of a VW Eurovan.
During COVID, it was the ideal way to self-isolate, driving to remote areas that were virtually empty. And Humboldt County is the ideal place to own a van because every direction offers beauty: north into Oregon, south to Mendocino County, and west, where we hike in the three wildernesses: the Trinity Alps, the Russian, and the Marble Mountains.
Occasionally we go on long trips — to the Southwest, an area we love, to Joshua Tree National Park, and other parts of southern California, or to Bellingham, Washington, and southern British Columbia, where we visit our daughter and family. We call our van our third home, after our house in Guanajuato, Mexico, where we live part of the year, and our apartment in Eureka.
In the summer, the city of Eureka hosts a different band once a week on the Madakat Plaza, a block from our home, and Barry and I join a group of other locals to dance. It’s a very fun affair, everyone doing their thing, and we see the same people there year after year — folks who we only know through this annual tradition. We aren’t trained dancers by any means — in fact, our British niece calls Barry’s style of dancing “psychedelic” — but we enjoy it so much we dance as often as possible, even if no one else joins us.
4. Writing And Editing
I became a freelance writer in my 20s, but when I launched my business as a management trainer/coach, writing had to take a back seat. I didn’t have the time or bandwidth to focus on both, and training was more lucrative, which was important because in that era we lived in the pricey Bay Area.
In my semi-retirement years, though, I’ve happily returned to writing, and my articles regularly appear in TravelAwaits and other publications. Meanwhile, Barry is the author of three books, and currently writes two columns, one on science and one on whatever he chooses.
We edit each other’s writing and aren’t afraid to critique ruthlessly, knowing it will help the other end up with a stronger piece.
5. Lying Under Trees
Recently Barry and I discovered that we like lying on the grass under a tree, gazing up through the branches. I like to place my bent arm above my face to form a square and look up at the pocket of sky I can glimpse. Sometimes we talk about this or that; other times we just lie in companionable silence.
Unfortunately, neither Eureka nor Guanajuato are great places to enjoy this activity. Eureka’s trees are bristly and many of the branches don’t extend that far, while Guanajuato, located in high desert, doesn’t have that many trees. But we love it when we’re on the road.
6. Visiting Ancient Ruins
I used to consider ruins just “a pile of old rocks,” as my mother-in-law used to say, but over the years, I’ve learned to love them as much as Barry does. Mexican ruins are especially evocative because they harmonize so seamlessly with the surrounding landscape.
7. Afternoon Lie-Downs
For as long as I’ve known him, Barry has always taken an afternoon nap when he could. These days, after lunch, he and I usually lie down on the sofa for a half hour. I rarely nap — my body isn’t wired that way — but I love our afternoon cuddles.
8. Mid-Afternoon Meditation In Different Places
We have been part of meditation groups off and on for years, including one in Guanajuato that meets weekdays from 8 to 9 a.m., led by a Japanese teacher. During COVID, it stopped meeting, so Barry and I decided to sit in one of several rotating churches in el centro most afternoons. Although I’m not of the faith, I love meditating in Catholic churches, staring at the icons and statues.
In Eureka, meanwhile, we live opposite the Redwood Curtain Theater, whose Board has kindly given us permission to enter the building when it’s not in use, so most afternoons we meditate there.
Although it’s recommended to meditate in the morning, I like doing it mid-afternoon, which is my bio-rhythmically low time, what the ancients called acedia, a Greek word meaning listlessness and ennui.
9. Sunday Roast
Barry and I don’t eat meat, but we remember Sundays in childhood when, for both of us, that was the one day of the week when our main meal was lunch. In my case, Mother always prepared pot roast, whereas Barry’s “mum” cooked whatever the butcher delivered on Friday. In postwar Britain, meat, milk, and bread were delivered to homes.
Once a week, we enjoy our version of Sunday roast. I’m not much of a baker, so instead of making the pizza from scratch, I buy a thin-crust one, adding beets, mushrooms, caramelized onions, red pepper, and feta or goat cheese.
Of course, Barry and I have plenty of separate hobbies. He enjoys stargazing, for example, while I’m loving my revitalized sketching practice. But even when we don’t have the same interests, we encourage each other.
Yesterday, for example, I joined him nearby to take photos with his new drone, both of us getting an adrenaline rush when we’d watch the drone disappear in the overcast sky, wondering if it was gone for good. And for my birthday, he built me an artist’s table so I can have a dedicated place to sketch and watercolor. I feel deeply fortunate that I have a supportive life companion.