Thursday, March 28, 2024

First Days


            When I was teaching I always enjoyed the first day of school in the fall. It was great to see friends and colleagues, good to shift out of the idleness of summer (which I always thought lasted too long), and exciting to face the energies of a fresh crop of students, looking at me expectantly.


            Other First Days have their excitement as well. I didn’t date much, but when I did, that first kiss . . ..


            There are, of course, other kinds of First Days. Think, as we must at our age, of awakening after the death of a spouse or partner to the first of a bleak string of unshared days – something to move through and beyond. Or, simply, the first days after a cancer diagnosis, or after a serious fall compromises your mobility, perhaps for the rest of your life.


            But I prefer to think of First Days as, to a certain extent, a matter of choice. We are choosing to move into a new living situation, and yes, we have found a new place to live. It’s a condo in the woods near Traverse City. You may recall that we see this as a three-step process: First, keep our Bark House, primarily for the summer months, and then move into the condo, which we have dubbed the Tree House, in the winter. Since it’s only an hour away, there will probably be a lot of back-and-forth all year. The second step will occur, probably in a couple of years when keeping up maintenance, cleaning, yard work, snow shoveling become too much for us, sell the Bark House and move into the Tree House full time. And the last phase is when one of us dies, the survivor lives alone in the condo. We don’t own it yet, but it’s under contract with closing scheduled for mid-April.


            We see this process as positive and exciting. Kim’s creative juices are flowing full time, redesigning the kitchen, choosing paint colors, placing furniture, etc. We are making appointments with flooring people, cabinet people, movers, etc. We bought a bunch of stuff, including a couple of beds and a television, when we thought we were going to move into the Stone School condo, and we are looking forward to getting that out of our garage and basement. Yes, “First Days” will extend for months as we prepare and then finally move in. And yes, there are declines in our 80s, but it’s best, we think, to face them proactively and creatively.


            We are making other First Days choices. We know we can’t do long trips any more, but we are planning some bird photography trips in Michigan, and the Tree House is closer to some of our favorite birding sites. Kim also had the idea this week to visit all of the properties owned by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. We don’t volunteer there any more as we have enough weeding to do in our own little woods and garden, and we don’t go on organized hikes because photographers go at their own pace, which often includes waiting, and we are not sure how well we could handle distances over rough terrain. So, we are looking forward to the arrival of spring – not the false spring we had in early March and not the First Day of Spring which was marked by a snow storm, but spring which we will experience as such, our in the woods. Our first trip out, probably in May, counts as a First Day, and we are choosing to celebrate it.


            When I asked Kim to look over what I had written above, she pointed out that every day is a First Day. When we get up in the morning it’s the First Day, and it’s exciting, especially when we see the sunrise over the lake, a mink scampering on the shore., or a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers just outside our window. A few weeks ago was the First Day the Pine Siskins returned, and yesterday we saw the Hellebore flowers peeking up through the snow – first flowers making that day a First Day. I know it’s a cliché to point out that today is the first day of the rest of your life, but like most clichés, there’s some truth in it.



  1. That’s exciting news. Sounds like a good decision to keep the bark house and move into a condo that is relatively close by. Wishing you the best.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece, Dave!