My Own Cactus Flower

May 17

Do you remember the 1969 comedy with Goldie Hawn, Walter Matthau, and Ingrid Bergman called Cactus Flower? A potted cactus plant with a flower plays a role near the end as a metaphor for the changes in the main characters. At 63, I have found my own cactus flowers in a more literal sense in the place I chose to make my retirement location.

I am not a California native but might as well have been. California was my home for most of my last 45 years, minus a brief jaunt into the Pacific Northwest for 3 years. However, ask anybody who knew me then and they would say they often heard me complain and say how much I really disliked it. It was a lifelong dream realized when I was able to retire at 60, sell my home, and take off with my 3 pets in my motor home to find my place.

I just knew there was a place out there somewhere that would really feel like home. I never did get to see as many states as I had planned due to COVID screwing those plans up in March 2020. But I did get to travel through 16 states before we were all put on hold. As 2020 rolled along with not much getting better in the way of restrictions and hold ups, I put myself on 4 waiting lists for places to permanently park myself. I picked places that I thought would be safe and affordable.

Two of those places were in parts of the south that get rather humid and after spending most of 2020 in Texas, I started having second thoughts about that humidity and my own comfort. One of the places on my waiting list averages over 100-120 degrees most of the summer (near Tucson). There were a few other factors that had me questioning the smartness of this decision, including that I would have to pay for RV storage as they didn’t have any place for my motor home.

As luck would have it, the top place on my list was the first place to call with a spot for me. Within 7 days after they called, I had driven down, paid, purchased a large travel trailer to live in and had it delivered. This is a place I had lived in as a child for a few years and a place I had taken some camping trips in while passing through in 2018 and 2019. It’s an enchanted place that I have really fallen in love with. That place is New Mexico.

I haven’t been in my mobile home park for a whole year yet but I’m learning about the different seasons. I experienced my first snow in 40 years this past winter. It doesn’t really last here in the Chihuahuan Desert but it was pretty. Now it’s spring rolling into summer and I’m amazed at all the greenery. Some of the flowers and plants are part of the landscaping where I live but many of them are native. Here’s a selection of the “cactus flowers” I’ve seen while walking my dog in our new home.

I am looking forward to my retirement blossoming just like the beautiful cactuses around me.

How Much Do You Really Need?

This is an editorial. Some strong opinions will be stated and you may agree or disagree and those who disagree may feel they are being personally attacked. For that, I’m sorry but if this also gives you a chance to reflect on the way you live your life and to maybe make some positive changes, yay, I say.

We’ve been brainwashed to believe that we must have “stuff,” and I’ll admit I was one of the guilty party. I spent thousands and thousands of dollars decorating my 970 square foot home. I bought new gadgets for the kitchen constantly because I loved cooking. I put in gardens in the back yard and then re-did it several times as I changed layouts and designs. I did the whole house in area rugs over wall-to-wall carpet with matching furniture, shelves, and knick-knacks and then re-did the whole house in laminate with different furniture when I discovered that one of my rescue dogs had a habit of peeing indoors.

I was a collector too. I had hundreds of books. I also started collecting mid-century American-made figural pottery in the early 2000s and had about thirty-six pieces by 2018. Those pieces also needed display furniture. I love shoes and had about forty pairs at the time I downsized. I had a garage full of tools and who-knows- what because I was a do-it-your-selfer. I refinished furniture, I made shelves and toys for my chinchillas and birds, I did a lot of the house remodeling projects myself. But my goal all along was to travel when I retired and to sell the house. What compelled me to buy so much stuff when I knew I would be leaving it all? I can’t explain other than the fact that we live in a “consumerism” society and it’s drilled in to us to buy more and better.

Here’s what I learned after two years of not having stuff. How big your house is and how much fancy stuff is packed in there does not define who you are. I don’t miss it. Sometimes I wonder how different things would be now if I’d saved all that money instead of spending it. I sure didn’t get much back when I tried to sell everything. Most of the things in the end were given away or donated. I’ve learned that I don’t need a lot of room. I’ve learned that I don’t need to be entertained with a big TV or hobbies. I don’t need to keep busy taking care of a house or yard.

Some people are natural savers and think small types. Can you imagine if most people were more comfortable living small? We would have resources galore. I can’t tell you how to live your life but I can tell you that it is possible to be happy without having a lot of stuff surrounding you. You might think that people who live in tiny houses or motorhomes full time are people of lesser means but that isn’t true. I was surprised to find out recently that one retiree who lives full time in a motorhome has a retirement income that is more than I made yearly for most of my working life. Imagine how much young couples could save if they lived in a nice trailer instead of buying a house and furnishing it?

Here’s the floor plan of my living quarters for the last two years. Of course, I do go out quite a bit for dog walks or just enjoying nature. And when I’m sitting inside, I still try to bring some of the outdoors in by keeping windows and the door open. I get the scent of pine trees, birds tweeting, and the occasional campfire. And at certain times of the year, I have the Gulf of Mexico in my backyard. What could be more perfect?

My words of wisdom to everyone is “don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.”