We returned to Loreto after a couple of summer months in the States to find everything in good order. The season's hurricane had passed us by with very little damage, our car still ran and had actually been washed, and our landscape had doubled in bulk. Oh, sure, one little potted bougainvillea had been completely stripped of its leaves by some insect pest; but a vine by our pergola had been replaced, and the tall black olive tree finally topped to encourage it to spread over our patio and shade our second floor. We hung the hammocks out again upstairs, bought some groceries, and early one morning carried the kayaks back down to the beach, where they were sure to do more good than they had been doing in the living room.
The big communal courtyard outside our wall had begun to show some signs of maturity. Little individual plants had grown large enough to groom. The Palo Verde that had seemed insignificant when we left now showed above our parapet. The manguero that's planned to provide shade for us had gotten off to a slow start, then seemed to perk up a bit early in the summer while we were watering it ourselves, but hadn't gained much in our absence. There were some healthy-looking suckers growing at its base, but the gardeners removed them shortly after we arrived, as though reading our minds.
Early in October ventilation is still a big project, and one day I swung open the dining room window to find a pleasant surprise. There is a clump of tall decorative grass on each side, trimmed periodically to keep it from actually blocking operation of the window. The clump to the south, in the corner between our house and our neighbors', boasted several white plumes, like the pampas grass that used to grow on my street when I was a kid. I've always wanted a place to put some of this stuff, so I'm glad to have some nearby where I don't have to take care of it or feel guilty about it.
Another pleasant surprise came several days later when Alex spotted a spry little crab scuttling along our tile, apparently toward our front door. We went around the house and opened the door from the outside, to make sure that the crustacean's choice wasn't hampered by fear of us, but it elected to stay in the yard. We've had these visitors before, but not for some time. I thought maybe they arrived tiny, mixed in with landscape material, and then were stuck. Or maybe the gardeners installed them to do cleanup in their absence. Who knows? Maybe there are simply enough crabs hereabouts to go around.
We became snowbirds. Why were we gone for two months, when Loreto Bay is where we choose to live? Well, much of that time was already planned, visits with old friends in Seattle, appointments we'd already made, paperwork that couldn't be done on the internet. That accounts for the last part of August. But by the time summer rolled around it was obvious to us, as it is to nearly all our neighbors, that nobody except the dorado, or their tormentors, really wants to be here once the breeze dies down.
For years before retiring, Alex had thought that she might like to do a little locum tenens work from time to time. That's temp work for doctors, who, when they're scarce, are often treated pretty well. She had thought about long stretches in Australia or New Zealand, giving us time to see more of those places; but going to the U.S. really is more manageable. She had passed up a number of opportunities and had begun to think that the whole idea might not be worth the trouble -- but just about the time the heat was becoming unbearable, a job opened up at a VA clinic in Eugene, Oregon.
It worked out perfectly. The bureaucracy was dense but familiar, the clinic a pleasant place to work (two pleasant places, actually, as the location changed part way through her stay). The weather was nearly flawless, we had rental bicycles practically waiting for us when we arrived, and Eugene is incomparable for bike commuting. Not only is there the beautiful trail system, but riding on the streets is a pleasure. It's somewhat unsettling to see car traffic come to a wary halt when you approach an intersection, but it beats the feeling you get in some other places, I dropped Alex off for her first day at the clinic, but every other day she rode -- and often after work and always on weekends. Our little blue rental car was still on its first tank of gas when we turned it in.
One unexpected treat in Eugene was grocery shopping. On our first afternoon we hooked up with the the Market of Choice, a homey but remarkably sophisticated place that has the organic and/or local food that we would have expected at the PCC in Seattle, plus anything else we would have gone to the Metropolitan Market for. Gluten-free granola! Nearly anything in bulk! We bought just enough of things like seasonings to get us through a month. We lived like kings right down till the last day, and then threw almost nothing out.
It was idyllic; but the leaves began to turn color, and then they began to turn loose. When it looked like they were going to turn slippery, we left.
We become nomads. These experiences, taken together, have enabled us to revisualize our lives a bit. We're happier, if anything, with our home at Loreto Bay -- we're also comfortable being away. Over the last year we've often been asked where we live, with the expectation that the answer would be some other place. I think that it's becoming easier to answer, "wherever I am."
Early next year, we're off to Easter Island.