Six years ago I found myself in South Florida for the winter; newly married, newly retired, and with lots of time on my hands. The mortgage career I had grown to hate was now in the rear-view mirror, and stretching out in front of me were hours and days during which I would be accountable to no one and tasked with producing nothing. I had the luxury of getting up whenever I wanted, taking long walks on the beach, staying up late reading trash novels, and sleeping in the next morning. I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven.
After a couple of weeks I started to panic. What was I going to do with all this freedom? I had started working before I was ten, harvesting cascara bark with my older brother John and selling Burpee’s seeds. By the sixth grade I had a full time paper route. I had worked my entire life and I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t have a job. Now I was officially retired and I couldn’t imagine starting over again in a career. What to do? I started getting up early in the morning – really early, for me, like 5:30 – and began working on a journal.
The next winter we went further south, to Puerto Escondido on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, down near Guatemala. It was a trip we were to make each winter for the next six years. We’d leave Portland at the end of December and come back in May, tan and a few pounds lighter, having eaten almost nothing but fruits and vegetables for four solid months. Each trip I’d fill up another notebook or two with observations, letters to grandchildren, short stories and poems. I wrote about our little fishing village and what it was like to be a gringo in Mexico. I wrote about growing up and moving around the country as my dad’s work required. I wrote about the joy of having children, the anguish of divorce and the long arc of healing afterwards, and the unbelievable luck that led me to my wife Jackie.
After a while whole stories began to almost write themselves, stories about everything from our first dog in Shelton and being almost run over by a boat in Mexico (all true), to fiction pieces inspired by people I’d met and places I’d lived. Some of the pieces began to link up with others to create a longer narrative. I didn’t intend to write a book, but describing that process is what this Blog is all about.