Joys of retirement include time for nature, nurturing relationships

Rev. Candace McKibben
 |  Guest columnist

I had heard that you can find yourself busier in retirement than when you were working, but it seemed unlikely. I have joined the chorus of those retirees who say, “I do not know how I ever had time to work.” Time is relative, I know, but it seems relatively shorter as I grow older and more comfortable in the joys of retirement.

One such joy is being in nature. And there is no better time to be out than the spring, when the leaves are turning that magnificent green shade of new growth and the flowers from vines, trees, shrubs, and plants sprinkle the landscape with color.

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Walking deep in the woods of Tom Brown Park one recent cold day, we saw a magnificent display of bright yellow flowers covering a large fallen oak tree which may have touched down years ago from the looks of it. The contrast of old and new, bright and dark, brittle and supple, made a stunning impression.

Being able to schedule a daily walk around the weather, or a commitment, or a felt need to be immersed in the healing balm of nature, is a joy of retirement.

Investing in relationships

Another joy of retirement is time to invest in relationships. Each week I have several women who meet at my home for a tea party of sorts, where we share our joys and concerns.

As humans, we have long understood that the table is a place not only for eating, but for important conversations, which is why many family therapists recommend making family meals a priority. Sitting down together improves nutrition and, as importantly, a sense of belonging. As my friends and I have listened to each other over the past year or so around the table, our relationships have deepened. And I am grateful.

I also have closer relationships with my neighbors. Recently several of us gathered in the cul-de-sac, all just happening to be in our yards at the same time. Before retirement, I might have not gone out to say hello with so many chores to complete before sunset. But now, I can save a chore or two for the next day and tend to the important business of getting to know my neighbors better.

Time to cook

Yet another joy of retirement has been the time to cook. I have tried more new recipes since I retired from Big Bend Hospice in June 2020 than I have in many years. I have learned how to use the computer, rather than my worn but beloved cookbooks, to prepare meals, complete with video demonstrations that have taught me how to be a better cook.

Who knew you could wrap damp paper towels in foil to create a belt for your cake pans if your oven does not cook level layers? Who understood that the longer you cream the butter for a cake, the more air it contains, which helps it to rise?

Just this week I tried an olive oil orange sugar cookie recipe that I read about in Jamelle Bouie’s excellent New York Times Opinion Column in early February. In 66 years, I have never baked a cookie with olive oil, cardamom, and turmeric. It was not only adventuresome, but it was also as delicious as promised.

The gift of grandchildren

Perhaps the greatest joy in retirement is spending time with grandchildren. I realize how fortunate I am to have this gift of loving your children’s children. With 10 grandchildren from ages 2 to 19, I am blessed beyond measure. My husband and I spent five days this past week caring for our youngest while her parents celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in Chicago.

Carter is a petite bundle of energy who loves to hop, jump, run and twirl, and expects you to do the same. She is the line leader, the teacher, and the drill sergeant barking orders. She effortlessly moves from the floor to the couch to the chair and back again quicker than I ever remember moving. She gives kisses and hugs freely. She reminds me of my own once little ones and the wonder of time marching on.

As we continue to face numerous serious challenges globally, and sometimes personally, it is important for us all to find ways to create time to appreciate the joys of life that are yet available to us. Perhaps you will celebrate the first day of spring on this Sunday.

Welcome spring, lighten spirits

We are blessed with more than 700 miles of trails in our community, and you are sure to find Springtime magic along any of them. If you prefer driving to walking, Tallahassee roadways are never more beautifully adorned by nature than they are right now. An old-fashioned Sunday afternoon drive might be in order.

Maybe you will connect with a friend or family member to let them know how grateful you are for them. We have learned in the pandemic just how much relationships mean to our wellbeing. And many of us have become more intentional about nurturing relationships, to the betterment of us all.

Perhaps you will invest in whatever hobby brings you delight, whether cooking or sewing or gardening or golfing. We all need to indulge our creative selves to lighten our spirits and stir our souls.

I understand that not everyone has grandchildren or that sometimes family dynamics sadly prevent close relationships with grandchildren, but I hope that everyone has a child with whom they can connect. Children need loving adults now more than ever.

Perhaps that child is someone you know in your faith community or neighborhood or extended family. Maybe you can volunteer to mentor a child with the Leon County School system. The joy of a child is infectious and can help heal our troubled hearts and minds with innocent hope.

I also understand that everyone is not able to retire or desires to do so if they can. As a self-avowed workaholic, I wondered how it might be for me. Gratefully, I have found many joys to fuel my days and pray that you might find joy, too, retired or not.

The Rev. Candace McKibben is an ordained minister and pastor of Tallahassee Fellowship.

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