Saturday, April 24, 2010

There But For Fortune

It's a cool, gray morning that promises to evolve into more of the same in the afternoon and evening.  We find ourselves with the first day of "nothing to do" in the new house, between projects, or waiting for various stars to align to start some.  A very dear friend, an old Peace Corps colleague now living with her partner in Australia, has offered to make us a quilt for the house and deliver it--in person--sometime in 2011.  So one thing that has kept me busy this morning is this website which has dazzled me and taught me in one session more about quilts than I ever imagined existed.  Steve and I have been tasked with choosing a pattern.  Once our choice passes muster with our quilting friend, we will delve into details of color.  This promises to be fascinating, an experience topped off with a visit from Roz and Lib, whom we have not seen since our once-in-a-lifetime visit to Australia and New Zealand in 2005.  It's one more lovely thing to be grateful for.

I also read the online version of the Washington Post, something I try to do fairly regularly, if I can stand yet more reports of the ever deepening chasm between viewpoints in this country, and the lunatics who really do threaten to take over the asylum.  I saw that the IMF has prescribed a remedy for our current international economic ills:  somehow getting the "developed world" to scale back its consumption and, concomitantly, its relatively luxe way of life.  The dollar must lower in value or the Chinese must raise the value of their currency.  Either way, it would mean that Steve and I may no longer be able to go to Ollie's overstock outlet and pay cents on the dollar for a dining room rug, say, or buy cheap nuts and bolts for our new deck.  Such prospects bring home for me one more time how incredibly lucky we have been in so many ways, for so many years.  When I say "we" I speak specifically of Steve and me, but the good luck has applied to countless of our contemporaries who happened to find themselves making their lives in Washington, DC, and other big cities, during the past few decades, riding the gravy train of good salaries that higher education could command, and not really too long ago.  In Steve's and my immediate case, we decided what had to come next, got out while the getting was good, and had the means to build, literally, our future.  Yes, we were smart enough to make plans.  But we were just plain lucky to be able to realize them.

There is one gift from my time on the planet that just keeps on giving, and that is my time spent in a poor country with the Peace Corps.  It continues to remind me to take none of the good life I have for granted.  I know that there are people elsewhere who are exactly like me except for the opportunities that are my birthright, and from that difference flow so many others.  "There but for fortune go I" is an old saying I became familiar with when Phil Ochs worked it into a song in the 1960s.  Never a day goes by that I don't remember it, especially now, during such personal good times.  Steve and I may have been smart.  But we had a huge, undeserved and completely accidental leg up along the way.

8 comments:

Zoey and Me said...

I've been selling property, really retirement dream homes, to people in our age group, older ones too, mostly to people who sold a house in a big city for big bucks and sized down here in Florida. I shared the wealth over the years and put two great kids through private colleges. I will admit times are much harder now and I never, ever, thought I'd see both the stock market and housing market go down at the same time. It will take years for many people to put their lives back on track. So yes, you and Steve hit it in the window at the right moment and that is luck. But you also worked hard for it. Our selling our house up in DC meant more house and more money and got me into real estate. Somehow we now have to put humpty dumpty back together again.

Ralph said...

That'll happen, Z&M, we know it will because of the cyclical nature of life. What nobody knows is how long the current cycle will take to run out. We did exactly as your clients did: sell out of a rich area and buy into a less-rich one. Wish we could have helped you out in Florida.

Cuidado said...

I loved your post, Ralph. You're ending the Days of Transition in a way with time to reflect on where you've been and gone. You're very astute too in your understanding.

Ralph said...

Thanks, Cuidado. I do live with a constant awareness that everything could change in a heartbeat. Never know from around which corner that proverbial Mac could suddenly appear.

NeldaDotson0788 said...

A stitch in time saves nine. .........................................

Paula said...

Thought-provoking post that I sure can relate to. I have always felt lucky to have been "born at the right time," and Phil Ochs' words and music always seem to resonate with me. However our retirement real estate experience was somewhat the opposite of yours. The housing market in rural NY has always been depressed so moving away -- even to Southwestern Ohio--meant movin' on up in price even while downsizing. Location, location, location! Enjoy the quilt research. What a wonderful friend you have.

Ralph said...

Very, very interesting, Paula. Yes, one of the luckiest strokes I had personally was to be native to the DC area, which in my lifetime became, among other things, a super-heated real estate market that made this new life possible. Pure serendipity.

The quilt conversations with Roz have been very fruitful and ours promises to be gorgeous!

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