Mid-January. I can count on consistent cold for at least another couple of months. My rational mind knows better, but I sometimes wonder whether the sun permanently has vanished behind thick and impenetrable gray clouds, low, menacing, and, I fear, heavily laden with icy moisture. No bright end in sight. I sigh.
These days I feel cold a lot of the time. I try to limit my forays into the great outdoors, much to the dismay of Lola the pup. She looks up at me hopefully. Nothing happens. She sighs and puts her head down.
There recently have even been days when I take to wearing heavy clothes inside my house, multiple layers, which might include a North Face down vest or my ridiculous Chilly Willy style beanie. Appearances be damned, so long as I can stay warm! When I am alone at night, I sometimes climb into bed nearly fully clothed so as to avoid touching the cold sheets with my bare flesh. (I still draw the line when it comes to wearing socks in bed, of course, but would be lying if I said I hadn’t been sorely tempted to violate this rule on especially frosty nights.)
I fret. Is this interminable cold a sign of creeping old age? A warning sign perhaps of poor circulation, or anemia, or kidney disease, or a thyroid problem? These thoughts are too depressing for me even to consider consulting my doctor—and certainly not before the temperatures considerably improve.
Furthermore, I prefer to think my current state of mind is the result of a bad case of the winter doldrums. The only sure cure I know of would be to “get out of Dodge” until it passes.
For many years, I have had this daydream that one day I would relocate to an exotic and foreign locale to live out my dotage surrounded by lush greenery, mountains, and nearby waters. I would dive into local culture. I would acquire new or improved language skills. A place where year around temperatures stay moderate, even at elevation, encouraging a happier and more energetic lifestyle.
For many years I earnestly investigated potential landing spots. I conducted serious and practical research about housing conditions, property rights, infrastructure, weather, climate, any unique or special environmental issues, medical resources, schools and universities, and made lists of the respective pros and cons for each target locale. I consulted government reports, including publicly available CIA and State Department reports, for reliable information about political and economic conditions. I communicated with expatriated Americans (and Canadians) to gather anecdotal evidence concerning their personal day-to-day experiences. And, once I felt that I had complied sufficient data about a country, I would take one or more field trips. Boots on the ground, so to speak.
There was a time when I enthusiastically would regale anyone willing to listen about this daydream, and Lee most of all. She took seriously my statements that I could pull stakes, but good naturedly made it clear that she could not, certainly not on a permanent basis that would require us to move to one of the exotic foreign destinations on my working list of potential exotic foreign destinations. With each passing year, as Lee’s long anticipated retirement started to acquire corporeal form, she warmed to an idea of compromise solution. We called it, “getting out of Dodge.” A fair and good compromise, indeed, which we never got the chance to explore because just after Lee retired, she got sick and died.
When Lee was still employed in her government job, we had managed to take many memorable journeys together. Sometimes, when I am looking at a particularly memorable photograph, I might feel a sudden and momentary surge of the joy that I felt just being with her.
You can learn a lot about someone just by being with her in close quarters for an extended period. Lee and I were in love, and already had been together for years, yet it was not until we returned home from one of our extended journeys that we knew we could, and would, successfully share one life.
At times I am frustrated that I have not so far taken advantage of circumstances to experience even my short form daydream. These days, I describe myself as being semi-retired, though my former business partner might argue this is understatement. Regardless, the fact remains that I basically could work from anywhere on the planet with nothing more than a computer and reliable internet connection. Even if I stopped working altogether, I think I would have the financial wherewithal to support permanent relocation, and probably sufficient funds to support annual extended travels.
Currently there are three potential impediments: covid, Lola the pup, and Robyn. Covid is an impediment. It could turn out that we get bombarded with new and virulent strains that rule out extended travel to any “exotic,” i.e., foreign destination, for the remainder of my days.
By now you might know that while I am a bit of a cynic, I also am ever the optimist. Lately I have been reading about the concept of acquiring “super immunity,” which presumably would mean a return to a semblance of daily life approaching pre-pandemic norms. I am “vaxxed” and boosted. I have been infected with breakthrough covid. So why not me?
As for sweet Robyn, she is a grown woman with a life of her own that she had been running smoothly enough for long years before she had any inkling I even existed. She has grown children and grandchildren, most of whom reside locally. She still works full time. It is not fair of me to even suggest that Robyn should be viewed as some type of impediment. It is far more likely that I am being a petty and selfish man, who simply wants to have it both ways.
If Lola is an impediment, then that’s entirely on me. I pride myself on planning and research, yet in Lola’s case I never stopped to consider her impact on my ability to engage in extended travels. Although Craig had warned me off getting a dog, this conversation had occurred very shortly after Lee’s death, at a time when I could not have felt more alone or more hangdog. (For more on this subject see my article, “Please allow me to introduce myself,” published here on February 4, 2021.)
Around the same time, I found Lola, whose birth date is July 28, 2020, through an out of state breeder. I brought her back home when was seven or eight weeks’ old. Since then, I have come to realize that, despite being so darn cute, dogs like her are not welcome everywhere. Indeed, she could even have a problem returning with me to the United States from an exotic foreign destination, which frankly seems a little un-American given that she was born here, too.
I am informed that air travel can be hazardous for animals and Lola’s veterinarian strongly discourages such travel for her. Although I have not categorically ruled out extended travels abroad with Lola, I am strongly inclined to follow the dog doctor’s advice.
If I had it to do over, knowing what I now know, would I have taken Craig’s advice and passed on getting any dog? Today, all I can tell you is that Lola is my dog and I’m her guy. I can’t look past the fact that when I sorely needed a friend and companion, Lola unhesitatingly and unquestioningly was there for me. Perhaps I will recalibrate my daydream down to the size of an extended road trip. Lola does seem to enjoy riding along with me in the Subaru mini, and courtesy of Robyn these days I have a powerful and compact vacuum to keep it free of dog hair.
It’s amazing! Merely writing this piece has temporarily brightened my mood. I believe I will pull up the shades now and let in a few hours of weak daylight.