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I awoke to the sound of cicadas and other insects in a symphony of fluctuating volumes. The sound was like a flock of birds rising and falling, spreading apart and then flying back together into a collective formation overhead. If I listened closely I could hear the flow of a small waterfall nearby. A cool breeze wafted in through the open window. We were in the mountains of Western North Carolina on a long-awaited vacation. Only the fourth guests in a newly built cabin in the woods that was supposed to be a couple’s retirement home until the economy or other factors changed their plans. When we reserved the cabin, the owner was very communicative and it was easy to feel her love of the area and her struggle with the new plan of renting it out to strangers, this dream home she’d been thinking about from design to completion for many years. When we walked around the cabin upon arrival, it was clear where they’d stopped finishing it for permanent residency. Washer/dryer hookups were vacant of machines. A television cabinet sat in the corner without a television. No internet or landline telephone. Beautiful details on the permanent stuff (sinks, fireplace mantel and ceiling fans), but cheap mattresses and cooking ware. You could almost experience the moment they altered their plans.

We had the place for a week. And without even cell phone reception, we couldn’t get trapped into our normal routines of surfing the net, responding to texts, emails, phone messages. I thought I might feel disconnected from the world. But the opposite was true. Without work obligations and the constant tapping on the shoulder from technology, I was more connected. Hiking, kayaking, sightseeing of the many waterfalls and amazing mountain views, sleeping in, reading a novel or simply being still and listening to the sounds of nature all around me provided incredible restoration. I could empathize with the woman who thought she would be experiencing this sooner than later. I wondered if she is simply postponing her plans or reconciling with the truth that it will never be the way she imagined.

Life is tricky like that. I hope she will gain some satisfaction from sharing her dream place with others, allowing many to enjoy and appreciate the mountains and the solitude of her place. (And I hope she makes time to vacation here herself as often as possible.) Because for us and many others, the key will be to incorporate the joys of “retirement living” into daily life rather than waiting for that magic age when it all comes together. And a place like this can aid the imagination of how to make that work.