This, Our Valley


It’s often safer to be in chains than to be free – Franz Kafka

In the early stages of retirement, I’m beginning to think that freedom is an over-rated concept.

I was hoping that retirement would allow us more time to do what we enjoy, although why anyone would want to spend more time sitting around doing nothing is quite a mystery. It has given me more time to count my pennies at the end of each month, but after about three and a half seconds I find myself wondering, what next?

It really isn’t that bad, however. I am still an early riser, so I get to go online and discover whether or not the world has survived the night without my leadership or input. The good news is that it is still safely in God’s hands, although there are enough greasy souls engaged in misbehavior that it’s no surprise that at times the good Lord’s fingers seem to be losing their grip on things.

Still, the universe at any given time is just as it should be, so I can concentrate on taking care of my side of the street and leaving the running of the universe to the Boss.

One reason I can get on with my day is I know from the get-go that everything will be OK. How do I know that? Well, for one thing, I have a friend who lives in the down under and I sometimes chat with him when I get up. The other day it was about 6 a.m. locally here and just past midnight for him there. If the world ended today, he couldn’t be there tomorrow, so all is well!

Much of our time, since retiring, has actually been devoted to working in and around the house to make it a home. The low-maintenance yard has been anything but. That promise was a complete fabrication by the seller (AKA LIE), but it is what it is and, although it takes more to keep it up than what I was wanting or envisioning, it really is a pleasant space for leisure living (which is what I call it when I collapse face-down on the lawn after mowing).

It is now in the sort of shape and condition where, if we wanted to, we could take time off to get away. It seems we humans always expect paradise to be somewhere else, and never where we are. On the other hand, if you knew what sorts of things go through my mind on a regular basis, you would know why I would want to get away – and the disappointment of discovering, wherever I get to, that there I am! Drats!!!

Freedom is a challenge, that’s for sure. It isn’t the money (although I wondered about that at first), but the sudden access to forty or fifty hours a week we never had before. The first thing I did to help compensate for the influx of time was learn to slow down. When I go grocery shopping, I may have a list with five items, but it takes me forever, because now I have time to read every label of every competing brand of the same thing I am wanting to buy (tough to read that small print, isn’t it?).

I move so slowly that I picked up a small bunch of green bananas the other day and by the time I got to the checkout, they were yellow!

Retirement, though, is a lot like coming up from scuba diving. You need to come to the surface slowly so you don’t get the bends. Ironically, I don’t bend as well as I did before, so maybe I should get going a little faster!

Retirement is also a lot like riding a bicycle. When I got my first bike as a kid, I discovered that as scary as it might be to go fast, it was also exhilarating. More than that, though, is if you stop, you fall over! The same goes for retirement. Don’t stop! And don’t let your pants leg get caught in the bike chain.

Beyond that, there’s not much to say. Keep moving. Use the wisdom you’ve accumulated over the decades. Be kind to one another. And remember, without links, a chain is useless, so stay connected, for it turns out that’s where true freedom lies in this, our valley.


Keith Axberg writes on matters concerning life and faith. He can be reached at

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65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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