This month’s post explores an Agile Aging challenge: How can we preserve a tranquil private life while keeping informed about turbulent public affairs?

I’ll lead off with the recent family incident that bumped this simmering tension to my front burner. Then a few personal preconceptions about striking a sustainable balance. Next, the experiences and opinions of a Zoom circle of friends who agreed to share their own perspectives. Finally, some takeaways to distil what we’ve been learning together. 

My blog’s Walkabout series takes me out and about our retirement community’s Portola Valley neighborhood. Visual impairment has terminated my driving but spurred me to explore on foot. Although our small town is more rural than suburban, within a mile of our campus can be found a grocery store and a farmers’ market, a public middle school and a Benedictine prep school, two restaurants, town-government offices, a public library, an auto mechanic and a fire station. A bounty of opportunities for getting better acquainted.

This month I visited our two neighborhood restaurants. One well-established and respected, the other just starting up, both are owned and operated by immigrant couples. After introducing myself and my blog project, I was invited for cordial, candid conversations with the owners. Their small-business histories and strategies were fascinating. Their personal life stories were inspirational. 

What images come to mind when you conjure up Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack London? For me, scheming pirates and straining sled dogs. Treasure Island and The Call of the Wild were among my most alluring childhood fantasies, first encountered in Classics Illustrated comic books, soon graduating to hard-cover editions.

What a treat in old age to explore both these bards’ Northern California connections. It turns out our region was crucially formative in their lives and in their work. Here are some notes from a recent expedition.

Friend and blog subscriber Bob Collins got me started with an emailed challenge. After conveying appreciation for my recent Walkabouts post, he asked if I couldn’t lower my sights from migratory wildfowl to skirmishing humans. Bob’s specific interest was in toxic disinformation, but his broader context was America’s electoral turmoil. He encouraged me to draw upon my international policy-advising experience to offer any national insights.

Now that visual impairment is prohibiting my driving, I’m deliberately transitioning to pedestrian explorations. Moving slower, covering less ground, but looking more, noticing more and garnering small enjoyments. I’ve already identified a dozen intriguing destinations to visit, a short hike from our retirement community’s front gate. Others will require Nancy’s transport and companionship to reach more remote, walkable sites. Apart from the pleasures of discovery, the physical-exercise benefits should be immediate.

September took Nancy and me on a 2,500-mile road trip around the Four Corners region of the American Southwest. It was a delight to explore this area’s diverse histories and cultures, archaeology and architecture, landscapes and literature.

Our 2+ weeks away also gave us the time and distance we needed to begin adjusting to our old age’s new phase.