They call it the Third Act—that period between your late 50s and your late 80s—when, if you’re lucky, you have the time and good health to reinvent yourself into something that no longer resembles a cog in a wheel.
I’m at the beginning of my own Third Act, and so far it’s both engaging and wonderfully understimulating.
My husband and I recently left the Bay Area, which had become simply too crowded, speedy, and noisy for our sensibilities, and now make our home on beautiful Whidbey Island, Washington.
South Whidbey is full of artists, small business owners, farmers, and fishermen who all say, “Welcome to the island!” when they hear we’re newcomers. I’m fortunate to be able to work remotely, which gives me time to explore my new surroundings, from miles of gorgeous coastline, to art galleries, breweries, and wineries around every corner and field.
A few weeks ago, I did something I’ve never done before:
I picked cranberries in a cranberry bog.
I realize that might seem a little anticlimactic—it’s not like skydiving or bungee jumping or riding a camel through the Sahara. It certainly wasn’t on my bucket list.
But it was deeply satisfying, in a primal hunter-gatherer kind of way. The slight squish and give of the spongy ground under my black rubber boots. The smell of the warm, peaty soil as I knelt to pick the berries, my face practically touching the earth. The juicy berries themselves—varying from the bright red of a maraschino cherry, to the deep red of a burgundy wine, to a dark purplish brown, like little kalamata olives. And of course, the satisfying heft of my sack as it grew heavier and heavier with my harvesting.
I’ve been to this bog twice now, once with Karen, the woman who told me about it, and once alone. Each time I must have picked more than three pounds in just over an hour.
When I came the first time with Karen, I was thrilled to get the invite. What fun to be able to chat leisurely with a new friend as we moved slowly across the ground plucking the glorious fruit—like a new kind of play date! And how wonderful that no one else seemed to know about this bog. It’s not a private farm with a “U Pick ‘Em” kind of deal; it’s just a nondescript field there beside the road. I’d already driven by it dozens of times on my way to the grocery store without being aware of its succulent storehouse of riches.
And now I, too, know about this special place. Such a beautiful, open secret.
The second time, I came alone and found myself stopping often to sit back on my heels and take in where I was, to listen to the ravens and watch the spiders building their webs. It was then that a line from a Rumi poem came to me: “There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground; there are a thousand ways to go home again.”
For me, that’s what my Third Act seems to be about: finding new ways to “kneel and kiss the ground.” New ways to come home—to myself, and to life outside of a pressure-filled job that often pinched like a too-tight corset. To vast land and sea and sky that fill me with such a deep sense of peace and contentment.
Other people’s Third Acts no doubt look very different, which is part of the beauty of “coming home.” Each home has its own design, décor, and feel, particular to its inhabitants.
A couple of weeks ago, I overheard two women talking in the local coffee house. They looked to be in their own Third Act, sitting with watercolors and sketch pads spread out across the table, talking about their explorations with painting. “It’s like I can do anything I want with the lines and color!” said one in amazement. “Yes! You can!” said the other.
I’m at the beginning of my own Third Act, and who knows what the rest of the story will look like. No doubt there will be art and travel and community work involved—and cranberry sauce at this year’s Thanksgiving meal.
Meanwhile, here’s to us all, whatever stage of life we may be in, as we kneel and kiss the ground and call a more beautiful world into being.