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Maybe it was time to downsize, Sharon White thought as she looked around her house. She had just spent fifteen minutes tidying it up, and it was clean because there was no one but herself anymore to mess it up. Even the last traces of drywall dust—from repairs necessitated when someone deliberately felled a tree on her house—were gone, and every knick-knack gleamed.

She surveyed the house around her. Three bedrooms had seemed fine when her two children lived at home, but what did she need them for anymore? Creede and Mandy both lived in Spokane; she wasn’t likely to see her ex-husband again, and she wasn’t even dating. Simple logic said to downsize, cut out the commute, cut her losses and start over closer to her son and daughter, and especially to William, her only grandchild. She hadn’t been around a little baby in a very long time.

She didn’t really want to pack and move, though. Moving would mean leaving behind a lifetime of friends and relationships. They would only be an hour away, but she was realistic. That was as good as halfway across the country. She would miss her friends, her neighbor Helen and her delicious baking, and her co-workers at the nursing home. It would be a huge step.

She decided to think about it a bit more. Looking out the window at the back hillside, she could see the stump of the tamarack that fell on the house, its cut surface still pale and unweathered. Ranging around and behind it up the hillside were more stumps: she had hired someone to cut every tree within reach of the house, and the hillside looked sad and empty. She sighed and turned away.

She decided to walk to Helen’s house for a bit of motherly advice. It was warm enough now in late May, though some of the highest hilltops still had old crusts of snow in the shadows of trees and hillocks. From her house to Helen’s was about three quarters of a mile, ‘a good stretch of the legs’ as the old John Wayne movie said. By the time she passed the alfalfa field on the property behind hers, the rhythm of walking had emptied her mind of all anxieties.

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