Name: Noreen Morris.
Hometown: Drimoleague, County Cork, Ireland. She now lives in Bellingham.
Family: Morris is the fifth of 10 children in an Irish Catholic family. Five of her siblings live in Ireland, one lives in England, two live in Canada and one lives in the United States.
Backed into retirement: Morris, who trained in England to be a nurse and midwife, didn't plan to retire when she did.
In fact, she thought she wanted to work for the rest of her life. But eventually an old back injury made it difficult to hold a full-time job.
"It kind of drags me down as the day goes on," she says. "A friend tells me I should just go to a chiropractor. I'll try that one of these days. But basically, my health is quite good."
Little planning: In part because she didn't intend to retire, Morris did not prepare much financially for retirement.
"I was a very bad planner for growing old," she says. "You assume you're going to be healthy."
Getting by: Fortunately, Morris earned a good salary as a nurse. It also helps that she works for Bellingham Food Bank, rents a moderately priced apartment and collects Social Security.
"My Social Security is quite adequate, actually," she says.
Medical career: When she was 25, Morris crossed the Atlantic to work at Toronto General Hospital, and practiced nursing in North America ever since.
"I never had a problem getting a job," she says.
Warmer pastures: "I thought, 'There must be a place warmer than Toronto,'" Morris says of her move to San Francisco in 1963. When she wasn't nursing at various hospitals there, she enjoyed visiting museums, playing tennis in Golden Gate Park and skiing in the Sierra Mountains.
"It's a wonderful place to live," she says.
New path: Almost a decade into her time in San Francisco, Morris met a teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and became a Buddhist.
"I guess I must have been looking to find myself," she says.
She spent the next five years in a Buddhist community in Vermont, meditating and studying Buddhist theory. She taught there, but says "I did a lot of learning myself."
She sometimes gave interviews at nearby radio stations about Buddhism and meditation.
"It's a long journey," she says. "It's about realizations, so that takes a long time to happen."
Back west: Morris returned to California to work in the intensive-care unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She later moved to Ojai, Calif., where she enjoyed watching blue whales enter Santa Barbara's deep harbor.
Back east: Morris' next spiritual adventure was a three-year Buddhist retreat at a monastery in Nova Scotia, Canada. Her teacher, who started the retreat, wanted people to keep experiencing the world rather than stay for three straight years, so she worked in hospice and home health every other year.
At the end, she had earned the title "lama," meaning she's a spiritual teacher, or mentor.
Tackles fear with tranquility: Morris moved to Bellingham about three years ago after a friend in Vancouver, B.C., suggested it. She teaches classes at Bellingham Senior Activity Center; one on Buddhist meditation and one about dying.
"Human beings are intelligent," she says. "They can deal with their fears in an intelligent way, provided they are gentle with themselves and they can relax."
Easy does it: Morris is as relaxed in her approach to retirement planning as she is about most other things in her life, because Buddhism influences everything she does.
"It changes your whole attitude," she says. "You work with your fear and anxiety in a different way. You become more practical and more aware."
Bellinghamster, for now: Some of Morris' other favorite things to do at the senior center include the book-discussion program and a group in which people come together to sing American songs, including classics by Woody Guthrie and Rodgers and Hammerstein.
California dreamin': Although Morris enjoys her life in Bellingham, the Golden State is still on her mind.
"I don't know if I'll go back to California," she says, "but I could get a job if I did. I'll see what happens here."
Gina Cole is a Bellingham freelance writer.