Home My Vegetable Love Weathering Winter Taking Retirement Letters to Kate The Made-Up Self Essayists on the Essay A Self Made of Words
February 27, 1997

In the midst of such fretting, there's nothing like the spectacle of a tomato seedling just beginning to emerge, its neck arching out of the soil. Only four days after being planted, thanks to the warmth of the living room radiator directly under the seed tray. So I christen it with a little mist from Kate's spray bottle and think of the months ahead. I imagine myself taking up watercolors, so I can do detailed studies of emergent seedlings. I'm inspired by the ethereally beautiful, larger-than-life watercolor of leeks by our dear friend Jo Ann-a lovely pair, suspended in mid-air-that arrived late yesterday afternoon as the climactic present in Kate's birthday bounty. Better to look forward rather than back. Better to focus on the joy rather than the sadness of my coming retirement. Better to stop spouting such platitudes lest I turn into a latter-day Polonious and not come to terms with the fact that it's time for me to leave but I'm not yet ready to let go of what I've been doing for almost two-thirds of my life. And I don't know if I'll ever be ready. Now I'm beginning to understand why some of my older colleagues seemed so prickly or distant when they were facing retirement.

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