I lift my plaques of ten, twenty, and thirty years of service from my office wall and place them in the brown produce box. The philodendron vine, pried from the window sill, bundle in a chaotic heap. I spend hours culling decade-old files and books attempting to clear my office. In two weeks, I retire from full-time teaching at Edmonds Community College.
Waves of sadness, excitement, relief, and anxiety move through me. I picture myself standing knee deep in swirling water where the mouth of the river meets the ocean. I began teaching in my early twenties and rode the waters of this career at white-water speed to now, an expanse before me.
When my children were adolescents, I appreciated Mary Pipher's Reviving Ophelia, a book about the development of young women in our culture. One image in particular became a part of my world view; Pipher described adolescence as a border between childhood and adulthood. She saw this transition as a zone as rich in abundant diversity as an estuary. I have come to see all transitions as borderlands dense with creative energy.
I suspect it is this season in my life that the name of the local art supply store keeps coming to mind. The name? The Artist's Edge. Perhaps our major and minor transitions are edges that make us pay attention to where we step, pull our chin up to witness the vista, remind us of the dynamic nature of life.
Retirement is a big change, but it all boils down to living our minutes differently. I am a bit worried about handling my daily schedule without the imposed work schedule. I know me. I get restless. If the day is too open, I fritter time away. I need structure, but I also tend to fill my days with activities and appointments which can crowd out intended writing time.
It seems then that transitions relate to daily schedules as well as life's rites of passages. Yes, I intend to schedule my days as best I can, but at the risk of sounding simplistic, my other solution to encouraging creative productivity is going to be well-timed walks.
Writing mentors and brain specialists alike tout the benefits of a walk in the midst of creative angst, fatigue, or the need to problem solve. I add the need to focus when a new schedule can make us feel untethered. Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules, says we evolved from ancestors who solved life and death issues while moving. Walking can allow our bodies to support our creative thinking.
The best way to live into our borderlands is to walk along our artist's edge. May you spirited women, enjoy the tides of life's rhythms and net the creative energy that arises on the swells of change.
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