I retired yesterday and decided to declare 4:00 pm as the end point of my teaching career. My wife Jody and I have a lovely home on a deep lot. At the back of our lot are maybe 20 metres of trees, and then it’s on to a farmer’s field and beyond that a wide expanse of trees leading down into a ravine.
Taking my trusty red fabric chair in hand, not to mention a Bacardi Breezer, I trundled off to a spot at the edge of the field and plunked myself down. It was 3:00 o’clock. The sky was blue. The wind whistled through the trees. The shade was cool. One hour away from being a retired human being.
My mind raced. Then my mind stopped. Then raced again. How to analyze a career? (Don’t) Who are the dear souls I want to think about? (It’s okay if no one comes to mind) What are the moments of grace in the classroom and on the yard? (You may not remember)
So I let go. Not just into a meditative state, but into an okayness with whatever showed up. There was nothing to accomplish in this hour. “Bruce, let it all flow over you.” So I did.
I wanted birds. My sitting would be better with birds. For some of the time, no birds appeared. But I knew that birds often flew the sky in front of me. There was bird energy all around. And then they showed up. As many as five turkey vultures at one time, with their high arcs of swoop, sometimes way up there and sometimes almost touching the treetops. When there was only one vulture, I wanted two. Then that urge was gone, and I thought of the “ugly faces” that some folks see, somehow missing the glories of five feet of wing soaring so sweetly.
On the far side of the soybean field, the trees stretched in a wide arc. I wanted to know their names. I couldn’t remember many of the species I saw. And then … poof! The names meant nothing at all. Trees were there, just standing there, being trees.
Way off to the right, I heard the highway to Port Stanley. Trees blocked my view of the cars. That’s good – I need to have quiet. But then … I missed the people. I want to see the cars. The only note of civilization I could glimpse from my spot was one backyard. Good. I don’t want to be with people … But I love people. Why isn’t there anyone in the yard for me to wave to? And hey, aren’t I supposed to be thinking about my career? After all, it’s 3:23.
And then I just sat. All these thoughts, zooming every which way. “Bruce, they’re all okay.” There’s no right way to sit and watch.
The field rolled to my twin horizons. Such graceful curves of land. The trees stood there – light green, dark green, a few of them dead. Birds came and went. I thought of a kid. I thought of a school. I thought of nothing.
I had brought a fancy watch that I received from my school board as a retirement present. At 3:55, I put my eight fingers inside the metal band. “Thank you” bubbled up, and it didn’t matter who it was aimed at.
At 3:59, I started watching the second hand count me down to a new life. And guess what? It arrived. I threw my arms into the air and smiled. Wherever I am now is very fine. I think I’ll write.