Sunday, July 17, 2016


As a child, I didn't think much of raspberries. Growing up in northern British Columbia, Canada, raspberries seemed ubiquitous, and therefore of little account. My parents had a large garden with a sizeable patch of raspberry canes, as well currants, gooseberries, strawberries, rhubarb, and northern hardy fruit trees. From a young age, I was expected to help pick raspberries, a never-ending task. At that age, I think more raspberries found their way into my mouth than into the picking pail. My mom made raspberry pies, which I was always happy to eat, as well as jelly and jam. 

In my later childhood, after a brief interlude of staying with my aunt in what had been my Grandma's downtown house while my parents sold the first house and bought another, we moved to a different house in the same town. At my aunt's house, there was a large raspberry patch. My Dad said that he had put that patch in for his mom when she had moved into town from the farm. Those raspberry canes came from the family farm where my grandparents had homesteaded when they first moved to the valley. 

So when we moved to our new house on the hill which had only flower gardens, my parents had to start over in developing a vegetable and fruit garden. Dad brought some raspberry canes up from my aunt's house. They thrived and multiplied. As all of us grew up and moved away and the raspberry patch expanded, the picking and processing of raspberries became a time consuming job for my Mom every summer. She made and froze pies to supply to church and community events throughout the upcoming year. Every summer she made dozens and dozens of jars of raspberry jam and raspberry jelly, as well as cherry, currant, gooseberry, and  plum jam and jelly. She supplied all of her friends and the soup kitchen/food bank with jam. Every time we visited, we came away with a boxful of jars of her homemade jellies and jams. And still there was jam to spare. 

When I left home to go to university and then in the early years of my career, I moved a lot. For a period of fifteen years, I moved on average twice a year. The longest I stayed in one place was in my first house in Regina, where we lived for 21/2 years. During that period of my life, I lived in university residences, in apartments, with my boyfriend's parents, in a shared house, in rental houses, and in my own house. Few of those places had yards, and those that had yards did not have fruit or vegetable gardens. The only place that I lived in all of those years that had a raspberry patch was my boyfriend's parents' place. In every place with a yard, I would develop a little vegetable garden, only to move on again before the garden really started to thrive.

During those years without a garden, I came to appreciate raspberries. I would look at the tiny cartons of raspberries in the grocery stores, and could never bring myself to buy them at the outrageous prices, knowing that they would taste insipid compared to fresh-picked ones that I was used to. Store-bought jams tasted so processed and overly sweet. When we visited my parents in northern BC, I spent time in the raspberry patch, happily eating raspberries and helping my Mom pick. 

When we bought our second house in southern BC, we put in a vegetable garden and a raspberry patch, and planted a plum tree and a cherry tree. We stayed there long enough - five years - to benefit from the vegetable garden and raspberries, but not the fruit trees. When we moved back to northern BC and bought our third house, I made a trip to my parent's town. My dad dug up some of my Grandma's raspberry canes and I brought them home and planted them. This third house had a big yard but no garden, so once again we developed a garden from scratch. We also planted two northern hardy apple trees and a northern cherry tree. We stayed here eleven years. Like my Mom, every summer I made jams and jellies from the raspberries, strawberries, apples, and cherries. 

And then I moved again, to another northern town. Once again, there was no garden. However, there was a decrepit greenhouse, and many fruit trees. I repaired the greenhouse, put in a vegetable garden, and established a raspberry patch, and strawberry patch. Mom divided a gooseberry and black current bush, and provided me with a small plum tree (originally from her Dad's orchard) which I planted in the yard. We enjoyed this house and garden for eight years, then moved to the prairies. 

We have a lovely house here that has been professionally landscaped. But, as I have written before, it had no fruit or vegetable gardens. Two summers ago, I put in raspberry canes and now they are truly thriving and bearing well. So far this summer, I have made a raspberry pie, a raspberry pudding cake, raspberry sauce for pancakes, and frozen some berries. 

Raspberry Pudding Cake

Meanwhile, my Mom who is now in her eighties, has sold her house in northern BC and bought a lovely first floor condo in the downtown area of her community. The house and yard were getting to be too much to manage. However, she struck a deal with the fellow who bought the house (a young man who is not particularly interested in fruit trees and berry bushes) that she can come and pick fruit and berries whenever she wishes. I was talking with her on the phone this week, and she said she had been up to the house to pick raspberries, and has made a couple of batches of jelly and jam. 

My perspective on raspberries has changed. Now I appreciate them, and feel grateful to be able to grow my own, or to savour homemade raspberry jam. Like my Mom, I hate to waste a single berry. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mountain Bike Misadventure

We decided to start off my leave period with a camping holiday in the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park in the southern part of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Neither of us had been there before. We loaded up the truck and camper and headed out about a week ago. 

The Cypress Hills are an interesting anomaly. During the last period of glaciation when ice covered the central part of North America, the area that we now call the Cypress Hills was not covered by glaciers. Rather, the ice, and later the meltwaters, flowed around this area leaving a range of hills about 140 kilometres long standing above the prairies. This stretch of hills has the highest elevation between the Rocky Mountains and Labrador. There are varieties of plants and animals that differ from those on the surrounding prairies. It is a really beautiful area with many trails for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.

We camped in the Elkwater Lake area. On Monday (a week ago) we went on a mountain bike trail ride. We ride our mountain bikes quite regularly, including on trails, although we generally choose easy to moderate routes - not the extreme or highly technical trails.

The bikes and the dog, ready to go. (However, the dog does not get to come with us when we bike. She is a menace on the trails!)

We set off riding through mixed woods and meadows. We were on our way to the Horseshoe Lookout, and we made a short excursion toward Old Baldy to look out over the Lake. From Old Baldy, it was uphill all the way. However, aside from the strenuousness of riding uphill, the trail was wide and easy to ride.

The photo above shows Rob pedalling up the hill. Near the top, there were beautiful fields of wildflowers. At the lookout, we had a terrific view of the prairies to the north and west. We rested and ate our picnic lunch. At this point, we had gone seven kilometres. 

We planned to ride a loop route, taking the Beaver Creek Trail down. Like the Horseshoe Lookout Trail, it was marked as intermediate. We rode along the top on the Plateau Trail for about a kilometre, then dropped down onto the Beaver Creek Trail. A little ways along, the trail narrowed to a single track. Then soon it became very narrow and twisty, with steep little drops and rises, and sharp corners. However, the really challenging part was the roots. There were many big tree roots and rocks on the trail, which made it difficult to ride. Although I have ridden on narrow trails before, this was the most challenging trail I have ridden. It was not at all like the route we had taken up. Oh yes, it was muddy as well, with several narrow bridges. 

And then suddenly, my front wheel hit a root or small stump. The bike stopped dead, and I flew over the handlebars. I landed on the ground with my bike on top of me. In reconstructing the crash, I think I landed on my right forearm and did a kind of a somersault. When Rob came along, I was sitting on the trail yelling "Ow, ow, ow!" along with some choice words. My right arm was in pain; it must have landed on a root. 

Rob took one look at it and said that I had broken my arm. It swelled up instantly and looked distended. He said that he had heard the sound of something snap. 

We fashioned a sling out of Rob's spare long-sleeved shirt. Then we started walking out, down the trail, with Rob pushing both bikes. We were probably close to halfway along this section of the trail when the accident happened. 

It was not a well-used trail. Eventually, two people came along, Olga and Steve from North Vancouver, and they helped us. They walked with me to the Park Information booth so a medic could look at my arm, and drove Rob up to the campsite to get the truck. They were really nice, and I was so grateful for their help. The medics put a splint on it, and then we drove to the Medicine Hat Hospital. 

The emergency room was very busy, and we spent hours there. They X-rayed my arm. While I waited, I contemplated glumly the prospect of starting my leave with a broken right arm. I finally saw the young curly-headed Doctor, who spent most of his brief consultation exclaiming how amazing it was that I am still mountain biking at my age. It turned out that there was no fracture, just soft tissue damage. Yay!

So we went for Thai food, then headed back out to the campground. The rest of the trip, we hiked but didn't bike. I figure that the snapping sound Rob heard was the visor of my bike helmet coming off when I fell. I was using an app on my phone to track our bike trip. Altogether, we had biked and then walked a total of 15 km. 

This photo shows the arm the morning after the crash. Now, a week later, the bruise is even bigger, stretching from above my elbow to the knuckles of my hand. It is still quite sore - but it isn't broken! 

I plan to keep on biking, although perhaps a little more cautiously.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The First Day

On Friday morning, Canada Day, I woke up with a sentence in my mind. The sentence was, "Today is the first day of the rest of my life." A cliche, yes, but also a propos to my current circumstances. As of July 1st, I have left my position as an administrator, and am beginning a ten month leave from work. 

I have written here before about my frustrations with work, and my struggle to find some sort of work-life balance. Although there have been many satisfactions in my work role and a tremendous opportunity for learning, my frustrations have primarily centred on the extremely long hours and high stress of the position. I have also struggled to become comfortable with and feel part of the culture of this organization (and this city and province). Many times I have wondered about my decision to take this position, which has seemed like a strange zig zag in terms of my career interests. I have also written about how exhausted I feel after my long hours of work, and how I have felt that I have had to defer so many other things - time with family, a social life, my writing, my art, travel, and outdoor pursuits like skiing and hiking - due to the all-consuming maw of work. I also realized how unhealthy my excessive working was when I broke a bone last year and it failed to heal. For the past year, I have begun to muse about retirement. 

So this last month has been a surprise to me, because, as it has turned out, I have found it to be quite difficult to let go of my work. For weeks, I have had my head down working, very focused on finishing up projects and developing a transition plan for my team. I gradually extricated myself from each project and committee, and did not take on any new projects. I met with various team members and committees and said my good-byes. 

The final week of June was moving week. My assistant had ordered boxes and booked movers to come mid-week to move me to another office in another building. However, I needed to pack and unpack the boxes myself. As I have moved offices several times before, I have a system, and I did it all in an orderly manner. In the space of four days, I packed and then unpacked 27 boxes (2-cubes), mostly with books and papers. It involved a lot of climbing up to get books off of and then put them onto high bookshelves. By Thursday, I was physically tired and sore all over. 

During these days, I also spent time going through all the hard copy files that I left behind for the next person to fill my role, and throwing out a lot of no longer relevant material and my hand-written notes from meetings, etc. I also went through my electronic files, editing and organizing them and setting up a shared folder for the next person. As I have written here before, it is a strange and disconcerting feeling to realize that much of the history, knowledge, and information about the position and projects is in my head and goes away from the job with me. It seemingly "disappears."

Besides the hard work of packing up and unpacking, I found it was an emotional time. I felt sad to be leaving my team and colleagues. When I come back from my leave, I will have a different role, and will not be working with many of my present colleagues. I felt sad to be leaving my career path. Now I am making another zig zag, and with change comes uncertainty. It also was hard to step away from the projects themselves. I was personally invested in them and had poured a lot of effort into them. 

So with the focus on finishing up and transitioning out, I had put little thought into what came next - my leave period. On my last day, Thursday, I came home feeling not glee, as I had expected, but grief for what I was leaving. I also was so very, very tired. 

A few days have passed. I have slept a lot. I have sat out on the patio, reading a little, but mostly just looking at the trees and the gardens. I have gardened a bit and cooked a bit. And now we have set off on a five-day camping tour. I know leaving my position was the right thing to do, and I feel tremendous relief that I will no longer feel the pressures and responsibilities of that job. I made some good contributions during my time in the position, and now it is time for someone else to take it on. 

I am still dreaming work dreams every night. But I am also starting to feel more rested. One of these days soon it is going to hit me that I don't have to go to work and my time is my own for these next ten months. I am getting a fresh start on the rest of my life. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Baby Boomers: Choices, Legacy, and My Story

This morning I was browsing through blogs on retirement as I am wont to do lately (yes, I am a planner), and I came across this interesting blog, Sightings Over Sixty, written by Tom Sightings. I read through the blogger's most recent post, Let's Pick a President, and then I started reading some of his most popular posts. I did his handy quiz to determine whether I am ready for retirement, and discovered that no, I am woefully uninformed and therefore not ready for retirement. Hmm.

Then I read another one of his most popular posts, Baby Boomers are the Most Selfish... and it really got me thinking. He starts the post with the following:
    I recently received this anonymous response to one of my blog posts, and it seemed to come out of nowhere:

     "You Baby Boomers are the most selfish generation to ever exist. You destroyed your own children's and grandchildren's future with your short-sighted selfishness and immaturity. And then you expect them to pay for your retirement???? Can you baby boomers just hurry up and drop dead, please!"
Then Tom goes on to imagine how he would feel about the Baby Boomer generation if he were a Gen X'er or Millennial. What was especially interesting about this post were the comments that he received -- 57 of them -- from both Boomers and younger generations. I was surprised by the level of vitriol and blame directed toward the Boomer generation by Gen X'ers and Millennials, who expressed the beliefs that the Baby Boomer generation were horrible parents; that they have made the world a worse place; that they have sold their children down the river economically; and that they have an unpleasant sense of entitlement.

Many of the Boomers writing comments told their personal stories of struggle and hardship that contrasted with the rosy generalizations about Boomers' lives claimed by the younger folks. As I read the 57 comments, I thought about my own life and choices as a middle-of-the pack Boomer, and those of other Boomers I know, and the challenges faced by my kids, all of whom are Millennials.

I'd like to say some things about choices, my own story, and the legacy of the Baby Boomers. Some of these thoughts might have to wait for a separate post on the matter. I am writing, of course, with a Canadian perspective on the topic, which is a little different perhaps than those of the blogger and commenters.

First of all, I remember that when I was a young person, I was very unhappy with the state of the world that had been created by my parents' generation and the generation that preceded them. Perhaps this attitude is typical for young people with critical minds and a desire to make the world a better place. I grew up during the Cold War, with the threat of nuclear annihilation always at the back of our minds. We did bomb drills in school when I was in primary school. Information about the horrors of the Holocaust was being released in dribs and drabs, and it was fresh and raw, and disturbing beyond belief. The northern rural part of Canada where I lived saw many American back-to-the-landers moving in to escape the Viet Nam war, as well as a number of wealthy Americans buying a second property in our remote location, just in case a Third World War did occur.

In the world in which I came of age, there was rampant racism, and in our area it was mostly directed toward Aboriginal people. There were limited opportunities for women, and although the feminist movement had begun elsewhere, everything in our little town was ten years behind the times. I was lucky that my parents believed in education and encouraged me in my aspiration to go to university, even though neither of them had been able to attend university themselves.

In the the world of my youth, the environment was under assault. I lived in a world of DDT, and PCBs, huge dam projects, and clear cut forests. Before I was out of my teens, I was already an environmental activist. I also argued for women's rights, and civil rights, and ending poverty by distributing wealth more equitably. I believed that big money and corporations were a source of many of the world's problems (a belief that I still hold).

As a woman, I fought for the right to have a career. I was among the first generation of of women to "have it all" -- a career, a marriage, and children. It was hard. When I look back now, I don't know where I found the energy.

There were some Baby Boomers who easily slid into well-paying jobs and amassed considerable material wealth. This particularly was the case for leading edge Boomers, those born just after the war, who had many job opportunities.  The economy grew after the war and as many men were lost in the war and women were back in the homes raising families, young Boomers (mostly men) filled the job openings. By the time I had finished my Bachelor's degree at the end of the seventies, jobs were scarce. My two youngest brothers born in 1960 and 1962 were at the tail end of the boom, and had an even greater struggle to find jobs.

My hard-working parents lost their business and almost lost their house during the inflationary spiral of 1981-82. They lived a very frugal life when they were in their sixties as they tried to pay back their debts. I and my siblings helped them financially during those tough years. They both ended up working into their seventies because they had to.

I worked my way through university, living below the poverty line for seven years as I completed a Bachelor's degree and then a graduate degree. I made the pragmatic choice to study a professional field in which I knew that there were many job opportunities. I landed a job in a city far from home, and slowly began to pay back my student loans and save for a down payment on a house. Our first house was an inexpensive old two-bedroom house in a shabby inner city neighbourhood.

Later, I went back to school again and completed another graduate degree. My first husband passed away at a young age, when my children ranged in age from 8 to not quite 2. I was in the probationary phase of a new job at the time. I raised my children as a single mom while working full time. I was fortunate to have a good job that I loved. However, just about every penny that I earned went to child care, the mortgage, and other expenses for quite a few years. Also, the pension plan was not very good. So I scrimped and saved, putting money away into an RRSP (the Canadian equivalent of a 401), and also into education savings accounts for each of my kids so that they would be able to pursue a post secondary education. All three of them have attended university and completed degrees.

As a Baby Boomer, I did not have an easy life, nor did money and jobs come easily. I have always worked very hard and also worked long hours. I realize that this is just my story, and it does not necessarily reflect the whole generational cohort.

I am concerned about the world that we are leaving for our children and grandchildren. My bright, capable, hard-working children have struggled to find meaningful work that pays a living wage. We Boomers might have helped to improve some things (for example: opportunities for women, more recognition of racism and the development of policies and programs that foster inclusive approaches, more supportive perspectives about sexual orientation, bans of DDT and PCBs, the requirement of consultation and environmental review for large scale projects like dams and pipelines), but we are leaving other things in a mess.

The corporations and the very wealthy still have an inordinate amount of control, and their approaches are dominated by profit, not by civic duty or social justice. We are on the brink of a global climate change disaster that is resulting in extreme weather events that impact the poor disproportionately, and that will make the world uninhabitable for humans and many animals if we don't act decisively and soon. Animal species are becoming extinct and the oceans are filling with plastics and pollution. Politically, across the world, we seem to be moving toward an group mentality of anti-intellectualism that discounts reason and expert analysis, and favours fear-mongering and finger-pointing instead.

I am worried. I am putting tremendous hope in the Gen X'ers, Millennials, and Gen Z's to make the world a better place. Many of us Baby Boomers who are still around will be there helping.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

En Plein Air Paint Out

Last month in May, and again this month, I have participated in an en plein air event hosted by our local university. The paint out was held at a rural heritage property, The Coutts Centre, and attracted artists from cities and towns in every direction. 

The Coutts Centre is an oasis in the middle of the prairies. It is located in an area of low rolling hills and affords a vista of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. There are several heritage style barns and outbuildings, and a couple of picturesque low wooden houses. The property is especially known for its extensive gardens: flower gardens, a herb garden, vegetable and berry gardens, a rose garden, and a garden of natural prairie grasses. There are woods with little hidden nooks, fruit trees, a pond, rock walls, a patio, and many art sculptures throughout the property. In short, it is a painter's paradise. 

I am not an experienced plein air painter. Although I began oil painting as a teenager, and have painted from time to time ever since then with multi-year breaks in between, I have only attempted to paint en plein air, outside on location, a few times. So when I signed up for these two paint outs, it was with feelings of both excitement and trepidation. I felt excitement because it is intensely pleasurable to be standing in the landscape painting it - a very different experience than painting in studio. It was also a chance to meet some of the other artists who live in my region and see their work in progress. At the same time, I felt a certain level of trepidation, because plein air painting is difficult: the wind, the bugs, the shifting light, and the way the paint colours look different out in the sun, and how the paint dries so fast. 

This photo below shows my plein air painting in progress at the May paint out.

You can see the beauty (and complexity!) of this scene. I was working on a 20 X 20 inch canvas, which I found was a bit ambitious for one day of painting. In this image, you can see that at the moment I took this photo, the shadows were dancing across my canvas. The sun had moved across the sky from east to west, so all of the shadows I had seen when I composed the painting in the morning were now in different places by late afternoon. Also, the wind blew my easel over three times, and I found myself holding the canvas steady with one hand while I painted. I have brought this one home to complete in the studio, and am still working on finishing it. (I spent several sessions just trying to correct the errors of perspective that you can see here.)

Last weekend, I went to the Coutts Centre for another paint out. I chatted with a number of artists who had been there the previous month, as well as some new folks. It was interesting to see the array of styles and strategies. 

This time, I set up by the pond, in a spot that was well protected from the wind by a copse of trees. This position provided a long view across the pond and lawns toward the main house. Another artist set up across the pond from me, and painted me painting! I, however, did not include any people in my composition. Here is a photo that shows the scene and my set up:

You can really see what a lovely spot it is. You also can see the woman in pink who is painting me. This time I used a smaller canvas, 11 X 14 inches, which was more manageable in the time available. This last photo shows the painting in progress at an early stage:

Although plein air painting is challenging, I have found that I really love it. In my upcoming period of leave from work, I am going to try to do some plein air painting. There are many beautiful locations near where I live, and also we will be travelling this summer. I would like to find some painting companions near home. Maybe I will sign up for another organized event. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Poster Boy for Happy Retirement

My husband Rob likes to describe himself as the poster boy for happy retirement. He retired more than ten years ago, as soon as he qualified for retirement at his workplace, and has never looked back. He truly is a shining example of someone who has achieved a satisfying retirement lifestyle. 

Biking up a big hill.

As I muse about and begin to plan my own retirement timing and process, I have been quizzing Rob about how he made the decision to retire when he did, and whether he felt anxious about it. I didn't know him then; we didn't get together until nearly two years after he retired. 

He tells me that, unlike me, he had no angst about retiring. He was delighted to retire, and has fully embraced and enjoyed the retirement lifestyle ever since. He has never missed his workplace, even though he worked for the same company for more than thirty years. He often tells stories about people and past events at work, but his main orientation is to the present.

There are a number of ways in which Rob and his situation are different from me and my circumstances. For one thing, Rob saw his employment as "work to live" whereas my approach can be described as "live to work." Rob worked in the transportation industry, and his job, although it came with responsibilities and safety concerns, was not highly stimulating. His job did not help him self actualize or define his identity, but rather took time away from the pursuits that were his main interests. When he had an opportunity, he did take on special roles, like shop steward for the union, and health and safety representative. But for the most part, boredom was the defining feature of his job. 

In contrast, although I have a rich and satisfying life outside of work, for most of my career, my job also has been something I have greatly enjoyed. My most recent position has been an exception to this, but in previous years, my job has been so interesting and fulfilling, and such a big part of my identity, that I would have chosen to do certain parts of it even if I was not getting paid. In some ways, it has been the dream job, and I know I have been very lucky. But the very long hours my work has demanded have been problematic and stressful, especially during my most recent administrative role.

Another way in which Rob and I are different is in our characteristic approach to life. Rob lives in the present, enjoys life as it unfolds, and handles troubles as they emerge, whereas I am a planner. I plan our holidays, our visits to friends and family, and the events of our weekends. I have spent a lot of time thinking about and planning each life transition, such as moves, new jobs, and becoming grandparents. I also plan in order to forestall certain predictable troubles - e.g., financial planning. So I suppose it is not surprising that when Rob hit retirement age just at the same time that his daughter graduated from university, it seemed obvious to him that he should take early retirement. He recognized that his work was hard on his health, and he knew he could afford to retire. So why not?

In contrast, I am thinking it through from every angle. Will we be financially secure? Where will we live? What are the advantages and disadvantages of retiring soon, retiring gradually, or postponing the whole thing for awhile? Have I finished with my career, or will I keep a hand in it? What will I do after I retire, and what will we do together? 

Of course, I know that I will love retirement. I will have more time to spend with our grandkids, with friends, and with Rob. I have writing and art projects that I have been deferring for too long. I want to travel, and do more skiing, hiking, camping, gardening, and so forth. I want to become more active in the community. Really, all I have to do is look at Rob and how much he enjoys his time as a retiree to know that retirement will be great, and we will enjoy our time together. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

It All Disappears

As I ponder whether and when to retire, I find my mind turning to the larger existential questions. This fact has taken me by surprise. 

Really, the decision to retire, at first blush, seems like not a big deal at all. A person works throughout life to earn a paycheque and and support herself and her family. Work, in every case, takes the most precious thing we have away from us – time. Some have argued that time is all we have in life, that life is time, and that when we are out of time our life ends. Straightforward, no? Therefore it makes perfect sense that as soon as there is no longer a financial necessity to work for that paycheque, a person should retire and take their time back. 

When I think of it this way, I want to retire right now. I want to paint those pictures, write those poems and novels, hike those trails, and travel to those interesting places. I want to do all of the things that I have been trying to fit into the little leftover corners of time that work and daily life affords me. And I want to spend more time with the people I care about – Rob, my friends, my kids and grandkids, and other family members. 

But wait a minute. I have worked very hard most of the years of my life, and I haven't done it just for the paycheque. Work has been an important part of my life. It has engaged me intellectually, creatively, and socially. Life isn't just time. It's also what one does with the time. In most ways, my work has been an integral and satisfying component of my life for all my adult years. It has been an interesting and important way for me to spend the time I have been granted, and also I have been able to contribute to my workplaces and to society in useful ways, which in itself is satisfying. 

When I think about it this way, I feel a great wave of fear. No, I can't retire! Not yet. Work is my life. Not all of my life, but a very big part of it. Am I really ready to walk away from it, this endeavour that has intrigued me, engaged me, and had me in its clutches since I was sixteen?

But, I argue with myself, work doesn't have to be all or nothing. I have the good fortune to work in education, and to have the choice in my place of work to reduce to part-time or to transition gradually to retirement over a three year period. Also, in my workplace, I have quite a bit of choice over the types of work assignments I take. Theoretically, in a full-time role, I also have the choice to work long hours or more reasonable hours (but, being an A-type high achiever, so far I have never managed to cut back to the number of hours in most people’s normal work week, so I'm not holding out hope for a sudden self-transformation). Also, if I were to quit, I could take on contract work (if I missed my work too much), or carry on with my intellectual work independent of an employer and paycheque. Finally, I could take on volunteer work, or serve on boards or committees. I don't have to stay where I am, working full time, and feeling the obligation that comes with a full time job and a paycheque. 

Another interesting notion has occurred to me as I prepare to step down from my current role as administrator. As I begin to plan my transition out of the role and a move to a different smaller office, I wonder what I am going to do with all of the files I have accumulated during my four years in this job. There is an over-stuffed four-drawer filing cabinet, and most of a bookcase full of files that pertain to the position I am leaving. Then there are the thousands, or maybe hundreds of thousands of electronic files. Do I just pitch them? Will they be of any use to anyone? 

This is the material manifestation of the problem. But the real problem is that a great deal of the knowledge is in my head. As I walk out of the job, that knowledge goes with me. The new person, my replacement, will have to do their own learning, identify their own priorities, and invent their own way of working. Just like that, pfffffft, all that I have strived so hard to learn and do just disappears and becomes only a memory. And memories are ephemeral. I guess the exception to this is that those bits of my work that have been reified within a system, program, or someone else's practice or thinking will not be completely lost. There will be a small trace. 

This is also the problem of our lives. When we die, all that we have learned, all of our knowledge and skills, die with us. I hadn't really thought about this much before. It makes me wonder, why have I tried so hard to amass knowledge and to perfect skills? Just like material goods, we can't take it with us. And what's in our heads isn't even left for others. It all disappears. 

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