teardrop shaped humidifer

A teardrop shaped humidifier.

Overcast, wet, and dark. We’re in for a spell of rainy weather, with temperatures that waver–“colic weather” Arlene calls it, since horses appear to be more susceptible to colic when winter’s temperatures bounce around. A long walk with Rosie started the day, though she would have been content to stay curled up in bed this morning.

Colic weather. I need to see how much fuel is in the truck. We’ve driven the route from our place to the NC State Equine Hospital in the wee hours of the morning before, and you don’t want to be stuck having to hunt for diesel in the middle of the night with a horse trailer and a sick horse. We probably won’t need to make the trip, but this is one thing that I prepare for in my mind. I thought about it in the middle of the night.

It’s dump day, another job for the truck. I probably go to the dump once a month sometimes longer, since we really don’t generate much waste. When you live in the country, you haul your own rubbish unless you pay a garbage service to do pickups. I’ve thought that’s rather expensive, and I’d still have to bring the garbage to the end of the drive, which is a ways and it’s a gravel road. It’d be tough to drag the two cans even if the gravel was even, which it isn’t. Rains have eaten gullies on the hill closer to the highway, and that makes for a bumpy ride even in a car.

On second thought and after watching it rain all day without a break, I decided to look for a dry spell, maybe tomorrow, to make the run. The dump can wait for our rubbish.

I love the word “rubbish.”

I continued the glamour chapter, and it’s been good to move beyond the first part. I noticed that when I do a chapter, I seem to hover excessively on the first ten pages or so, polishing, polishing, and tweaking those pages. The others remain undeveloped or just plain unwritten. I think this is a form of writerly procrastination. I broke through the first part of the chapter which, because it’s been obsessed about pretty much already, reads pretty well. But I’ve got a ways to go on the rest, and I think that many of the pieces that I had collected and written – a few paragraphs here, a sentence or two there – will end up being cut. But I need to get the overall structure and scaffolding in place. Then, maybe some of those hanging pieces will find a home in the piece.

This is going to be a long chapter, and I wonder if I need to split it up somewhere and turn it into two chapters. Maybe it’ll just end up being the longest of the bunch.

I saw a Wall Street Journal article this morning: “How to Know When to Quit Your Job” by Betsy Morris. It’s a good question, especially for people at moderately high levels of achievement with yet more “gas in the tank,” as one of the people interviewed in the article puts it. I think my experience in the move toward retirement was actually ploddingly planned in comparison to many, since I toyed with the idea and moved toward the decision after months of deliberation and some moderate planning. But, then, it was my annual habit to assess whether to continue my work and plans–something I did more-or-less systematically in May of each year by asking the question: Was I worth what I was being paid? I usually came up with values that showed I’d earned my keep and that I found some joy in the process. But there were Mays when I was puzzled or plainly “in the red” by my mid-year self-assessment. I made changes.

My decision to retire was not the product of an “in the red” calculation of worth, but rather a decision on what I wanted to do. I enjoyed working with my colleagues, and I found the whole research environment at Duke very exciting. But I had a couple of things that seemed stuck, most notably my book project. The stickiness increased as the pandemic tightened its grip on the circumstances of work. It may be paradoxical, but I think I decided to retire in some sense to reclaim my own life, one that seemed to lose an edge and border separating my life from work life. Perhaps it was a rather radical decision to make to reclaim the space and time, but I think not. Doing the act of moving on to a next thing, whatever that may be, teaches a certain awareness of mortality. That’s a good and useful thing, and I think I’m learning that again–and have been for about a year, when I moved in the retirement direction more intentionally.

In a radically different sense, time is my own as it’s never been. It’s also precious because the awareness of its eventual end is clearer, too. It’s also the case that I’ve been able to preserve a linkage to Duke, something that was important in my decision. Retaining library privileges and having access to activities on campus, when they finally come back, makes the change a matter of changing focus rather than completely changing the rules of life.

The chickens were hanging around in the coop when I checked for eggs, two of them in corners, either laying an egg or just sitting on a couple for fun. I decided to let them sit and not accost them. It’s wet and picking the eggs today isn’t a matter of importance. And while I was trying out the outside to see whether it was pleasant in some way, I meandered over to the garage. Too cold to stay out, I decided. But I did take a look at an impending project on the old Porsche–a clutch replacement. I looked at one of the car guides and determined which transmission I have in this one (there were three versions, at least). The clue was the gear order on the shifter. I also took some closeups of the hole in the Yaris’ fuel line that sprayed so magnificently. It was squirrel damage. Damned squirrels. I sometimes think it’s time to hunt a few, since they are all over the place.

Rain last night made the light of the evening dance on our cobblestone pavement. It was interesting to notice, and I think I should have seen it before. Familiarity makes you blind to nuance sometimes; taking pictures opens up the eyes sometimes, too.