The Professor & Her Garden

Good soil. Good students. And maybe some decent English peas.

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Sept 25 Blogging 101 Assignment: Own Up to Your Comment!

Yesterday, I blogged about the four blogs I found that were, in my opinion, poignant, original, fun–and especially well written.  In the spirit of community, I even subscribed to their blogs.  Only to find out that today’s assignment is to go down another level and blog about my comment related to the blog.  Hmmm. (Not sure what I think about this!)

I commented on the  Exploring New Opportunities blog.  The guy reminds me of my hubster:  Computer geek.  In “that age group.”  Looking for new opportunities.  It made me think about my own life, my age, my opportunities.  So I commented on that.  And now, I woke up this morning thinking more about what being in my 50s means.

I find myself looking forward and backwards on a regular basis.  I’m in my prime earning years.  Fortunately, as a tenured professor I don’t have to worry about my job.  (I know, I know, save it for another post!)  But, I worry just a bit about retirement.  Will we have enough?  Will we be healthy?  What will we do? What does retirement mean, anyway?

For me, it will mean leaving the university.  But I’ll still be able to write, do research (if I want), think grand thoughts.  For my husband, who has been a computer consultant for 30 years, it’s more complicated.  As any hard-core computer programmer in his 50s will tell you, they are moving into unchartered territory.  These are the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs guys (but without the millionaire life).  They are the ones who have been coding gurus for decades.  They are some of the few people in the world who can still program in COBOL in a pinch.  They also are now wearing reading glasses, have arthritis in their hands (have you ever listened to a die-hard coder pound the keys?), have trouble sleeping a full eight hours each night.  My husband has had his own business for 30 years.  At some point, he’ll have to walk away.  Figuring that out is, like I said, complicated.  The programming that he does actually matters.  A lot.  There’s not anyone coming up behind him who can do what he does.  But, he can’t do it forever.

We certainly don’t have the answers, but here’s what we do know.  We are incredibly fortunate for the lives we’ve had.  We are financially stable.  We have two adult graduate-school educated children who made great choices in spouses.  (And neither ask us for money!)  We’re brand-new grandparents.  We are physically healthy and active.  I belong to two rowing clubs and live in a climate where I can row year round.  My husband likes to build things, fix things, fix things for others.  If you’re interested, check out his blog, Gary’s Fix.

So that’s what’s great about being in my 50s.  I have a life to look back on and be thankful for.  (Granted, I was pretty appreciative in my 40s and wouldn’t mind a couple of decades of being a 40-year-old!)  And, I’m young enough to think about the future.  Which brings me back to Exploring New Opportunities.  I think we should all be exploring–whatever our age.

That’s why I’m gardening right now.  I don’t know anything about gardens.  This is a totally new venture for me.  But, watching these little pea plants poke their heads out of the soil gives me great hope.  How in the world do plants know how to grow?  How do we know how to do some of the things we do?  Go explore!  Now, excuse me while I check on my plot of dirt.  I need to explore.


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What Do Woodrow Wilson and Rowing Have in Common with Gardens?

As part of my sabbatical, I am reading biographies of presidents as well as other books that intrigue me.  I just finished A. Scott Berg’s biography on Wilson.  And, I’m rounding the corner on The Boys in the Boat:  Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympics.  I’ve already written about the Wilson book here.  And the post about The Boys is here.

Gardens make an appearance in both books.  In Wilson, victory gardens pop up all over the country when the US finally joins the allies in WWI.  In Boys, gardens pop up as a way for one of the rowers to earn money as well as to provide a respite from the day-to-day upheaval of living through the Depression.  In both cases, people create lush gardens without having much garden knowledge.  The gardens in both books are about food.  But they are also about creating calm out of havoc, creating a retreat from the dusty world of work, and as a place to work on tasks that yield results.

To me, it makes perfect sense, then, that I have created my little sabbatical garden for My Year Away.  It’s just a tiny piece of land:  4 feet by 10 feet.  But, I’ve planted a variety of veggies that I love in orderly rows.  The little seeds are popping out at different rates.  I can’t always tell what’s a weed and what’s a pea.  I’m starting to see a pattern.  The garden is rewarding me.  I’ve got weeks (and maybe months) to go before cultivation, but I’m already seeing the fruits of my labor.

Every morning I’m at the beach, I pull on my rain boots, hop in the golf cart and race down to the community garden where I can check on my little plot.  If I know something is a weed, out it goes.  I stare at the beautiful rows.  I talk to the seedlings.  If it hasn’t rained, I water.  Then I hop back onto the golf cart and ride home.

And I start another day of my sabbatical.  Reading, writing, crunching data.  It’s not just my garden that’s growing.  I’m growing too.