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« Managing the Impulse for Control | Dive in - Systems Surround us like Water »
Sunday
Aug192007

Changes in State

It is a wistful Sunday morning. It is a cool 60 degrees on the porch, down from the punishing 90-100 degree days of late. Rusty the semi-Beagle has quieted down from the morning walk to get the paper. The roosters down the hill are performing their morning call and response. An orange glow, hinting that fall will come suffuses the yard.

This week will be a flurry of last minute activities, all unplanned. On Friday, we will leave early to drive north. On Sunday morning Katy, my youngest, will move into her dorm at NYU. The years of nurturing and cajoling, or hectoring and applauding are just about over – now I will sit back and watch what I have done.

This year a second transition begins. Josh is all seriousness and purpose. He tells me he can just squeeze an economics minor into his last semester at Case Western. He is wrestling with a few years as a practicing engineer in industry or continuing right on to another degree. We have already completed the personal transition, his graduation will be a mere formality, one that will consume me and that he will barely notice.

Margot, always in a rush, may graduate before him. She has always been a second child, always wanting to show up her older brother, always unhappy with the inequity of not being recognized as first. She has always worked the hardest, at everything from school to track to work. She has always accepted the least; our relationship has always been prickly. She seemed to have found peace during the week she was home this summer. In two weeks she is off to Vienna for a semester abroad from Chicago. She has always stood on her own, and I know she will do fine.

By Christmas, depending on how their appeals of various academic injustices go, I may be down to one kid still on the dole, and by the end of the week, none at home. And so opens the third act.

I plan to drive slowly from New York City to Cleveland next week, hiking, and visiting wine country, and simply talking with my Maggie. For the first time in decades, there will be no kids to roust, no fights to referee, but just two people resuming a journey together after some distraction. We will visit Josh in Cleveland for his birthday and then drive back to Carolina to resume something like normal life. It is a celebration of an inflexion point.

Where does the arc of my life go from here? In September, I will take some days off for a retreat at my brother’s ranch on Colorado’s western slope; there I will ponder what other changes to make, what opportunities lie ahead. What does the next act look like? What shall I do with more time, and fewer constraints?

I have some ideas I want to put into play. I love thinking about them, love writing about them. I think they are important, and can have a big effect on our future, and the future of how our civilization sits on the planet. I enjoy working with the people who share the vision as we develop paths to implementation.

But today it is a quiet, cool morning on the porch. I am enjoying the sweet melancholy of putting one phase to rest, even as I look forward what comes next. I recognize that I don’t know how I will engage the challenges ahead. But for now, I am enjoying the shade of the old oak and the orange glow of morning sun on the magnolia, as the roosters settle down and the crickets hum.

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