Every once in a while circumstances come along in everyone's life, which necessitates the turning of some sort of page. Here in America we make it a big deal when folks turn 30 or 40, for example. Graduation from high school, getting married and having that first baby are other examples, as well as hitting the century mark for the rarified few who manage to live that long.
There are other, more discreet moments that qualify as the turning of a page, also. When the magic dies in a career position, for example, it becomes time to perhaps move on to another job. Losing a little spring in the step sometimes marks the time to delegate more strenuous duties to younger, more physically fit assistants. For me, an older native of Georgia, finding that enduring the summertime weather, which for some reason when I was younger did not seem as oppressively hot and humid as it does now, is a wake-up call of sorts.
Here's a bit of news that will be no stunner to those who know me well: I've always been somewhat of a late bloomer. Things readily apparent to my peers always seemed to take longer to sink in for me. Oh, I can look back with the best of them; my hindsight is definitely 20/20. But recognizing a sea change as it occurs has always presented a challenge.
I'm living proof, though, that even a blind hog can find an acorn every once in a while. When my former employer, an Atlanta-based airline, recently made possible an early retirement package, I realized it was time to close that chapter in my life and move on to whatever lies beyond.
I have to tell you, though, that walking away from a known commodity, leaving the old comfort zone and facing the challenge thrown at me by my family to finally write the novel I've always wanted to write has been quite interesting so far.
Actually, scary would be a better adjective. We haven't quite gotten the household routine established yet, you see. That's because all writers have their own, unique way of approaching the task. Some folks labor over legal pads, while others briskly type draft after draft, revising as they go.
For me, though, writing has always been the closest thing to pure fun. My way of writing is to contemplate and think and converse and just basically let my thoughts coagulate until - all of a sudden - the moment magically arrives. Then it's time to sit down at the computer and just let it all kind of flow out there.
So the problem with establishing a household routine has been, thus far, that while it may look as if I'm not doing anything, I'm really constantly in the act of writing.
There's a fellow over in Wilmington, N.C., who once opened the mysteries of Pascal to me when he taught, at Notre Dame, a summer seminar for teachers. Tom Morris is, today, a very well-established author and nationally known lecturer. From what I can tell, he and I go about writing in much the same way. Not long ago Tom graciously made time for me to drop in on him, and related that when he started writing it wasn't uncommon for his children - as they were waiting for his wife to take them somewhere - to call out something along the lines of:
"Hey, Mom, can't Daddy take us? All he's doing is sitting in the kitchen staring out the window!"
In actuality, of course, Tom was mentally putting together one of his best-selling books, the most recent being "If Harry Potter Ran General Electric."
So I've shared Tom's experiences with my lovely wife, and she is most graciously helping craft the most efficacious household schedule for this next chapter of our life together.
Money, however, is another American concern of mine. Being unemployed for the first time in my entire adult life has been weighing heavily on my conscience, even though our society recognizes early retirement and other early exit packages from corporations as legitimate.
Ah, but just in the nick of time, at last week's Community Band concert on the Covington town square, I ran into longtime local humorist Mike Costley, from whom I've drawn courage to face this new chapter of my life. Mike told me:
"Nat, it's a sorry man who can't live off his wife's income!"
Luckily, at the concert, my wife was wearing an orthopedic boot to correct a mild arthritic condition, and she couldn't move quickly enough to kick either one of us.
Turning that page, I've tried to make the best use of any spare time I have. Last week it was my privilege to moderate a forum which will air on local cable television prior to the July 15 primary election; it comprised a question-and-answer session with candidates for the office of Newton County Sheriff.
Ezell Brown, Stacey Cotton, Chris Cowan, Gwen Hightower, and Bill Watterson were all present; Marty Roberts was absent due to a prior commitment. It's my sincere opinion that if every elected office throughout America had the same great caliber of candidates as does the race for Newton County Sheriff, America would be in great shape from top to bottom.
For voters new to the county, I've only been here 31 years, but know most of the candidates for Sheriff personally. I can tell you that no matter which of these folks ends up with the most votes, all of us in Newton County will win a great Sheriff.
Turning the page to entertainment, I recently met for the first time a native son of Newton County who has come home to Mansfield after making music in Malibu, California, for decades. Johnny Rocquemore, along with Dave Leinweber and Robert McMillan, play every Thursday night at The Icehouse Restaurant over in Madison. If you, too, are partial to great music, great food, and personable good times, come join me next Thursday night at The Icehouse and help me write the next chapter of my book - and of my life.
Nat Harwell is a Newton County resident whose column appears Sundays in The Covington News.