Wednesday, March 31. Thick clouds envelop the hillside, but there's a break in the west, a shimmer of sunlight, casting a golden glow on the water. I stand on the balcony to soak in the moist air, clogged with the earthy smells and sweet taste of new life. This view, this job, has been the one constant in my life since I first strolled into the office on Aug. 7, 2006. Since then, I've moved three times (at least three times, and that's just counting my permanent residences.) I've lost a relationship. I've watched friends come and go. I've watched co-workers come and go. I've left town myself and wondered whether I'd ever really come back. But the office was always here. It was always waiting for my return.
I breathe deep and realize this may be the last time I'll stand here. I feel a rush of emotion, manufactured maybe, a mixture of nostalgia and mourning for a past that will never return. I realize that once I step away from this office, I will release the last anchor in my life, the last one, and will truly become a vessel adrift at sea. There will be no ice-breaking tugs, no narrow channel to guide me home. There will only be a vast and unbroken ocean, and unlimited directions from which to travel.
Dark descends as I finish up the day's work. I clean out my desk, extracting little trinkets I haven't thought about in three and a half years. There's the hand-drawn sign my co-workers made me when I returned from the Great Divide last summer. There's the glass award I received from the Society of Professional Journalists for best news page design. There's the emergency Power Bar that is at least three years old. I stuff them all in a plastic bag. The office is strangely still, quiet. As usual, I am the last one to leave. The goodbyes have been said. The newspaper has been put to bed. I do what I've done most every Wednesday night for the past three and a half years — I turn out the lights, descend a flight of stairs, and step into the cool night.