Dear Diary, You’ve Gotten Dusty

Feb. 18, 2022 – Friday – Mick’s last day as a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota. Tomorrow, he will be known as professor emeritus. Yesterday, we cleaned out the last bits of stuff from his office. He’s been tossing out stuff for weeks, so there were only a few boxes’ worth of things to load into his car. It didn’t take long and there was no one around that we saw. In, out, gone. When I thought about how Mick and I met near the doorway to that very office, back in the 1990s when I was a University employee, single parent, and part-time college student, I got tears in my eyes. End of an era. Damn. 

At least tonight, our kids will be over and we’ll all be together. 

Feb. 19, 2022 – Saturday – Mick has his first nap by 9:30 a.m. There was much debate last night about how many naps a day Mick will take now that he’s retired. I sent a quick picture of him snoozing to my son Shawn, told him he should get credit for guessing more naps than Mick admitted to. 

Friends over for the evening. Thank god. We laughed our asses off. 

Feb. 20, 2022 – Sunday – Up at 5:30, out the door around 6:30, up north to see if we could see owls. Nope. Lots of other birds. Lots of snow. Into the ditch at one point; snowy roads, slick surfaces. Tow truck guy was very nice and the car was fine, so we continued on. Still no owls. 

Feb. 22, 2022 – 2/22/22 – Twosday – Sitting at my desk on a snowy Tuesday. First week of Mick’s retirement.

Emotional morning. Watched a video compilation from all kinds of people with whom Mick worked, supervised, mentored, collaborated. Messages poured in from all over the world. By the end, we were both choked up. While Mick continued in a Google Meet with colleagues who put the video together, I came upstairs and cried. 

The weekend was great, though. Family. Friends. A drive up north. Laughter. Love. Pie.

When did we get to be old? There’s still too much to do. Even two years ago, this moment seemed very far away. Yet here we are.

I don’t write in my private journal much anymore. There was a time when I did so nearly every day; it was what kept me sane when I had kids at home, was in grad school, trying to write, and was often unsuccessful at balancing everything. Later, I switched to a gratitude journal; this taught me to look at the world for what went right rather than what went wrong. I’m still working on that one, but the shift in my outlook is significant. Anyway, today I feel like both journals might be useful right about now as Mick and I navigate a life in which huge daily connections and responsibilities are now gone. It is Mick’s retirement from work, yes, but it flows into what is us, our conversations, our time management as a couple, our travel, happy hours, sharing of stresses. Often, we talk about the overlap of creativity and science, ways that the writing we each do – or did – is similar and how it is different. I’m a little startled at how intertwined I feel as Mick separates himself from University teaching and research. 

Having been home together most of the time since the pandemic shut everything down has made our transition very different from that of our parents or others retirees we know. We’ve already figured out how to do our own things within this space and not get in each other’s way. And maybe some of that intertwined feeling I’m having is because now we’ve seen, up close, details about how we each do our work, details that used to be contained in Mick’s office on campus while mine were done in a home office in an empty house. I’ve heard enough lab remote meeting snippets to know that Mick is a kind, caring colleague who will be missed. I like his colleagues. Having them all appear on a screen in our living room most weekday mornings has made for a comfortable virtual community.  It reminded me that I liked having my own colleagues around in other jobs I held long ago.

I’m grateful that Mick is going to attend Tuesday morning remote lab meetings for a while, keeping up on student progress, on grant progress, whatever else those meetings involve. I can’t imagine a world without these carefully tended connections, without this community of people who are doing good work. 

That said, there are other kinds of community, some we already have and some we’ve yet to discover. And the whole world is shifting as I write this, war erupting in Ukraine, forcing us to look once again beyond our own small lives. Retirement may not look anything like we thought it might even last week. These communities we’ve held close, built up, are more fragile than we usually admit. I wasn’t going to talk about the beginnings of a war here, in this space that is a refuge, but knew I couldn’t leave it unacknowledged.

My drawer of blank journals is waiting for me to open it, choose a new journal just for this moment. Another kind of refuge. Another space to imagine how I want to be in this world. Another opportunity for figuring out how to do more good than bad.

Speaking of Doing Good Work….

Recently, a woman reached out to me through the contact form at One Minnesota Crone, asking about collaborating on something to-be-determined. She shared she’ll be turning 50 soon. I was pleased to see her email, but unsure how to proceed. This was someone I’d never met, never corresponded with, so saying yes to a collaboration was not going to happen on my end just yet. After much thought, I decided interviewing her felt right. That way, both of us could get a feel for how we each work and I could promote her photography website, which I like quite a lot, at the same time. I also got clear in my own mind that I’m not interested in on-going collaborations, but one-time collaborations could work well.

How do those of you out there who collaborate choose those with whom you work? What sorts of one-time collaborations have you done that surprised you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 

And, if you are interested in contacting me for a potential interview about your own creative work in a future One Minnesota Crone post, please contact me HERE.

Published by Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

Kathleen Cassen Mickelson is a Minnesota-based writer who has published work in journals in the US, UK, and Canada.

13 thoughts on “Dear Diary, You’ve Gotten Dusty

  1. I can’t do journals. Diaries. I have too much running through my head to ever get it down on paper in a coherent manner. Look, a squirrel! Go ADHD? I hope it’s an easy transition for Mick to retirement. I’m counting the minutes for mine. We’ll see if the same issues come up. Then again, I won’t have any students to miss. I wish I did.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congrats to Mick and to you, too, Kathleen. You’re on to the next chapter, as they say.

    A friend asked me to collaborate on a project, but it was a book she had already started on and was in the revision process. I gave her an immediate “no.” Since she had so much ownership and this was her entirely her vision, it definitely would not have been collaboration. But, I would try collaborating with a trusted friend or colleague who shared my vision and passion for the work. xoA

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Annis! Good call on the friend who asked you to collaborate after she already started. That feels like an odd choice on her part; wonder what shifted for her that she no longer wanted to work alone?


  3. Kathleen, you’ve packed so much into this blog. Change. Gratitude. Reflections. And more. As always, I appreciate your thoughts and insights. About a year from now, Randy hopes to retire. I know that will bring changes. But reading about your journey with Mick makes me look forward to that day with even more enthusiasm. Congrats, Mick. And, Kathleen, thank you for enthusiastically embracing his work.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, my dear blog friend Kathleen… I almost started to cry as I read this and stopped as I know that this transition is something you both have looked forward to experiencing. I laughed at the morning nap thing. Have you asked how many times over the years he shut the office door and took a snooze?

    “Dear Diary-
    I need to connect with my close friends not only when we face the uncertainty of the World but on regular a basis. How do we do that without thinking that I might be intrusive? How do I say or share that I am scared of what is happening in the World?
    Thank you universe for placing me at the moment exactly where I need to be and please give me strength and friends to help me navigate what comes next. – “


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  5. After I’d posted in my blog that I was going to be looking for a collaborative opportunity of some sort, an acquaintance contacted me that she had been thinking the same thing. We did a brainstorming chat about what such a project might look like — I’m a poet, she’s a visual artist. We both thought it would be fun to include music, so she invited a musician friend of hers. They are both about 20 years younger than I am, which was fun, but also challenging in that they were, of course, working full time and I was not. We all proceeded with the understanding that every step was an experiment, and we were going to both keep it fluid and yet think even of the conversations as part of the project, documenting our thoughts and shared ideas and inspirations along the way. The process was going to be part of the product, whatever that turned out to be. (Covid hit right after we began, so I never met the musician face to face until many months along.) In the end, we developed a video, although our ambitions were for a gallery installation piece, and then our meetings petered out, as other life considerations took hold. So it goes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for adding to the conversations Marilyn! And I love that you worked with people 20 years younger than you regardless of the challenges. Our energy is so different at various points in our lives and mixing it up with others in a different place can be a productive exercise for everyone. Keeping it fluid sounds just right. Even if the meetings petered out, you still had fun. Is the video something you can share a link to?


  6. Dear Kathleen – I have collaborated twice, both poetry collections and both positive experiences. First time was with three close women friends (Walking the Sunken Boards, 2019) and the second time was with a male friend (Season of Harvest, due out 4/22). I would do it again, but only with people that I completely trusted. Collaboration has been a good experience and, in fact, the first collaboration led to the creation of an online poetry journal, Quartet, that champions the work of women fifty and over. I recommend collaboration but I also recommend being selective in who you choose to work with. Linda

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have collaborated with another poet whom I know well. That was – is – a fantastic experience. The collaboration with three others must have presented very different challenges than with only one other person, but I’m guessing the energy was high. I’m going to look up your titles! Thanks for chiming in.


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