July is the month we say goodbye to writers who are aging out or moving on to new adventures, and this is Abby’s last post. She is a founder and the daily manager of the post calvin and has been writing with us since the very beginning in July 2013.
CLEOPATRA: My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then! But, come, away;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I’ll unpeople Egypt.
– Antony and Cleopatra, Act I Scene V
It’s been far too hot to cook. No air conditioning means I’m here opening the windows wide overnight, closing them during the day, and refusing to turn on the stove for more than ten minutes. Just enough to boil some eggs.
Dunk them in ice water after boiling to get them cold while you chop the celery and apples and toast the pecans and mix it all with plain yogurt and salt and curry powder. Add the eggs whole and then smash—watch as they ooze out from between the tines of a fork. Chill for a while, if you can wait, or stuff it in a pita and go sit in the shade.
Okay, so it’s probably not the salad Cleopatra is picturing. She has just received a letter and a gift from her lover Antony, and she goes on and on about how wonderful he is and how she’s going to write him a letter every day. Her servant Charmian reminds her how much she used to fawn over her former beau, Julius Caesar, and Cleopatra responds with the lines above. In a stroke of his usual linguistic genius, Shakespeare gives her the phrase “my salad days” to describe the time when she was young and inexperienced.
Cleopatra regrets her salad days, the years she spent loving Caesar instead of Antony, years that were “green in judgement: cold in blood.” When I think back on my own young adulthood, that’s what I expect: to cringe, to be embarrassed, to wish I had done things differently. But recently, I’ve been surprised.
Against my better judgement, I can’t resist making this last blog post about blog posting. This week, I got to look back at seven years of my life because I have this monthly record of my twenties. When the idea for the post calvin was hatched in the spring 2013, I never imagined I’d still be writing here in the summer of 2020. (That’s how all the best things happen, isn’t it?) And though writing here every thirty or thirty-one days sometimes feels like pulling teeth, I’m going to be sad to let it go. This is something not everyone gets to have. It’s more than a journal or a diary (which I’ve never been able to keep because I’m always too embarrassed upon looking back). This is different because it’s public. It’s something I polished and purposefully put out into the big wide electronic world. Feelings and ideas I write here somehow seem more valid because they’re shared with readers, even if it’s just fifty or a hundred.
And honestly, some of it’s pretty good. I expected to be ashamed of the eighty-four pieces from the salad green of my youth. To be sure, I found several things that made me cringe. But I also found a lot of things to love.
I do important things in this space. Theories and mottos that have pinballed around in my mind for a long time are formalized here, and little snippets of conversation or particular landscapes are immortalized. Looking back, I’ve found wisdom I didn’t know I had at twenty-three, an almost unfailingly positive attitude in the face of hard things, and even some advice I’d do well to follow now. And I’ve made myself laugh.
I often worried (worry) that my words felt cliche or self-indulgent or preachy. They were, sometimes. But I’m still glad I have them because from this bird’s eye view, I can see myself changing. I become more sensitive over the years, more willing to show my cards. I meet a lot of important people and say goodbye to some, too. I talk about God more than expected. I’m creative. My writing style is refined. I change my mind a few times, and I come back again and again to the things that really matter.
Cleopatra’s instinct is to get ink and paper, to embrace how she feels right now and write it down. She might regret penning “every day a several greeting” to Antony later, but she doesn’t let that stop her. In a few years, maybe this moment will look like my salad days. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in seven years of twelve posts of eight hundred words, it’s that writing it down matters.
It turns out that my salad days aren’t all bitter arugula and green tomato regret. Some of them are fresh and sweet. Innocent, yes, but not bad—just young. And I’m beginning to think that I love who I was. Or more accurately: love who I was becoming. Which is really to say: love who I am now.
Here’s to many more salad days to come.
Abby Zwart (’13) teaches high school English in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spends her free time making lists of books she should read, cooking, and managing the post calvin.
I love who you are always, my dear!
And, on behalf of everyone who writes for this blog (and especially those of us who are preparing to say goodbye to it), thank your for years of tender and honest writing, for the seven years of literal daily upkeep that I cannot imagine, and for this final post that reminds us why we did it and why it matters.
You have truly left deep tracks with this blog. I am proud of you and proud to be a part of it.
Abby, thank you for the talent, passion, love, and energy you’ve given to this project!
“Writing it down matters”. Thank for this, and for the years of wise, vulnerable, beautiful writing leading up to it. I’ll miss your voice on this blog!
I am charmed by the phrase “salad days.” Thank you, Abby, for all of this.
Thank you thank you thank you for your faithfulness in tending this space. It is such a gift to those of us who needed a place to plant our words. You are our teacher and kind editor. You are a gift.
Well done, Abby. Well done.
This is enough to make me want to go back and read all84 essays to see which ones I missed. Maybe I’ll dig out “Backyard Pirates” too, just to make it a nice round 85.
I think about that piece ALL THE TIME. You know you were the first one to tell me I was a good writer, right?
I absolutely love this ❤️ thank you for everything.
Abby, thanks for taking the leap and starting this blog and for your own vulnerability in your writing. As others have said, the post calvin and your steady presence has been (and continues to be) a gift.
Thank you so much for starting this space and for taking chance on me and letting me write regularly. It really meant a lot, and it helped me find my voice, be vulnerable, and work through some issues.
“Salad days” really is a wonderful phrase, and an even more engaging concept. We all start green, with regrets, but without marking them down, saying what needs to be said, we might forget something we’d rather not.
Thank you for all your work here at the post calvin. I especially loved how you (and I’m assuming it’s you here) selected the tag-line “summaries” for the posts. Every month I’d try to guess which line you’d pick and be delightfully wrong (I think I only got two right, and one of those two was super obvious). Each one would be perfect in a way I did not expect.
You will be missed. Keep writing stuff down.
Thank you, Abby, for starting this space to share thoughts, words and your own delightful learnings. Maybe you need to start another group for older 🙂 Calvin Alumni. As my devotions from Bob Goff’s “Live In Grace, Walk in Love” state on Day 203, “Musicians play music because they can’t help it. The same is true for writers: they write. They get up every morning and regardless of the size of their audience, they put their pens to the paper. Whether they write to move people or write for therapy, they write. The practice of their art makes them artists.” That is you. Thank you for your creative genius that God placed in you. We all learned.