Paul Andersen: Farewell, readers, this is my last column after 36 years
Today I am ending my 36-year career with The Aspen Times as a regular writer, perhaps one of the longest tenures in the paper’s history.
I turned 70 a few weeks ago and decided to reduce my obligations, erase deadlines and simplify. I am retiring from my column, not out of anger, disappointment or protest, but to free up my life.
This column has been like breathing — every week an inhale of inspiration and an exhale of ideas, perspectives and emotions. Having a voice in this newspaper has been an honor I have never taken lightly. I have given every column my best effort to express my views fairly and honestly.
Writing this column has focused and informed my world view in what has become a journal of my life. I have written about everything of importance to me several times over. And while the role of columnist is empowering, it should never become mundane.
The topics of most concern to me have been moral and ethical, and therefore philosophical. War and peace, the natural environment, social justice, scale and proportion, peace and violence, these have been focal points for my allotted 715 words.
Among my most popular columns are those I have written about my son, Tait, and the many adventures we have enjoyed together in this beautiful place. Tait and I continue our father/son adventures, and we appreciate each one.
It is time I give up the space I’ve been taking to other writers, hopefully younger, fresher and more current. Let new voices reflect new values for new times. Let younger minds churn through the complexities and dichotomies and try to make sense of them.
In my 45 years as a journalist and book author, I have typed at least a million keystrokes, first on typewriters, then on computers. My wife noticed years ago that, in my sleep, my fingers methodically tap out letters on a somnambulistic keyboard.
Deadline writing is challenging and demanding, a regular, focused exercise that requires conditioning and habit. Breaking that habit is sobering because of the trust I have felt from loyal readers. To you, I ask, please don’t judge me harshly for jumping ship; there are other ports of call I need to explore.
There are books I want to write, and I’ve been dabbling in poetry. I’m a writer, and words are part of my life, so I will continue to write. I also want to improve on the guitar, practice more on the piano, read more literature and philosophy, and get outdoors more. I want to live more in the moment.
As guardians of Aspen culture, other columnists will carry on. And when an issue burns too hotly for me to ignore, the Times editor said he will allow me space as a guest opinion writer. So, you’ll probably hear from me again … and again.
And yet, waking each day without having to form an opinion or take a stand feels liberating. I plan to settle more into acceptance and less into judgment as I view the valley and the world from my quiet home up the Fryingpan.
Writing this final column, I think back to my job interview in 1984 with Bil Dunaway and Mary Eshbaugh Hayes. I was living in Crested Butte then, so I rode my mountain bike over Reno Divide and Taylor Pass, camped along the way, bathed in Castle Creek and rolled into Aspen with eagerness for a new adventure.
When I told Bil that I had arrived by bike, he smiled, nodded and hired me on the spot. I was a good fit for the paper, and the paper was a great fit for me. I count my writing career as essential to forming the person I am today.
I plan to make copies of all my columns and bind them into two folders — one for me and one for Tait. My copy will go on a shelf. Over time, I will take it down, read a column or two, and revisit episodes and events from the rich life I have enjoyed here.
Thank you, readers, for sharing it all with me.
Paul Andersen’s column has appeared on Mondays for long enough. He may be reached at email@example.com.
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