It’s been an honor and privilege to be appreciated

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 28, 2006

“To everything there is a season…” – Ecclesiastes 3:1. This will be the last of these weekly columns.

In more than four decades in journalism, few things have been more gratifying than these weekly visits with you.

During most of my career I was a supervising editor. The editors and reporters who worked for me did some significant work that served the public interest and won professional recognition, including a Pulitzer Prize. I am proud of those efforts.

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In personal terms, though, little can match the satisfaction of a direct connection between the writer and the reader.

I have tried to make these columns more of a conversation between friends than a lecture, and it has been a surprise and a pleasure to meet for the first time readers who feel as if they already know me. Strangers at a restaurant or grocery store ask me about the Yellow Cat (he’s looking quite prosperous and doesn’t wander very far) or confide that they too are appalled by the way we trash up our state. In your letters and e-mails you have treated me as a friend.

I have preferred to leave to the talking heads on television the extreme “I’m right, anyone who disagrees is wrong” diatribes. Things aren’t always clear cut. It is more satisfying to write about real life and the experiences that we have in common.

Life is made up mostly of small moments, but often we are so absorbed that we miss them. One thing that I am constantly learning is to live in the present and to be aware of those small joys – a clean blue sky, a soft breeze, a child’s laughter – and to appreciate them. I have shared many of those small moments with you, and many of you have responded by telling me about your joyful and poignant experiences.

I owe special thanks to the editors who have made space for me to visit with you each week. And I owe even more special thanks to you for reading.

“Knowing when to leave may be the smartest thing anyone can learn,” Burt Bacharach said.

I am not sure that I am smart enough to know exactly the right time to leave, but I think that time is near. Just as it’s better for a guest to depart while he’s still welcome, it is better for a columnist to quit before he runs out of things to say.

The upside of writing a weekly column is that it forces you to write every week. The downside of writing a weekly column is that it forces you to write every week.

During my years as an editor I lost track of the number of people who were bored with whatever job they were in and thought they wanted to write. “Fine,” I’d say. “Write a few things and bring them to me.” I don’t think any of them ever came back. Writing is hard work; writing clearly is even harder.

I do not remember the first thing I wrote, but I do remember laboriously typing out a neighborhood newspaper on my aunt’s portable typewriter when I was very early in grade school.

I have been putting words on paper in some fashion ever since. I am sure I will continue to do so, though I do not know what shape they will take.

For the moment, though, like the athlete in Housman’s poem, I will slip betimes away.

– Bill Brown can be contacted at 377 Quail Hollow Drive, Dadeville, AL 36853 or by e-mail at