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4200 FIFTH AVENUE

FOR THE PAST FEW WEEKS, I've been watching a small brown patch of earth outside my front door. Every morning as I leave for work, and in the evening when I return, I make a slow, contemplative pass by, scrutinizing the ground. I'm looking for signs of life. Three weeks ago, on a cloudy afternoon, I broke the soil, turning it over in thick clods, hoeing it into crumbs. Troweling out rows, I planted seeds -- sweet peas and thrift, calendula, poppies, and larkspur -- and covered them with a handful of fine, dark soil. Then I waited. And waited.

Inside the house, where I have some control over things like light and temperature, I started seeds also. Most of these emerged promptly, little pinpoints of green lazily nudging themselves up from under a soft brown surface. Cotyledons first, then true leaves, set by set, week by week. Here, where growth happens both quickly enough and slowly enough to see, there is a certain comfort and satisfaction. This is the message, and pleasure, of the garden, that everything unfolds as it should.

Outside I watched the ground and waited, and almost gave up hope. Is there anything more mournful than a seed that does not take? Meanwhile all around me spring unfurled. I tried to watch for this, too. But for all of the blossoming and coming to green that I could see, spring eluded me.

We mark time by the passage of the seasons. Yet seasons themselves are not scored by the linear. The spring that I could see hovered on the edge of promise, a fuzzy aura of green around a tree. When I looked again, it had already burst out -- the crabapple trees awash in dusty pink blossom, the yard dotted with bright yellow dandelion heads. A fait accompli. Hint and revolution. When did the trees fill in the woods between my house and my neighbors'? When did the strings of seedy flowers come to dangle, like earrings, from my oak tree? I could not catch and hold spring, could not see it coming well enough to examine it, no matter how fiercely I watched. Spring is a sleight of hand. You have to take it on faith.

Many of you have watched the talent of Laura Shefler emerge over the past five-and-a-half years. Laura began as an editorial assistant for the magazine in 1989, tackling small articles and managing the circulation duties. Over time, she took on more and more complex writing assignments, her promise blossoming into a strong, personal, and impassioned voice. The publication of this issue, with Laura's fine cover story on jazz pianist Geri Allen, marks Laura's final one as associate editor. She has left us to go to Europe where she is spending seven months traveling with only the belongings that fit into a backpack. On Laura's last day here, she walked down the hall carrying a heaping box of plants, books, and notes, over which she could not see well. "I hope I'm not making a mistake," she said, as she neared where she thought the turn should be. "I can't see where I'm going." We're not worried. We know that the road will unfold before Laura and that she will have the wisdom to follow it to rich and revealing places. For our part, it has been a great adventure working with her. I hope you'll join us in wishing Laura a terrific journey.


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