Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks with reporters while meeting at the State Department with ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney and his wife Patricia. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, chatting briefly with reporters Wednesday at a department function, said she was “thrilled to be back” after her recent illness and hospitalization.

“It’s obviously somewhat bittersweet,” she added, “because I’ve had the most extraordinary experience. . . . But I’m very much looking forward to doing everything we can these last few weeks to resolve and finish up wherever possible and then to have a very smooth, seamless transition to Sen. Kerry ...”

“And then retirement?” a reporter asked.

“I don’t know that that’s the word I would use,” she said, “but certainly stepping off the very fast track for a little while.”

Clinton fans know her usual response is to deflect questions about her future plans or to say something like what she told New York Times columnist Gail Collins in November: “I am so looking forward to next year,” she said. “I just want to sleep and exercise and travel for fun. And relax. It sounds so ordinary, but I haven’t done it for 20 years.”

It’s not much but, for Clintonophiles, if she’s not retiring . . .