Your days are short here

Your days are short here.  This is the last of your springs.  And now, in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place, touch the depths of trusts, feel the hem of Heaven.  You will go away with old, good friends.  And don’t forget when you leave why you came.

-Adlai Stevenson

Last Friday I had these lines in my head all day long.  Of course they’re dear to me, because Adlai Stevenson delivered them at Princeton.  He was speaking to the class of 1954 and with tremendous personal knowledge, because he himself graduated in 1922.  So these words always, instantly, bring to mind the four marvelous springs I spent at Princeton: the magnolias and the music, the beer and the bravado, the mundane and the magical.

But it wasn’t Princeton I was thinking about last week.  I was considering these lines in a new way.  Our days are short everywhere.  All of our seasons – those defined by the sun’s presence or absence from the Earth as well as those whose demarcations are emotional – eventually draw to a close.

And we ought never forget, even when something ends, why we began it.  This is another universal statement; in my experience, very often something begun with intention, verve and enthusiasm can wind to an utterly unanticipated close.  Still, I have to remind myself, there’s value in the journey, no matter where it takes us.  But I also need to remember – we all do – why it is we set out in the first place.  Even if we didn’t go where we thought we would.

While I don’t know yet precisely what it is in my life that’s ending, these words in my head, my ever-keener awareness of earth’s very rotation underneath me certainly speak of the thinning out of a season.  I am crossing through, I think, the attenuated border of one phase and into another.  Though some of life’s seasons end abruptly, I think these transitions are mostly gradual, with one interval of time fading into another before we’ve even realized what is happening.

In these moments when I realize how short my days are, the challenge is to open my eyes to the radiance of all that is coming even as I mourn what is lost.  Today, anew, as we turn towards the days of magnolias again, I will try again to be as aware of welcoming the beginning as I am of grieving the end.

What’s ending for you?  And beginning?  Do you remember why you came?


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7 Comments

  1. Posted February 16, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    I very much relate to this sense of feeling, intuitively, that something is ending even when you don’t yet have the evidence. I wrote a post last spring about going to my last mama/baby yoga class, and not realizing that I’d walked through a door that I’d never pass through again until it was shut and locked behind me. I think that’s what you’re getting at here. Yes, some transitions are planned, anticipated, dramatic. But most of the time we slide into a new phase and don’t even realize it’s happening until we’re on the other side.

    As friends have babies (and second babies), I realize that “the baby stage” with Abra has ended — is ending. We’re transiting into full-blown toddlerhood now. And although it happened gradually, over a number of months, I remember waking up one day and feeling like a new life had begun, that so much of the happiness that marked her earliest days had suddenly dissipated.

  2. Amy
    Posted February 16, 2012 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    So beautiful. I have been thinking the same thoughts as I prepare for my wedding and the end of “single life.” I’m so excited to be married and to begin this new chapter of my life at the same time I am trying to enjoy every minute of the journey as I know it really is a once in a life time “time”!

  3. Posted February 16, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I meant to say so much of the *un*happiness that had marked her early days. Isn’t that a funny little Freudian slip?

  4. Posted February 16, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I feel caught up in a ridiculous amount of dramatic endings and beginnings.

    Moving house. The end of living in a certain space, which defined in so many ways a transition time of it’s own. Even though it was not a home I adored, it was my home for such an important time. And leaving that house empty is painful. The beginning of living in a house we all chose together, near things we want, certainly a good beginning. It’s putting roots down.

    Soon to give birth. Birth is amazing, shocking, changing. But this is my last baby. How will that feel? And when the baby comes, we all enter a new world. Leaving behind a family of four for five. Someone won’t be the littlest anymore. There will be a long transition ahead for all of us.

    I’ve always loved the idea of liminality. These moments of changing, sometimes it’s a quick step through a doorway. Somedays we can see the change coming or we know it as soon as it is done. But, some changes are are more like traveling through a tunnel. We don’t even know when we entered or where we’ll emerge. And then everything is different.

  5. Carey
    Posted February 16, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Thanks as always for your beautiful post, Lindsey. You have captured my own experience exactly.

    And so long as you haven’t experienced
    this: to die and so to grow,
    you are only a troubled guest
    on the dark earth.

    –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

  6. Posted February 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    The beauty of your writing shocks me sometimes. The thinning of a season…

    For me what is ending is a period of indecision, of being stuck. I feel as though I have passed through a threshold of some sort and yet I am not all the way through yet either. I began the journey to find a sense of ease but what I am also finding that these moments of ease also highlight the moments that are not ease.

    This probably makes no sense. But what a wonderful question this is!!!

  7. Posted February 17, 2012 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    I love the last lines, where you talk of opening yourself to the radiance of what’s to come….it’s a beautiful and most certainly what’s waiting will take you where you are to go next on your journey in this life:)