It has not been a quiet week in my Lake Wobegon— but happily so. My sister’s third son’s marriage on Sunday, breakfast the next day with my wife’s brother’s son and then off to a 4-day Sea Ranch retreat with my wife and two daughters, my sister and her husband, sister-in-law and three sons, joined together for her 50th Wedding Anniversary party with other family friends we’ve retreated with for over 30 years. Hikes, meals, hot tubs, games, a jigsaw puzzle, ceremonies, convivial conversations and all the shared (or previously unshared) stories of these multiple lives we’ve lived together.
Now we have re-packed the suitcases, cleared the refrigerator, checked the drawers and closets, packed the car and said our goodbyes to the last of the gang to resume the next chapter of our home lives, refreshed and renewed by the unmasked and hug-filled re-gathering of many people we have enjoyed and cared about for so many years.
What is this life but a perpetual arrival and departure, a greeting and a farewell, a coming and a going? Not only with the people in our lives, but to the person we were yesterday and the person we might be tomorrow. Perhaps this has something to do with my lifelong obsession with public attention to these tidal moments in our life, the importance of creating welcoming ceremonies and closing rituals filled with praise and appreciation. Reminded by Facebook that this time last year was my last day after 45 years at The SF School, I still feel the absence of a farewell party that would have put the punctuation mark at the end of that long, long sentence. (Interesting thought: Would it have been a period, question mark, exclamation point or comma?)
But whether we mark the moment or not, time doesn’t care, but marches on in both its linear and circular form. As the 50 years (!!!) that have elapsed since I played the organ at my sister’s wedding, the 29 years since I greeted my nephew’s arrival into this world, testify— time moves forward.
And then the circular nature of it all. I think of those lines in the classic movie Grand Hotel:
“Grand Hotel. Always the same. People coming. People going. Nothing ever happens.”
And everything happens. And isn’t it marvelous?