Going and Coming

As many of you, I am doing a LOT of cleaning, de-cluttering and reminiscing. On the one hand it feels so good to gain some space and to have a better understanding of where things are; what is essential to have, what can be tossed. On the other hand, there are an awful lot of memories that surface that arouse feelings that can be difficult.

Some of the things that made me feel sad was not solely because those things or people are not in my life anymore. There's something more basic than that -- it's the recognition that during this Covid-19 pandemic, so many ordinary, simple things are gone, at least for the foreseeable future. Restaurant menus, ticket stubs to plays and movies, notes from courses I took with other professionals at some point in my life, certificates of accomplishments, spreadsheets from income from years passed, these are all reminders of all the activities that we participated in together during our "normal" lives. Activities and people that we are now separated from.

Among stacks of old papers, I came across this poem, "Parable of Immortality" by Henry Van Dyke. I had copied it from the back of a friend's sister's funeral service because I was so moved by it back then. As I read it just now, I was reminded of how we are in the midst of the giant ebb and flow of our lives. Now, with the pandemic, the waves seem much higher, and when the tide moves back to the sea, it seems to take so much more with it. 

But there's something so wonderful in this poem, and that's the possibility of a new perspective... We might see this time as a loss of "normal", as a painful separation. But this writing might also indicate that something that is only a speck right now, is coming in to be welcomed in our lives. Can we wait on this same shore that we wave goodbye from, and welcome this unknown wave?

"Parable of Immortality"

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. 

She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. 

Then someone at my side says, 
"There she goes!"
Gone where?
Gone from my sight... that is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. 
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment
when someone at my side says, 
"There she goes!"
there are other eyes watching her coming...
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout...
"Here she comes!"

-- Henry Van Dyke

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