Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Moving in Circles

This time of year, I think a lot about the cyclical nature of things. It seems like only yesterday that I was watching daffodils and tulips come up. Now it is time to trim back gardens and enjoy autumn's mums and sedum. The warm afternoons will give way to frosty mornings which will give way to snowstorms which in turn will lead us back to spring sunshine.

Anticipating the seasonal changes makes me think about the relentless passage of time. Joni Mitchell's wonderful song "Circle Game" references circles, but it's really about time moving forward, ever onward. I am at the point where I, too, want to "drag my feet to slow the circles down."

. . . And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and dawn
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind from where we came
And go round and round and round in the circle game

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town
And they tell him,"Take your time, it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down"

Time advances, yet the world turns in a circle. We go through seasonal routines, but we get older. I don't feel older, but I see the changes in my children each autumn.

My son, who has "sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now," loved the movie The Lion King many summers ago. It opens with the song, "Circle of Life", and it feels like just yesterday that we were singing that song together. In fact, I sometimes think that if I squint my eyes just right, I can see the little boy who used to pretend to be Simba. Like I can move backward on that timeline.

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There's more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round

It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life

At the seashore I think about distance as well as time. I feel insignificant standing next to the vast ocean. In her song, "Life is Eternal," Carly Simon says that death is only a horizon, and a horizon is just the boundary of our vision. Our eyes see a limit in the distance, but that is an illusion. The earth continues in an arc, a circle.

. . . Won't you tell me please
That life is eternal
And love is immortal
And death is only a horizon
Life is eternal
As we move into the light
And a horizon is nothing
Save the limit of our sight
Save the limit of our sight

I've been thinking a lot about those songs lately. I am in the the so-called Sandwich generation caught between raising children and caring for aging parents. This was most evident to me in the last few months as our family and friends' families struggled with aging and frail parents while still having to shuttle kids to activities, help with homework, and cope with adolescents in the house. In the space of one day, someone in mid-life is able to observe virtually every phase of the circle, young children to teenagers, peers, and finally older parents.

Earlier this month I attended the funeral for my father in law, who passed away after a long fight with cancer. For the calling hour, we created a slide show of photos of his life. I could see the progression of time, from babyhood, through school, marriage, parenthood, and finally retirement and grandchildren. He'd lived to see 75 springs and summers gone now, a long line of time, but never long enough. It is difficult for me to comprehend that he has moved beyond our horizon.

Two weeks to the day after we buried him, his daughter, my sister-in-law, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. And on that day, I could sense that timeline curving, curving around to reach 360 degrees. Completing the circle.


  1. Such a lovely post. The song lyrics are well chosen and gain in meaning within the context of what you write. Thank you for this truly moving meditation on the changing of the seasons and in life.

  2. Dear Raining Acorns,
    I wrote: such a lovely post! - then I saw your comment above (I always read them afterwards). But it is true!
    The subject Time - Space - Circles is so very fascinating. Maybe you like to read my (very subjective) post on that (well, and chestnuts) in Gardeninginhighheels in May 2010, "Time and Space"?

  3. We like the same popular music which quite gives the game away agewise.

    I have decided that circles are all very well but I'd rather have spirals which run into infinity, at least until such time as they have worn themselves away and with them, me.

    Here, where I live, the seasons are strictly marked; I see them and their circles endlessly repeating themselves, making me feel a part of the great universe. Unimportant, yes, but nevertheless existing.

  4. It is difficult for me to get this written because the tears keep getting between me and the computer screen. You have done a beautiful and poignant job of evoking the bittersweet passage of time. The little boy pretending to be Simba provides an aching counterpoint to the mortality of your father-in-law (and of us all). The birth of the little girl is just the right note of optimism to melt a little of the lump in my throat. Thanks for sharing part of your circle of life.

  5. I enjoyed reading this post - I was humming merrily along to those great songs. But something gripped me unexpectedly and by the end I couldn't see the page clearly. You described my state of mind so eloquently.

  6. Your piece reinforces to me that what is happening this very moment need not be any more "tangible" than what has already happened, and what will happen in days and years to come.

    The memories you have of your young Simba or your father in law are shared moments on the greater circle, brief resting points on the timeline. With practice--and the help of photographs, memories, and blogs like this--you can return to those moments again and again. This gives me great comfort. Thank you for this post.

  7. Thank you for all your comments. @Britta, I did enjoy your piece too!

    Writing allows me to process and figure out many ideas and emotions. Thank you for for this opportunity.


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