"You know, if you hang around this earth long enough,
you really see how things come full circle." -Patti Davis
Every day, I walk past a sweet maple tree that grows atop a tiny hill near the woods.
Every October, it bursts into riotous yellow and carpets the grass with golden leaves.
And this year, like most Octobers, I stop and pose my dog, Gracie, in the middle of this scene to help me remember this circle of life.
We humans are creatures of rhythm.
are the touchstones with which we measure our lives.
Though we may consider our lives to be a straight line, a one-way ticket from here to there, I think it's more likely that we travel in circles. Round and round the sun we go, experiencing
another rainy Saturday afternoon,
another first frost,
another newborn baby.
Each moment is a first, to be sure, in its own way unique and special. But we can also see these times a touch point, a handle that helps us make sense of our journey. We call up other moments like this one that we've experienced, and tuck away memories of the present mood to be recalled at some time in the future when we come round, once again, to a similar event. And the longer we live, the more experiences we have tucked away, and the more likely it is that we will realize that new happenings aren't so new at all; they're actually quite similar to something we've been through before.
Now this brings me to thinking about the challenges of 2020.
Never before, we lament, have we faced a worldwide pandemic where our offices, stores, and factories shut down; kids stay home from school; friends are reduced to FaceTime buddies; and facemasks have become a civic responsibility.
Never before, we worry, has our economy undergone such dramatic and tumultuous change with some businesses abruptly sinking, others exploding with controversial growth, and major industries wondering if they will ever rebound from the pandemic.
Never before, we agonize, have Americans confronted a more polarized political landscape where our president behaves in profoundly unpresidential ways, disregards the foundations of our democracy, and encourages hateful, dangerous behavior from his supporters.
These are, without question, uncertain times.
But when I feel the ground shifting uncomfortably under my feet, I stop and think about circles, and the way history brings us back again and again to these kinds of challenges.
* * * * *
We have never dealt with Covid before. But the world has stared down many a disease-related disaster before this.
And in my lifetime, AIDS emerged as a terrifying and mysterious slow wasting death for which we knew no cure.
* * * * *
Our economy has taken a cataclysmic hit, for sure. But this isn't the first time.
And more recently, the subprime mortgage debacle of 2008 set off the worst recession since the Great Depression.
* * * * *
But surely we've never dealt with anyone like Trump before, right?
Andrew Johnson undermined the whole point of the Civil War by trying to deny rights to former slaves.
Warren G. Harding was more interested in cards and women than politics, and let his cronies run wild.
James Buchanan led the country into Civil War by making terrible decisions and then pitying himself.
And I vividly recall the nightmare of Richard M. Nixon's "I am not a crook" tenure, and the bizarre image of him jubilantly boarding a helicopter to leave the White House after he finally resigned.
* * * * *
Yes, my friends, we are facing tough times. But our challenges aren't new, or even particularly different, than what the world has faced over and over again, in circles throughout history.
In time, the dangers will fade, we'll feel a new sense of security, and life will go on.
Perhaps not the same as life before, but we will cope just as so many humans before us found ways to deal with their own versions of these troubles.
The circles will continue.
And everything is going to be okay.
Here's my dear Ranger, in the last October of his life, under the same maple tree
on the same little hill as Gracie now stands, enjoying the circles of life.