“Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.”
The preceding poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost has a theme that I got comfortable with this past weekend. I’ve spent my first January weekend of the past 5 years in the same place, a retreat house called Subiaco. Every year, I bring a life-lesson back with me to the real world. Two years ago, I posted a blog “Ladybugs” found here: https://kevinwojo.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/ladybugs/ Last year, I posted a blog “Moving On”, found here: https://kevinwojo.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/moving-on/ . Both included lessons that I learned and described a little bit about my experiences at the retreat.
This year, like the past years, I took some time away from a hectic schedule to figure out what is going on in my life that‘s worth exploring. What I found was something I believe to be very important not just in my life, but something I believe everyone should take to heart. The concept was simply “Nothing gold can stay.”
The first event that inspired me to think about this concept was during a meditation we were having. This year, unlike past years, I was off to the side as a chaperone making sure no one was being obnoxious and taking away from anyone else’s peaceful experience. As the students began to quiet down, I started keeping my ears open for anything that would take away from the silence of the atmosphere. I would cringe every time I heard someone changing their position because it would make a creaking sound on the floorboards they were laying on. My eyes would dart around the room, trying to find the source of an annoying ticking sound. I soon found myself on edge, waiting for someone else to make a small noise. In my head, I had an idea of what a perfect silence was. Anything that deviated from that image would cause me to stress out. I began to develop the notion that I could not imagine there ever being a perfect silence. If I were put in a setting where everything was supposed to be completely quiet, I would constantly be thinking, “OK, what’s the next noise going to be?” refusing to accept the fact that my environment could ever have a perfect silence. It was seemingly miniscule at the time, but it got my mind thinking about the concept that we can’t always have things be the way they once were.
The second and most obvious event that caused me to dwell on this concept was simply “remembering the good ol’ days.” Going through Youth Group, I made a close group of friends that I shared a lot of awesome memories with. After my four years were up, I said goodbye to my fellow Senior friends and thought I’d never get the chance to come back. Fortunately this year I got the chance to be a group leader and interact with the younger Youth Group participants who were now Seniors themselves. It was different for me to not have some of my closest friends there that were my age. I began to think about the experiences I had had with those people all four years and how none of them were there to reminisce with me this weekend. Another thought I had that had a big impact on me was the fact that the person who used to lead some of the more serious parts of the retreat for the past 35 years, Father Dan, was not here this year. He passed away this summer. It was heart-breaking for all those who loved Subiaco and the St. Benedict Monastery that he presided over. As this past weekend progressed, it was evident that this great man was missing. I got choked up a few times as I thought about the impact he had on all of the youth who came through those doors and how much things have changed since his passing.
Needless to say, I was missing my Senior friends and Father Dan this weekend. I was missing the way things used to be, while trying to make new memories along the way. I came to realize the idea that “Nothing gold can stay.” This is something that I realized I feared more than I thought I did. In my life, I’ve been blessed with many great opportunities and experiences. I spend a lot of time remembering my past and all of the things that went right and are going right for me. As much as these experiences have meant to me, I was faced with a tough reality check- things change. That being said, we must learn to adapt to change or we can never be truly happy.
“Her early leaf’s a flower, but only so an hour.” This line from the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” shows how the beauty of life, these great experiences and opportunities, can go by in a blink of an eye. That’s why it’s so important to find a balance between remembering the old times and appreciating the beauty of the present. If you spend all your time wishing things are the way they once were, you’ll be missing out on making the most of your present situation. This is hard for a lot of people- change is something that many of us are opposed to. Sometimes we get caught in our stubbornness and refuse to believe that anything can disturb our peace. Well if you haven’t had to experience this disturbance yet, you most likely will. A rug will be pulled out from under you and some major event will knock you off your feet. Push you out of your comfort zone. It is at that point that you make a decision. To forever dwell in the past, whether it be the good or the bad, or to stand up and move on.
As much as I was opposed to moving on, I stood up this weekend and realized things will never stay perfect for very long. I learned to take advantage of the times when life is good while keeping in mind the experiences that got me to that point in the first place. If you can’t learn to adapt to change and face reality, you’ll be in a much tougher spot. So take the time right now to appreciate the beautiful things in your life- they can be gone in the blink of an eye. After all, nothing gold can stay.