Going in Circles

As I write this, I am next door to the room I was in 15 months ago. We arrived in Germany in March of last year and we leave tomorrow, so we are back in temporary quarters (which is army-speak for a hotel). It has gone by fast, and now we are back where we began.

While on trips, my kids often comment that we always drive in circles. This is mostly due to my tendency to miss GPS turns causing me to have to double-back. But I remind them that most of the trips we take in life are circles, in that we end up back where we started.

Every trip we’ve taken in Europe has been a circle in that sense, though more technically some of them have been out-and-backs. Even on our trek to our new duty station in a part of the country none of us have ever visited, we will punctuate our trip with some circular stops visiting family and friends along the way.

Even once we arrive, we will start going in circles once again, like a spirograph lifted and placed on a new spot on the paper (or map). We will become familiar with new streets, new sights, new routines. Normal will be contoured to a new landscape which will shape us as we also try to shape it to our desires.

Within about 2 miles, you can visit every place my grandparents lived in my lifetime—from the sprawling split-level on Paterbaugh Creek to an apartment, a townhouse, another apartment, and ultimately a nursing home. It was a similar closeness in geography yet distance in time and wealth that made As the Crow Flies resonate with me when I read it years ago.

I sometimes wonder how the spirograph of my life will play out. Will I end up back in Indiana or Michigan someday? Seems unlikely at this point. But then the question becomes, as the idea of “settling down” looms larger in our conversations and becomes less of an abstraction in our thinking, where will the last circles revolve around?

We’re at a stage in life where circles are spinning off and branching. We have two out of the nest, another soon to fledge, and our youngest poised to start his sophomore year of high school. We even have our first grandchild on the way. Our circles now have other points spinning about on different places on the map trying to intersect when they can.

I saw an anthill by the sidewalk a couple of days ago. It was active with ants streaming in and out. We often look at the apparent chaos and wonder where they are going, what they are doing? Do they even know? I suspect they are not much different than us, in that they are running around in circles. Just like for them, one day our frantic activity will end and our circles will stop spinning. Others will carry on with their own gyrations.

It’s funny how an old childhood toy and an ant hill can lead you to thinking about mortality and the nature of this life we live.


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