We learn how to live, in many ways, mostly by accident. But those of us who learn to live well, whether as better scholars, more skilled laborers or artisans, or simply as more loving and kind and generous and good-hearted people—that growth and knowledge is gained best of all through the care and guidance of those who serve as our teachers and mentors. Parents and relatives can do this, friends and neighbors and co-workers. We who are most fortunate of all have many such positive influences come into our lives and help to shape us and bring forth our best selves.
And those who are best at being this sort of careful, patient, challenging, and giving tutors in one other person’s life tend to be so naturally inclined to raise up the best in anyone within their reach that they serve as mentors to many, regardless of any plan or intention. We who have been the beneficiaries of this largesse owe a debt of gratitude, and perhaps too, our own best efforts to pass the gifts along to another circle of influence in the great, rippling pond of our connectedness, to a further acre or two of young and beautiful growth that waits between today and our own eventual horizons. Life is brief, and best enriched in its short seasons by propagating mutual help and guidance. I am thankful to have been gifted with a number of superb guides and examples, friends and mentors, in my own life. May you all be as well.
The autumn came too soon, and left a pallor on the pretty paint
of those tall dahlias that you had nurtured faithfully, their saint;
It turned them into shadows of
themselves too soon, shadows of love…
Frost cut them down and took them in its bony hands to steal their dance
the graces you had tended there so tenderly, by circumstance,
From shoot to bud to blooming beds,
by stealthy ice that bowed their heads…
And you saw early autumn, too, too soon—were bit untimely by
the frost and plucked from gardening, the sun still in your sky-blue eye
Made winter’s sparkling snowy air
of beauties we were loath to spare…
Yet all this theft you had foreseen, and readied us to stay and tend
bright dahlias, each, our own; to go on gardening, and so amend
Our sorrows in your still-wide gaze
by passing on your gentle ways…
The rich inheritance you gave still grows like dahlias among
us all, your heirs, and in their turn, those we raise up as happy young
New imitators of your gift
for singing to give hearts a lift…
In loving memory of Neil Lieurance, and with deep and abiding gratitude for the treasure that is a true mentor in any life.