Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: the end of an era

Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness | Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver was born on 10 September 1935 and died on 17 January 2019. Though today’s world isn’t the world she knew, I hear this poem speaking truth about today’s realities. My comments follow.

Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends

into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?

So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

Published 2020 by Penguin Books in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (p. 49)
Copyright 2017 by NW Orchard LLC
First published in A Thousand Mornings, 2012

I can’t read this poem without thinking about today’s world. We aren’t simply on the cusp of late fall and winter weather. We’re witnessing with our eyes and hearts the end of an era. The title of the poem is heavy with innuendo.

Mary looks at the changing of seasons and points to the goodness of what doesn’t always seem good enough or lovable enough. Who loves to see flowers wilting, or dry old leaves falling to the ground? Or the warm light of day giving way to the icy darkness of each night?

Instead of mourning the passing of warm weather and beautiful fall days, Mary points to what it means to love this world. All of it. No matter what we think about changing seasons, or about the lovability of family, friends, strangers, or even ourselves.

What’s true of nature reminds me of human relationships. Like flower petals falling to the ground, we, too, move from one season, to the next. No one said this would be easy. Nor do we have any idea what beautiful surprises may be waiting just around the corner. Especially in the midst of unfathomable loss and anguish.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 September 2021
Photo by Sven Brogren found at

The Dean and I | Part 10

Anthony's Pier 4, boston-waterfront-anthonys-pier-4_2
Anthony’s Pier 4 Restaurant, Boston Waterfront
(now closed)

Spring 1968.  Mr. Griswold asks D and me to house-sit for him for up to one year. I tell Mr. Griswold I’m pregnant, thinking he might change his mind. He doesn’t. In fact, would D and I be able to move in by early June?

D and I talk it over. We also talk with friends from New Zealand. They plan to return to New Zealand with their baby right after Christmas. We’re at the top of the list for their spacious apartment near the university. Good news, since Mr. Griswold isn’t sure how long he’ll need to have us house-sitting.

Yes, D and I can move in by early June. Mr. Griswold invites us to supper so they can show us the house. Nothing fancy. No need to dress up. Yes, I’m nervous! Is this really happening?

I’ve met Harriet Ford Griswold before, but usually at official social events. She asks about Diane’s and Mom’s polio histories, and tells us her polio history. She’s a woman of great courage.

The house is set up so Mrs. HFG can be as independent as possible. A cook helps with dinner, and a cleaning woman comes every so often. The rest of the time Mrs. HFG is on her own. Even when Mr. G is present she doesn’t expect or want him to do what she can do. She goes into detail about how she gets along by herself most of the time. I wonder whether she’s lonely.

The house is in a residential area, sits on a hill overlooking Boston, and has a yard full of trees. Most impressive, it has a small enclosed elevator for Mrs. HFG. There’s an old piano I’m welcome to play, though hasn’t been tuned for years.

Beyond that, there’s a ground level back door entrance, and doors throughout most of the house are wide enough for a wheelchair. Mr. G keeps the thermostat well below 65° Fahrenheit at night. I think he expects us to conserve energy. Which we do.

The move is easy. We pack our clothes and kitchen, box the books, throw everything into the back of our VW squareback and drive off.

Back at the office
My co-workers know I’m pregnant, and that D and I are going to house-sit. I have my ‘interview’ with the future interim dean. He sees no reason to let me go, and tells me to stay on as long as I’m able. I’m relieved.

In May, Mr. Griswold takes our office staff out to lunch, with spouses or special friends. We drive to Anthony’s Pier 4 Seafood Restaurant, a favorite with everybody. We have one last lobster feast (pick your own lobster from the tank as you come in), and tell stories about working with Mr. Griswold.

It’s the end of an era. Mr. Griswold is retiring, and the university is going to build a modern law school building, just behind Langdell Hall. The law library will stay in Langdell Hall. The offices we’re in will become part of the new library, but not until I’m gone. I love Langdell Hall.

I continue working until two weeks before my due date in late August. No health problems. Just Boston heat and time out as needed to put up my legs, relax, drink water and make trips to the ladies’ room.

In early August, EW hosts a raucous farewell celebration and baby shower for me at her home. Her round dinner table is filled with friends from work, plus D and a few other spouses. Mr. Griswold is already busy in Washington, D.C.

A few days after the farewell party I receive a hand-written letter from Mr. Griswold. It’s on his new letterhead: The Solicitor General, Washington. Erwin N. Griswold.

I read it several times, stunned by what he says. I show it to D, then put it away. It’s a treasure I don’t know how to unpack just yet. I don’t look at it again for years.

I’m less than one week from delivering our first child.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 April 2015
Photo credit:

%d bloggers like this: