Hello my friends,
For an arithmodigmaphile like me, this is a very special date. On the morning of 06-06-06 I board a plane in Edinburgh to fly to Wooster for the fortieth reunion of my college class. We are celebrating our graduation from the College of Wooster forty years ago on the very special date of 6-6-66.
Five years after that date, in June 1971, I arrived late and last for the first of the reunions we have had every five years. By the time I arrived, everyone else had turned down the job of class president. I accepted it.
And so every five years I’m responsible for coming up with a way of celebrating our reunion. This year as the reunion approached, I looked into the book of College Talks given by Dr. Howard Lowry, who was president of Wooster when we were there. On the Sunday before our graduation on 6-6-66, Dr. Lowry preached the Baccalaureate sermon on the topic Second Finding.
He found the words “second finding” in a poem by Richard Wilbur called “The Beautiful Changes” which concludes with these lines:
"—the beautiful changes
In such kind ways,
Wishing ever to sunder
Things and things' selves for a second finding, to lose
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder."
Dr. Lowry described a second finding as “what does happen to us—this moving from one ground to another; this losing for a moment one thing in order to find, in wonder, another thing, perhaps something recovered, something reappraised, something understood and now valued for the first time.”
So the Second Finding will be our theme at the reunion this weekend. I have asked my classmates and some of the professors who were with us forty years ago to share their Second Findings. As part of warming up for this weekend, I will share my own Second Findings with you.
Dr. Lowry approached the idea of Second Finding from various perspectives, including: recoveries, reappraisals, re-examinations, renunciations, reaffirmations, repossessions, revisions, and renewals. Following his example, I have considered a few other perspectives, including: release, rediscovery, and retreat.
In honour of 06-06-06, I have chosen six of those perspectives.
I start with recovery because that is a focal point for me just now. After six months of continuing shoulder pain, I have now been scheduled for surgery in August. That will be a month of recovery. But now that I know what the problem is and how to solve it, I feel that my recovery has already begun. After years of managing chronic pains, I am delighted with this Second Finding: a pain that can be cured.
As I write this I am looking out my study window at our wonderful garden, lovingly nurtured by Rosemary. The bluebells of Scotland are lighting up the borders while the multicoloured rhododendrons reach for the willow branches and the scattered cherry blossoms lighten the lawn.
At the edge of the garden is our new picket fence, an attempt to limit the visitations of the rabbits—as well as the lambs and the horses in the neighbouring fields.
The hills in the distance are definitely Scottish but the green grass set off by the new picket fence looks very much like the farm in Ohio where I spent summers and other holidays with my grandparents, my parents, and my siblings.
I have come from the green hills of Ohio to rediscover the green hills of Scotland that my ancestors left two centuries ago. I have arrived where my family history started and found it to be like the place where my personal history started.
Dr. Lowry often quoted these lines from T.S. Eliot:
"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
I have rediscovered home: a Second Finding.
Those lines from Eliot were very important one April evening nine years ago when a client of mine invited me to dinner so that I could meet her friend Rosemary. At some point in the evening, Rosemary and I quoted those lines to each other. That was possibly before we noticed that everyone else had left the dinner table and we were still talking intensely.
We had another one of those intense conversations this morning (having got married a year after that first conversation!) as we discussed how we move through times of not liking each other or disagreeing with each other. Even when the liking is shaky, the loving is solid. And when the liking returns, we reaffirm both the liking and the loving.
Each of us had been in love before and each of us had wondered if we would ever be in love again. Our continuing reaffirmation of love is the great Second Finding of my life.
We both treasure this “Late Fragment” from Raymond Carver:
"And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on this earth."
One reason I began falling in love with Rosemary on that April evening was something she said about her clients giving themselves a label. When someone says to her, “I am a ....” Rosemary responds: “And what else?”
That wonderful question encourages me to continue reappraising what I think I know about myself and others. Even while I accept myself as having certain preferences and sometimes give myself labels, I continue to imagine that I might learn more. So I ask myself, “And what else?” And another Second Finding appears.
Some of my Second Findings have come from the release of First Findings. I released myself from a specific religious belief; I found a deeper belief in humanity. I let go of past homes and past relationships; I found a new home and new relationship. I let go of living in the centre of a city; I found a home in farming country. I let go of regret at having no children of my own; I found two special stepchildren. Or perhaps we found each other. Certainly my grandchildren have each found me—with simple and direct love.
The “re” in rejoice is not quite like the “re” in the other five words. It turns out to mean “again” and is used as an “intensifier” so that the joy is even more joyful!
And my sixth Second Finding is joy. Yesterday as Rosemary and I walked up to a waterfall, we needed to sit on a bench for awhile so that I could recover. The shoulder pain that slows me down gave us a chance to appreciate the trees and the birds.
Suddenly, Rosemary spotted a rarely-seen bird—a tree creeper—scuttling up the tree with tenacious claws. We would have missed him if we had kept walking. So we rejoiced.
I rejoice in my discovery that enthusiasm means “the god within” and I rejoice that the god within me and the god within you bring joy into the world.
On our wedding day in 1998, we walked out of church singing the final hymn, “You Shall Go Out With Joy” and that is our Second Finding. Together we walk the fields and hills, rejoicing in leaping lambs, tottering colts, and frisky calves. Together we walk the holiday beaches with our grandchildren, rejoicing in shells and rocks and waves. Together we rejoice in this beautiful world and we rejoice in these wonderful people.
Sometimes we go out looking for that Second Finding of joy. Sometimes, as on the bench yesterday, the joy comes to us. Sometimes, as Dr. Lowry says at the end of his speech, “we do not do the finding at all. Sometimes we are found.”
I look forward to hearing your Second Findings. And I wish you much rejoicing.