A weekend of light and darkness


What a weekend.

On Friday I watched Grace’s final cross-country race.  As we waited for the start, it rained.  And then an extraordinary rainbow appeared, like I’ve never seen before. The photo above has no filter.  There were a lot of schools at this final race, so there were separate girls’ and boys’ races.  Grace has had an excellent cross-country season but one speckled with a lot of anxiety; her fears about performance have gotten the best of her and propelled us to a place of wondering how to keep a sport she enjoys and is good at from being destroyed by nerves.  It’s been an emotional few weeks as we grapple with how best to handle these worries.

In short, I wasn’t really sure how this last race of the season would go.  I stood and watched as 73 girls lined up by school on the starting line.  The gun went off and I so devoutly wish I had a photograph of Grace as she strode across it.  She took the lead early and definitively but much more striking to me was the look on her face as she set off.  I have literally never seen her look so determined.  I told Matt I think on my deathbed one of the images of Grace I’ll recall is her at that moment.  There was something both intimately familiar and brand-new on her face as she set out: serious, singele-minded, dogged.  Every tear from the month was there, too, but behind this new resolve.  I watched her in awe.

Off they went.  “I don’t think she’s going to win,” I whispered to my mother, standing next to me.  A girl who came in 3rd in States to Grace’s 12th was in the race, and there were a lot of runners.  “I just want her to feel good about it.”  Mum nodded, agreeing.  We watched in silence.  Our home course is a straight out-and-back so there is no glimpsing the runners mid-race.  I stood with my parents and waited.  After what felt like forever we saw the first runner in the distance.  I could not tell if it was Grace.  I looked for her green sneakers, which have always identified her for me from far away, but I couldn’t see them.  The second runner could be her, I thought, but the gait looked unfamiliar.  My chest felt tight as Grace came into clear view.  She was the lead runner, and she was way out in front.  Nobody was near her.  And what made me happiest was how masterful she looked, how strong, how confident.


She crossed first, ending the season on a terrific high note.  I am proud but far more importantly, so is she.  And she feels good about having wrestled some demons this year and of having come out feeling she can still find joy in running.  I know this will not be the last time these fears raise their heads, but I also know that having vanquished them once will help give her confidence the next time they arrive.

IMG_8730While Grace cheered on the boys’ race, I watched the sunset over the Charles River.  I admired it, and photographed it, but felt a vague and inchoate sense of uneasiness too.  The sky looked thunderous, dramatic, full of portent.  Like the strange, eerily truncated rainbow earlier, there was something unsettled in the sky.  It was as we drove home that we learned about the Paris attacks.  The sense of accomplishment and pleasure of watching my new teenager running quickly dissolved into desperate sorrow and worry about the world.  I instagrammed a photograph I had taken of Grace and Whit lighting candles in a church in Paris 6 months ago.


My mother confirmed that she heard from her cousin who lives in Paris and that his family was safe.  We spent the weekend doing family things but I had Yeats’ seminal lines from The Second Coming in my mind the whole time:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

It’s hard not to be totally overcome with fear in moments like this.  The world feels like it’s spiralling out of control, and everywhere we turn it seems like there is a threat (if not international terrorism, then home-grown school shooters).  We cancelled a trip to Exeter on Saturday to see the Exeter/Andover game, which I think came out of some deep-seated desire by me to stay home, stay together, stay quiet.  We told the children about the attacks and watched our family friend reporting on television from Paris.  They had lots of questions, which I tried my best to answer in a balanced way.

How quickly this life can shift, from rainbows and victory to heartbreak and fear.  I’m accustomed to some back-and-forth; it is how I’m wired, after all.  Yet the amplitude of the oscillations seems to be growing, and that unnerves me, I’ll be honest.  I’m trying to remember the joy on my daughter’s face as she sprinted across the finish line first, and the glow of that otherworldly rainbow, and even the way my son curled into me on the couch as we watched Christiane Amanpour reporting from the streets of Paris, familiar now to Grace and Whit as they have been so long to me.

I’m not willing to let go of my stubborn belief that there is much light in the world, but there are surely times when that belief feels more attenuated, when the darkness threatens to overwhelm it.  This is one one of those times.  Do you know what I mean?

22 thoughts on “A weekend of light and darkness”

  1. Beautifully put. I am in total agreement about the light and darkness. It is great that Grace closed her season in such a fantastic way! Parenting a child when they are experiencing anxiety is not easy, it sounds like you are doing a great job.

  2. I do know what you mean. And having the terror come right into my European home puts things on a whole new scale. I am very conflicted, feeling that there is little to be done and that history repeats itself in cycles, but at the same time I have that fierce conviction that each of us has the individual obligation and responsibility to be kind to those around us, to try and fix on the individual level what seems insurmountable as a whole.

    Congratulations to your runner girl. What an accomplishment, both the finish and overcoming her demons!

  3. “She took the lead early and definitively but much more striking to me was the look on her face as she set off. I have literally never seen her look so determined. I told Matt I think on my deathbed one of the images of Grace I’ll recall is her at that moment. ”

    What a beautiful thought.

    I had a similar thought of my daughter this week at her horse riding lesson. The look of pure joy on her face. She’s 9 going on 14 and so smart, but we struggle with her complaining about stuff a lot. So it was nice to see her with such joy.

  4. I know. Yes, I certainly do know. I find myself going very deeply inward when these tragedies happen, and it feels like it is becoming more the rule rather than the exception, sadly. I am completely flummoxed these days of what even to tell my daughter anymore about any of it. It’s so incomprehensible, the violence in our world, and it all feels like there is no immediate solution. For me, that is perhaps the hardest thing to wrestle with. But, then there are moments like daughters winning races and beautiful sunsets and the balm of magical moments like that somehow mends the hurt a little. Lovely thoughts here–thank you for sharing them. And congratulations, Grace!

  5. Thank you. It really stuck with me. I wish I had a photograph of it, but I’m not sure I would have captured her in that moment. Sounds like you had a similar experience with your daughter riding. xox

  6. I am certain the demons will be back! But glad she conquered them this time. And yes on the individual and insurmountable both. xox

  7. No, it is not easy, particularly because it triggers my own. But for now at least, she feels good, and so do I! xox

  8. “I’m not willing to let go of my stubborn belief that there is much light in the world, but there are surely times when that belief feels more attenuated, when the darkness threatens to overwhelm it.”

    Yes, exactly. You’ve so beautifully captured that here. Congratulations to Grace! I love the way you describe her doggedness. I can relate so much.

    And let us all cling to that belief in light, in goodness, in our shared humanity.

  9. Feeling overcome a lot these days, and your words here do just that. Amazing Grace, love that picture. And yes to the light and the dark. After my initial reaction of anger and feeling pulled to the dark, I now find myself fiercely looking for the light and the beautiful.

  10. I absolutely know what you mean. Having experienced a similarly lovely Friday then instantly feeling the weight of darkness, I too canceled plans and kept my people home, close and warm. I reminded them of all the goodness in the world even when mom and dad feel some sense of fear. There were hundreds of helpers and givers Friday in Paris and millions like them around the world praying for their healing and peace in our world. Thank you for your words once again Lindsey. Always lovely to hear your insights.

  11. “I’m not willing to let go of my stubborn belief that there is much light in the world, but there are surely times when that belief feels more attenuated, when the darkness threatens to overwhelm it. This is one one of those times. Do you know what I mean?”

    YES. absolutely. There are times when it feels like just a matter of time. I hate to say that, but it’s how I felt all weekend and I so predictably could not stop eating junk all weekend. It’s so dumb but it was like a physical manifestation of how I was feeling . . . sort of a “why bother with anything, including health, when the world is so dangerous?” We have to force ourselves to keep living or terrorism wins. I was in Israel recently during all these stabbings and I’ve been there when rockets are being fired into Israel and my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and nieces live there all the time . . . life goes on there because it has to. It’s a weird way to live, but the only way to live. The most important thing is to not let ourselves be filled with hate. We can do our best to live without fear but we MUST stay resolute to keep hate out of our hearts.

  12. I think what brings me comfort from Yeats’ words is that he wrote them at another time when it must have felt terrible to be in the world. And yet, look at what we, as humans, had already survived up to that point, and look at all we have survived since then. I, too, feel that the “amplitude of the oscillations” seems to be growing (beautifully put, by the way), but I believe in us. I believe that we have deep and ancient impulses inside our humanness — for violence and war, yes, but also for love and kindness. Ultimately, we take care of each other, despite the horrors, despite the overwhelming darkness that threatens. And this is darkness, to be sure. We will live through it together.

  13. Yes, I do understand. I’m so proud and happy for Grace, and got chills that her expression was so fierce and powerful that it is seared in your memory. But news of Paris immediately after such sweet victory is hard to swallow, as is all the violence in the world.

  14. Oh, how well I know of what you speak. I’m the mother of a son named Amin. It brings me to my knees to think my sweet, loving 16 year old son who won’t even kill spiders will be the victim of hate simply because his name identifies him as Muslim. Yet, in my heart I have to hold onto the belief that people will see him for who he is. I have to believe that the very loud voices of hate being heard in our country today are as small a minority as the very loud voices of the hate-filled group responsible for Paris.

    What a wonderful, hard earned victory for your Grace!

  15. So powerful, Lindsey. Yes, the world feels so dark right now, but your blog is one of the places I go to find light. There is still so much good in the world, no matter how hidden it sometimes feels. (Big congratulations to Grace, too!)

Comments are closed.