Reflection on endings

All good things come to an end. What comfort can we find in transitions? How can we shift perspective to make meaning from difficult times?

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Karl Rohnke, esteemed outdoor educator, author, and founder of Project Adventure passed away recently. His games and books were staples for every outdoor leader. He advocated fundamental principles like ‘challenge by choice’, the Full Value contract (do your best, work towards group and individual goals, be honest, show respect, be kind, give and receive feedback, play safe) and FUNN (functional understanding not necessary). As a practitioner, I continue to look to his resources for inspiration and bringing play to the learning process, whether indoors or in the boardroom. His work affected an entire industry for decades, and will likely continue to do so.

This week, my last remaining 11 year old chicken died. She didn’t change the world, she leaves behind no works of art or tomes of knowledge. She brought joy to our lives with the privilege of caring for another living creature. I loved watching her scratch for bugs, or fluff her feathers in a dirt bath, or more lately, sit serenely in the garden in a patch of sun, watching the movement of  trees and insects. Simple things in a simple life.

All things pass. In every birth, the inevitability of death. With every new beginning, an end will come. And with every ending, a new beginning.

Knowing this, and the grief that comes with transitions, it’s tempting to retreat and guard against the new. No new friends, for they too will move on. No new cities, because saying goodbye is too hard. No new romance, because one day it will be over. We cower from life, keeping the heart safe.

Beginnings come with the seeds of endings. Like the flowers of springtime trees, the petals fall away making room for leaves, and in turn these fade and crumble in the autumn, preparing for new buds. 

Nostalgia is bittersweet. Longing and regret. An empty yearning, left unfulfilled.

It occurs to me too that when we are in the full ripeness of an experience, we may not value it enough. I look back on extraordinary days, like the nine years living the adventurous life with Outward Bound, and wonder did I truly appreciate it enough? Did I savour every moment? Every interaction? Every extraordinary view? Every bitter challenge?

Not all moments are magnificent. Some are painful. Some full of shame.

And yet when my time comes, I want to say that I met each moment, eyes wide and seeing, heart open and feeling. All the joy, all the pain. All of it.

I wish you the joy and courage for the same.


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