Every fair from fair sometime declines.

This is my favorite sentence of all time. It is from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, and for me it encapsulates the bitter truth of life: entropy rules over all. Nothing gold can stay.[1]

Every fair from fair sometime declines.

The phrase kept coming to me as I worked to prepare the labyrinth for the Tour of Homes. Because of the nature of the Tour—everything is supposed to be pretty—I was reseeding the labyrinth with a “contractor’s blend” of grass, i.e., a mixture of regular fescue seed and winter rye, which grows quickly and provides you with a vividly green carpet at any time of the year.

Rye is extremely temporary. It grows and, after a month or two, dies. That’s fine. I only needed the labyrinth to look “pretty” for Dec 3. After that, nature could resume its cycle.

Because normally I do not try to maintain a green labyrinth through the winter months. It is pretty, but part of having this meditative space is learning to see the beauty in all phases of its life. Bare branches, brown ferns, dead grass—all are part of the way life goes. It is best if you can love that.


Yes, the tired old metaphors of our human lives winding down apply. Shakespeare as usual says it best, this time in Sonnet 73:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold…

Part of our sadness about the entropy of our lives is our consciousness that while nature’s course will cycle back around—the leaves will grow again, the ferns will push up through the humus, the grass will sprout as green as before—with us the decline is permanent. We don’t get to be young again. We won’t, as the sun shifts back to the north, find ourselves regaining our muscle tone or youthful skin or mental acuity.

This of course is our ego’s perception. It is not reality. The leaf falls from the tree, but the tree is still alive. So it is with us. “We” may die, but the universe is still alive. Thinking that somehow our ego will continue to exist after our death is essentially planting rye grass: shoring up a false hope that will not, can not last.

Every fair from fair sometime declines: words to live by.


[1] This is why, in my setting of Sonnet 18 for men’s chorus and two cellos, that line is the musical climax.


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