End.

End.

They say “all good things must come to an end.” It’s true. And when they do, it’s always bittersweet. Good books. Delicious meals. Relaxing vacations. Years of our lives.

About a week ago, my mom and step-dad were visiting, and we went out to a great Mediterranean restaurant in town whose specialty is small plates – a trend that’s on-the-rise, I’m convinced, (at least partially) for the way the experience mirrors a good story… When the first dish came out, it was a true novelty. A surprise. Following that, each next item came out steadily, one after the other, introducing enticing new aromas, bursts of color, and complex flavors. The crispy cauliflower with champagne vinaigrette dazzled our tastebuds. The steelhead trout elegantly disguised itself as salmon. And the htipiti on pita was a definite hit. (How you could possibly go wrong with a roasted red pepper and feta spread, I just don’t know). But when it finally came time for the pork belly with cipollini onions and garlic, my step-dad’s reaction is what summed up my thoughts on the matter. “Oh my God,” he said, putting his fork down. “…I just don’t want it to end.” He spent the next ten minutes reluctantly taking his utensils to that perfectly sliced filet, trying to stave off the inevitable last bite.

It was similar to how I felt upon recently finishing a great novel. (Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch”… although at almost 800 pages, that was a heftier meal). The ending was so honest, so perfectly surmised, so poignant, that all of a sudden, after weeks of reading it, it was over in a flash. It tugged at life’s heartstrings, and was fastened with a bow made of gold. Midway through, looking ahead at all the pages I still had left to read, I thought I’d be ready when the story eventually came to a to a close. But then, when those last few pages actually arrived, I began missing the book while it was still in my hands. (I’m sure you know the feeling).

This all goes to say that as this year’s last chapter finishes, and as we begin looking ahead to the start of next year’s book, I’m reminded again of our world’s cyclical nature – of the ups and downs and twists and turns life brings to our day-to-day. And since you’ve already heard my spiel about beginnings, I decided to take this moment to give my tribute to the meaning and value of the end. That right-handed closed parentheses. That denouement. That sunset. (Like the beautiful one from Cape Town pictured above.)

But what is “the end” really? After all, our world is round, not flat. We do things like wear wedding bands to remind ourselves – when it matters most – that there really is no such thing. And I think that maybe, in a way, it’s true. Maybe the whole idea of “the end” (of our rotating, twenty-four hour days… of our lives… of our universe…) is the biggest hoax humanity ever contrived. Maybe. But most often, I tend to think of “the end” as that precipice you come to – that mountaintop viewpoint where you can both look back on where you’ve been and also look forward to where you’ll be going. It’s just a brief resting place that allows time for reflection, for introspection, and hopeful anticipation.

That’s what I like most about good endings, I think: the 360-degree view. That, and the fact that if you get up there and don’t like what you see… either backward, inward, or ahead… you can use this motto (from one of my recent favorite films: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) as your North Star:

“Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it is not yet the end.”

On that note, I hope your holidays placed a gold bow on 2016 for you; that the cookies/latkes and time spent with family were so deliciously wonderful that you also just didn’t want them to end. And I’m sending you my best wishes for the New Year. Cheers! I look forward to seeing you then. 🙂

p.s. Perhaps fittingly, (and after starting somewhere in the middle) I recently finished writing the end of my book. But that doesn’t mean I’m done. Now, of course… it’s on to the beginning. I’ve got my hiking gear on and that mountaintop in sight. 2017: here we go.

 

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