Fearful when the sky was full of thunder, And tearful at the falling of a star
Then the child moved ten times round the seasons, Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, when you’re older, must appease him, and promises of someday make his dreams.
And the seasons they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time. We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came, and go round and round and round on the circle game.
We sang with arms intertwined, mesmerized by the campfire flames, childish voices rising with smoke as our pleas. Memorized words encapsulating a grief that we didn’t recognize. I loved the song. “The Circle Game” meant summer camp, guitars and campfires, smoky t-shirts and hands to hold. And yet, I sang without comprehension, absent of a panic that set in years later.
“We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came, and go round and round and round in the circle game.”
But as I read the lyrics today, I search for the missing verse. The lines that detail getting off of the merry-go-round, an escape from repeated lessons and circular living. I picture the slow spinning and realize that I could stand here forever, and watch the same pink pony return again and again. The ride does return, doomed to revisit the same path eternally. I understand the message, and the mourning of spent childhoods, passed adolescence, and approaching gray hairs. I understand the theme of wishing for a pause button, and how seasons seem to accelerate the older I get.
But the ride has lost its thrill; after so many circles, I’m ready to try something new. No longer content to simply wave at beauty and watch the world pass me by, I itch for new lessons, new adventure, and new scenery. I could sit upon my pony, passively toeing the line, but it seems there are better things ahead. I’d rather not miss the swing ride, the log flume, or the sticky cotton candy as the side dish for the magician’s act.
I know I can’t go home again. I realize that years pass by and it’s shockingly easy to wake up having missed the past decade. I have learned the same lessons over and over, my stubbornness tripping over my future as I trace the familiar walls of the same hole. But it’s time to move on. My painted pony is getting uncomfortable, as I stay rooted on its dizzying spin.
It’s time for new dreams. It’s time to wave goodbye at history and mourn lost chances. It’s time to make peace with old doubts and leave behind healed scars. It’s time to appreciate the simplicity of the merry-go-round as I head off to new risks, new opportunities, and new chances, learning new tunes as I walk.
The melody still moves me, wistful for old friends and childhood laughter. I still pause, aching as my pony returns again and loved ones have walked on, tired of the same scene for decades. I might miss my familiar ride, and the gently safety of its routine.
But I’m done being captive. The seasons will go round and round regardless. It’s time to stop merely “looking back from where we came”. It’s time for new horizons.