The first bit to discuss today is that it is Mothers' Day, and so I say to my own mother, my grandmothers, and my loving wife "Happy Mothers's Day!" (I have already made the appropriate phone calls about the event.)
The formal end of the 49th International Congress on Medieval Studies is drawing to its end, and it is a sad time. The past few days have been an intense rush of developing knowledge and understanding, and they have included no small amount of camaraderie, friendships renewed and begun. I have been fortunate to have benefited greatly from all of them; I have leaned much this year, and I have done so amid most excellent company. It is something I very much hope to repeat in future years; I have every intention of coming back to do this again.
Attendance at this conference is something of an addictive phenomenon. For many, it is a chance to relive days of glory, to once again go about as if the world is in its spring and all things and they are full of promise and the boundless energy that seeks that promise. For them and for others, the conference produces a euphoria that is in many cases far better than sleep, a joy that refreshes even as it proceeds from a pouring out of self into the communion not of saints but of sages, each putting into and taking from an ever-emerging gathering of insight and wisdom that is not depleted, however much may be withdrawn, so long as those who care to tend it are here.
Alas, though, that such a thing cannot endure! For those of us who enter into it do so only through removal from the works of our days, removal from home and family and friends. We are here only because we are not there, and there is where we ought as a rule to be. Nor yet can the drive and intensity of the Congress be sustained. Many who act as if it is their spring again are long into their winters, rightly enjoying the sudden thaw but soon to be iced-over again. Others are burning through themselves to burn brightly and illumine much, but they will soon need fuel again, and already they are more of embers than of brands.
And there is this: Were we together longer, the annoyances and vexations that we can put of for a few days, we would be able to defer no longer. We would begin to see each other as we would not be seen save by those who love us most dearly (and ought to work not to be seen by them thusly). Parting now, we part in friendship and with eagerness to meet again in time to come. It is a good way to end.