“Love’s Austere and Lonely Offices”

This evening, I’ve been reflecting on the last two lines of the poem “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden. The character in the poem is an adult looking back at the cold winter mornings of youth, recognizing the lack of gratitude shown towards the family patriarch in what the author calls a house of “chronic angers.” The poem concludes with the lines:

“What did I know, what did I know of Love’s austere and lonely offices?”

The line “Love’s austere and lonely offices” is so pathetically true. Love is simple in nature yet there is a tendency to make it something glamorous, something beyond its scope. Something it cannot and should not be. At times, love is austere; it is stern and unadorned. It is silent, hidden behind the scenes.

A friend edits the ending of every fairy tales she reads to her children, adding; “and they worked really hard on their marriage, and lived happily ever after.” She is opening their imaginations to the story between the pages. The real life story of the silent heroes we call mom and dad.

For a child, love’s lonely office includes not understanding why “no” and “not now” mean “I love you.”

For a married couple love’s “lonely offices” are they places they stand without regard to personal pleasure. Because of love, friends and extended family never come first. Because of love, time and resources are sacrificed for things that hold little interest. Because of love, both will fret over whether or not they have done the right thing.

It is love that allows them to disagree passionately without fear that an opinion held too strongly will break them apart. It is love that allows conflict and love that keeps all other opportunities for romantic interest out of sight and out of mind.

Love’s eye is not blind. It is selective. It weighs truth in the balance and understands that no collection of flaws and quirks are superior to the man, woman, or child they have chosen.

Certainly “love’s austere and lonely offices” are not the only offices held in marriage, but they are the sacrificial offices required to keep the flame of love’s temple alive.

Be a Tent Post in Your World

When a tent post is put in place everything rises. Be a tent post in your world. As you rise to do your duty, to be your best, everything and everyone around you is blessed. Choose to put forth the effort to be better at what you do and better at who you are.


Who are the tent posts in your life? Who has made your world better, your horizons wider, and you insights deeper because of their choices? Who are your examples for how to be?


In every aspect of life, we choose our leaders. It’s true that someone may be assigned to represent and guide us and, for a time, we may be obligated to follow, but if our heart isn’t in it we will choose someone else.


Others have chosen to look to you for guidance in some aspect of their life. They may never mention it and you may never know exactly when or where you made a difference. Your circle of influence is probably wider than you think. Each of us can choose our actions but we can never choose the consequences. So stand tall, lift from where you stand, and be true.

So you want to be a Parent? Read the Job Discription.

On the role of parents, A. Theodore Tuttle (1921 -1986) gets it right:

This decision to be parents means to put first the obligation to be baby-sitters, trainers, discipliners, supervisors, teachers, assigners, checker-uppers, planners, story-tellers, exemplars, and, in short, to be common, ordinary, garden variety, old-fashioned, on-the-job, full-time parents. It means that this responsibility as parents comes before social climbing, the newest in gadgets, or conspicuous consumption. It supersedes personal selfishness, propriety, pleasure, even a tidy house. It demands solemn and continual allegiance to a cause greater than self.

Fulfillment of this parental duty . . . requires a conscious decision to accept the responsibilities of this sacred obligation – the most sacred and far-reaching obligation assumed by two people.

Tuttle, A. Theodore, “And They Shall Also Teach Their Children,” Relief Society Magazine, July 1963, page 484-485.