Categories: Wednesday ripples Leave a comment

Impermanence and Autumn Glory *

*(I know: today’s the big day for the legalization of pot; but that’s not the direction of this reflection.  I went to another high-point…)

Janet and I were clearing dishes in the kitchen, talking about the day.  I said something, she replied with an expression that Sue, a friend of ours in seminary, made famous among a circle of friends.  I responded with the accompanying gesture and we laughed.

“Ah, Sue,” we said, “I wonder how she’s doing?”

Remembering Sue led to a recollection of others with whom we’ve lost touch because of one or more moves, someone’s passing, or simply the pull of time that, like a tide, can take lives in different directions.

My family moved a lot when I was young – by the time I was eight years old we had moved four times – so I was familiar with this pattern of people coming into our lives and then often drifting apart with the next move.  But I never got used to endings and to this day I really don’t like moving and get all teary-eyed at farewells.

I know nothing lasts forever and, intellectually, I appreciate the clear teachings of impermanence that come from the spiritual traditions and science.  Wisdom, I suppose, is the ability to accept the transiency of life with equanimity (I ain’t there yet). The art of living practices that most difficult dance-step of deeply, tenderly loving the world, people, and life itself, holding it “close against your bones…and when the time comes to let it go, let it go.”  (Mary Oliver)

Our streak of good weather this fall has made this season particularly glorious – trees flaming in the setting sun, crisp air, fresh apples.  I join those who appreciate autumn as the season that most poignantly reflects impermanence, as if the season itself served as a reminder to not take things or people for granted, to love fiercely and to let go, we hope, gracefully.

An autumn poem for your every season:

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go,
to let it go.

Mary Oliver
In Blackwater Woods

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