Friday, August 31, 2007

Illusions of Permanence

I never can tell what will last and what won't. Friends I think will be with me lifelong move away or divorce and remarry or drift into new interests that don't include me. Businesses that I think will prosper fail. Marriages that seem solid and healthy break apart. People in robust health develop cancer.

The Buddhists remind me that everything is impermanent, but I cling to my illusion that some things persist. I believe that the children I make breakfast for today are the same children I made breakfast for last week. I believe my husband is the same man I met in a computer lab in 1979. I believe, despite the evidence in the mirror, that I'm the same freckle-nosed dreamer with tousled hair that I was in 1969.

August is a time for moving. One friend, who I didn't expect to keep, is moving to Oregon tomorrow and another is moving to Pennsylvania. My daughters helped the first friend pack, and I'm watching the children of the second one so she can pack.

The children don't quite grasp the significance of their life changes. They ask whether we can do something again next time they visit. "Oh yes," I say, wondering whether they'll be interested in doing it when they're a year older.

For me, August is also a time of service. Last year, I helped two dear friends move. This year, I help two friends move, make supper for a friend who just had surgery for breast cancer, and try to support my parents as they deal with my father's terminal illness.

Some days, this is all a reminder to cherish the moment, to live for today, to enjoy what is before it shifts to what was. Other days, I'm caught in the realization that some things never are made right. Sometimes, things go horribly wrong and one nightmare succeeds another. I find the nightmares difficult to enjoy, and thoughts of "this too will pass" leaves me cold inside at the thought of what that means in this case.

This desk, solid under my hands. My hands themselves, solid and working the way my hands have always worked. My children, growing before my eyes, but too slowly to seem different than they were yesterday. A breeze ruffling the same leaves touched by other breezes. I can, I think, step in the same river twice.

If I glide over the surface, I can keep from popping the bubble a while longer.

1 comment:

ogre said...


I think that if you manage to step into the same river a second time, you discover that they're no longer the same feet.

I know the ocean I swam in as a kid here on the California coast is "the same" -- but it now feels so chill to me that I bought a short wet suit to enjoy it.