Impermanence: n. an essential element of Buddhism – that everything is changing, inconstant, in flux. Because things are impermanent, attachment to them is futile, and leads to suffering.
The Portland area was blanketed in nearly a foot of snow for most of the week up until Christmas. My California grandkids were thrilled to share a white Christmas with their two super-fun uncles, who are young at heart at 25 and 37.
[These family visits are one of my excuses for keeping a house with 4 bedrooms. And you might ask: what about the other FIFTY weeks?]
Being snowbound gave us the chance to invent our fun together. So the boys and the uncles made a snowman:
We all wanted the fun times, and the snowman, to last forever. But impermanence happens. The temperature began rising. The snowman began shrinking. This is how he looked this morning – about 15″ tall:
And now the family is gone and house is totally quiet again. The holiday disappeared as quickly as the snow, and I feel a lot like our snowman. Quite deflated and a little soggy.
Even during the holiday I was on a downsizing kick though. My two older kids went thru 7 boxes of their childhood memorabilia from the garage. “It either goes home with you or it goes in the recycle bin,” I told them. “Now is the time…”
Six of the seven boxes were Ethan’s. To keep him company I brought out a couple of boxes of my own papers for sorting.
I have to hand it to him; he carefully plowed through a couple of boxes every day, examining each item (artwork, book reports, photos and letters), recycling about half of it, but savoring and repacking the rest to ship to California where he lives.
My own journals and letters are voluminous – going back to college! The triviality of most of my concerns appalls me, but it’s all there – bringing the past temporarily back to life.
The process was a powerful reminder of how many lives we each have lived through, in what seems like the blink of an eye. Friends, passions, projects… developing, ripening, disappearing. Many forgotten until a picture or letter brings it back.
We keep these things because our memories are as ephemeral as our poor melted snowman.