Lessons in Impermanence

harrison tree rockOn a recent retreat to Harrison Hot Springs in British Columbia, CA, I walked through the verdant forest surrounding the beautiful Harrison Lake. Ancient trees jutted up to the sky. Some of their roots poured over huge boulders--signs of a tumultuous past. This is volcanic land, and I was a mere observer of the incredible gifts from this land: I bathed in warm waters of the community pool, fed by hot springs emerging from geothermally-heated groundwater that rises from the Earth's crust.

Around here, the earth's crust is tentatively perched on flowing magma and water and other liquids. Walking in the quiet forest that day, it was hard to comprehend that. But that's impermanence for you: Every moment brings a new state of being.

To my mind (maybe yours too?), the concept of impermanence can be both comforting and anxiety producing, depending on current circumstances. When times are tough, I know that "This too shall pass," and that gives me comfort.  Interestingly enough, though, when times are good, and life is cooking along, my mind will wander and wonder: "Is this too good to last?"

There's plenty of life evidence for the latter: Good intentions and energy have been poured into projects and  friendships gone astray. Money was spent on "good" investments that disappeared in a flash or a crash. Expectations have been dashed. There have been the deaths and  ill health of my loved ones... You get the picture. The unexpected falls and travails are a part of life...everyone's life.

Yet, just because there is evidence of the temporary nature of good times, there is just as much evidence of the positive results these bad times can bring: Lessons learned about forgiveness, compassion, and enduring love come to mind.

impermanence piers rocksThis is a picture of old pilings and rocks near a local  ferry terminal. This area once supported a thriving salmon canning industry. Millions of pounds of salmon were processed in several canning mills which employed hundreds of people. Alas these industries began to dissappear in the 1960's due to over-fishing. All that remains now are pilings and "rocks"--and the rocks are actually rusted piles of tin thrown out and left to the elements. It's a pretty scene: the pilings harbor bird perches and nests, the rocks add dimension to the rocky beaches. Impermanence art at its finest.

impermanence elke peek thru treeI am a beach walker, and I love what I  find on the local beaches. This is what is left of a tree that graced the land above the beach--until it fell off an eroded cliff. These are everywhere on the beaches--and so are logs and driftwood pieces large and small. I know artists who use the driftwood for their carvings, and I have dragged interesting driftwood  home for natural art. This day was sunny as I playfully peeked out from behind the destroyed tree. But the sun doesn't always shine, of course, and the land above me will not always stand. Yet I didn't dwell on these thoughts while I walked. Instead I was grateful for the moments of sunshine and happiness.

Here's what helps my mind, when it obsesses too much on what might be or could be or will be, or what was or could have been: Everything we experience is "for now." Everything: bliss, crankiness, challenge, opportunity, pain.... and on and on...  All is "for now."

And I'm permanently thankful for that.



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