‘What does the world mean to you if you can’t trust it to go on shining when you’re not there?’ –Mary Oliver
It is nearly the autumnal equinox again. Every September the same feeling comes over me, of completion, balance, endings… which invariably lead to new beginnings. I have always embraced this season as the true ending of the yearly cycle, for the signs are everywhere and unmistakable: changing and dying leaves, the last of summer’s flowers, the harvest of the whole growing season. Another year at is end, and before too long the cold will set in, first at night, and then the days will become cooler until finally winter will again settle upon the earth and we humans will enter a new cycle of time.
What is Time, actually? More and more I ponder this question, dear Readers. Is not Time simply a human construct, designed to mark out our lives into manageable bites for easier digestibility? Yes, we all know the sun rises each morning and sets each evening, that winter turns to spring, turns to summer, turns to autumn, and again to winter. We observe each other and ourselves changing through the seasons of our lives, children grow up, we grow old, decay and death arrive eventually. And yet. On another, more profound level, this life we find ourselves in is such an illusion. It may sound like a tired cliché, but mean it very seriously. Here’s an example:
You meet up with an old friend whom you have not seen for some years. At first glance, he appears older, a bit different in appearance than the last time you saw him. Once you get over the initial shock, however, and settle into conversation, the joy and delight of being in this friend’s company touches you deeply. At some point you realize that it is as if no time at all has passed since you were last together in such a way, and he is just as you remembered him.
In reality, we are constantly shifting between past, present and future as we journey through our lives. When we are quiet and still, it is easy to find oneself back in time to a pleasant day, maybe, or even a difficult one. With not too much effort, our imagination fills in all the details; the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and even touch of another moment in time. Conversely, it is not too hard to imagine a future time we will experience, and fill in all the details of the event.
“Look, I want to love this world as though it’s the last chance I’m ever going to get to be alive and know it.” –Mary Oliver
More and more, I feel I am watching myself walking through my life as an observer, a watcher. So who is this Watcher who is watching me living? It is a big question, one of the mysteries of being a human being on Earth. We all realize how fleeting, how transitory this life is, how quickly it flies away. This knowledge can help make us more tuned into the present moment, even as we know it is like water through our fingers. The river of life flows, it cannot do anything else.
My personal journey during this last year has been quite poignant, dear Readers. I have been blessed with some very wonderful days, and have also suffered a lot through some very dark ones. Now as the season comes to the balance point, I will shift again. This time my travels will take me back to my family and friends in the United States. I have just finished my teaching at the little school where I have been for the past year. Another bittersweet ending, as I realize how fond I became of those children and adults with whom I worked. Some asked me if I was returning to them, to which I honestly replied, ‘I believe so, but one never knows in life.’ This life is a constant turning, transitioning, growing, dying back, and growing anew process. How can any of us know what is to come in future days? We cannot. Not one of us knows for certain what will happen next. We can expect certain things, and hope for more, or fear for others, but to really Know What Is to Come– that is simply impossible.
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Some of you might remember this old American spiritual song. I offer it to you today, in the spirit of exploration and the times we are living in. May these times prove to be filled with blessings and miracles, as we each continue on our journey toward a more peace-filled and beautiful world. Namaste, Leigh