“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Heraclitus
It was the end of a day that warms you from within. The type of day where a light breeze flows from the ocean, yet the sun seems to seep deep into your bones. You face feels cool, yet your body vibrates with the heat of life around you. It was a day of feeling connected, a good day.
I was walking the sandy path towards the ocean, a path almost no-one ever takes because it takes 10 minutes to get to the beach instead of a mere 2 (we are beings of utter convenience, are we not?). As doggie and I approached the ocean we stopped for a moment in the area right before the beach. In this in-between place a vast meadow of dune grass sways in green ripples against the sky and you can hear the waves crash, just beyond, in rhythmic tune to the wind. On this particular day the sky was blanketed by a band of dark clouds, and at that very moment the sun was hidden amongst them, its brightness dimmed just enough to create the illusion of a translucent orb hovering in the sky. I clicked the camera….and it was gone.
A beautiful moment, but one passed from time, an experience never to be again. Impermanent, ephemeral, lost…
I’ve been thinking a lot about this very thing lately, the problem of impermanence. I’ve always had a rather keen sense of life’s passing, but I seem to be sensing it even more strongly now since my mother’s death. It’s natural I guess. Nothing makes you think about life more than the loss of a life, and the more personal the loss the more intensely you think about it.
Interestingly enough I’ve always had a rather good relationship with impermanence. It’s part of the reason I photograph and write. I love the idea of capturing a particular moment, of “fixing” a feeling in time. Since all things pass, the art of being able to freeze that moment is a rather alluring one. We as humans love things that last (“forever after” being, after all, the most beloved of fairytale endings), so we are strongly attracted to creations that confirm that feeling in us. It’s the most human of longings.
Yet the truth is that nothing lasts.
I’ve never doubted this, nor have I ever required it in my life. In fact I’ve always been the type of person that embraces change, leaping without thought from the past into the future, solid in my belief that I’ll always land somewhere soft (eventually). As Paul always reminds me, he’s the one that goes to the edge of the cliff in life, while I’m the one that pushes us both off. That’s just my nature.
But recently I’ve been reluctant to see the past go, almost panicked (at times) at the thought that I might have missed something (or someone) important. It’s been a odd state of mind for me, and it’s put me off my usual game. Some days I feel completely connected, whereas others I feel somewhat lost. One of my friends described it as an emotional shift, like the aftermath of an earthquake whereafter the perception of life’s shape is permanently altered (his words, not mine). I think it’s a perfect description.
But on this day, on this particular day I manage to reach a balance. When the sun hovered like a magic sphere in the sky, when the clouds burned pink and reflected like mirrors in the water, when it was just doggie and I amongst the sand and the waves. At that moment impermanence was with me and I with it, flowing effortlessly along like a leaf along a river. My camera froze the moments, but my life moved on and I was not sad for its loss. I’ll take that as progress.