Permanent: n. continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change
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 grandkids - Elliott who’s 4 and Alexander who is 7, were beyond thrilled to be able to enjoy a white Christmas with their two super-fun uncles, who are young at heart at 25 and 37. (Their parents – my daughter and her husband – were not so thrilled to have to drive up here from sunny California in such nasty weather, but they picked the only 12-hour window in a week to make it through!).
The joint was jumpin’ for six days – the boys of all ages seemed more excited by the snow and playing Pokeman (a P post for another day) than the prospect of presents. Gifts were pretty sparse anyway, giving us the chance to focus more on hanging out together.
Here are my two sons and Alexander, after inserting the snowman’s carrot nose, and clapping a hat on his head:
Starting Christmas night the temperature began rising. The snowman began shrinking. This is how he looked this morning, right after the Californians left for home:
He was only about 15″ high then; a few hours later he’s just a tiny snowball.
And now the house is totally quiet again. The holiday came and went as fast as the snow, and I feel a lot like our snowman. Quite deflated and a little soggy.
One of our snowed-in activities (which turned out to be much more fun than my older two first thought) was going through the many boxes of their’ memorabilia which I’ve stored in one garage or another since they left for college eons ago. “Whatever stuff you want to keep,” I said, “is going to henceforth be living with you, so choose wisely.”
Heather had only one box left here, but Ethan had six – packed to the gills. To keep him company I brought out a couple of boxes of my own written memorabilia to sort through. I have to hand it to him; he carefully plowed through a couple of boxes every day, examining each item (mostly artwork, homework, book reports, photos and letters), tossing about half of it, but savoring and repacking the rest. Already in middle school you could see hints of who he would become – the fascination with edgy design – the originality of his ideas – and his writing skill, which I’d just taken for granted until he began writing for HuffPo last month.
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.
My own journals and letters are voluminous. I’ve got them going back to college and it will take a long time to sort through them. The triviality of most of my concerns appalls me, but it’s all there – bringing the past temporarily back to life.
If I hadn’t recorded all those experiences they’d otherwise be gone gone gone – melted away like our snowman.
Update 1/4/09: Blogfriend Splodge forwarded this cartoon… too good not to append.