Fleeting beauty of life

Posted 4/15/17

This is what I believe: No matter how long we live, life is short. This idea of impermanence has been on my mind lately.

Last weekend, Jilda and I went to the Birmingham Art Museum to watch a …

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Fleeting beauty of life


This is what I believe: No matter how long we live, life is short. This idea of impermanence has been on my mind lately.

Last weekend, Jilda and I went to the Birmingham Art Museum to watch a Buddhist monk work on a sand mandala. This sand mandala comes to life when the monk pours colored sand on a piece of board. It is temporary art. The piece takes two weeks to complete, and the result is beautiful. Once finished, the monk sweeps it away.

I’m not a Buddhist, but I’ve read about it. Impermanence is one of the three marks of existence for Buddhists. The older I get, the more I realize just how impermanent life is. Nothing here on earth lasts forever. Well, the only exception is when one misbehaves in grammar school. That information, as we all know, goes on your permanent record.

Last Saturday, Jilda called our niece, Samantha, to see if she and her son, Jordan, would like to go to the art museum and see the monk in action. Afterward, we told them we’d go to Niki’s. That was the hook because Niki’s is one of their favorite places to eat in Birmingham. They were excited.

We left at 10 a.m. and drove into town. After walking through several of the exhibits, the monk came in to continue work on the mandala.  At 11:30 a.m. the monk planned a meditation. Anyone interested in taking part was welcome to join in the exercise. The meditation was for anyone regardless of religious beliefs. Jordan came to the museum to explore and wasn’t excited about sitting around silently with people he didn’t know. He and his mom headed off to the kid’s area where he could explore and do creative things. Jilda and I did the meditation. There were about 30 others there as well. It was a peaceful experience.

Afterward, we had a chance to get a close look at the piece of art the monk was making. It was a thought-provoking piece of temporary art. It was a good day for us all.

Fast forward to this morning. Jilda smiled as she walked through the door after fetching the mail. She said, “the John Rose is blooming.” The news made me smile too. I think Jilda’s grandmother called these climbing roses The Seven Sisters.

Jilda named ours the John Rose because it was a gift from our good friend John Elliott around 1990. We think of him often, but especially at this time of year. He died not long after he gave us the rose cutting. He had a rare form of aggressive cancer and died during the blizzard of 1993. He left us too soon, but his passing reminds us that life is short. Impermanent.

When Jilda and I were younger, we got with our circle of friends almost every weekend. We had parties at the drop of a hat.

Someone would say, we can do it at our house, and everything came together organically. Someone would bring the meat, someone else brought the buns, everyone brought cold beer, and at the end of the day, we all went home smiling.

These days, it seems the only time we all get together is at funerals. I would like to change that because life is impermanent — all we have is this moment. The old saying, “Live each day as if it were your last,” is a wise approach to life.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Changes is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@rickwatson-writer.com