Carried by the River

JV-IMG_0208_1-smallAs humans, we are blessed with the knowledge of our mortality; what we need to seek, as individuals, is an understanding of it. I believe that accepting our mortality provides a trellis on which the vine of our life can flourish. Without the trellis, our lives assume a chaotic tumble, struggling to find sustenance in the shadows. To be supported by the trellis is to listen to the voice telling us that everything that we are, and everything that we see and feel, will at some point cease to be. Nothing is static; everything changes; everything ultimately moves in the direction of death. This is not an existential warble; actually, to be scientific, it is necessitated by the Second Law of Thermodynamics: everything moves towards disorder. It is an immutable fact. The point is that we are mandated to live in impermanence. But that is fine. After all, our perception of beauty flows from acknowledging impermanence: flowers, soft summer showers, rainbows, innocence, passion – everything will be, in time, diminished from what it is now at this very moment. And therein lies the motivation to love each moment as it is presented to us. As the poet Wallace Stevens has written, “Death is the mother of all beauty…” So I welcome the trellis, listen to the voice, and experience the beauty. Oh, and feel blessed. But, loving each moment has required a certain internal vocabulary to process what my senses have acquired. What is it precisely that I love about that flower? About that call of a cardinal? Words come to my mind; I have been silently speaking to myself, on a good day maybe even poetically. But, as I die, an interesting transformation is taking place. The need for the inner conversation is lessening. I don’t have the strength to think of every aspect of the flower as it impacts me, but I am no less impacted. Rather I feel impacted by the whole of the flower, by the simple fact of its existence – without the need for mindful words or dissection. The flower’s beauty, as a complete entity, flows into me. No need to pause and think, just feel the warmth of inclusion in a greater perfect order. I liken this thought to taking a canoe down a beautiful, slow moving river. I have been gently paddling from bank to bank, experiencing all that there is to feel and see: eddies with their signature gurgling, the smell of clear fresh water intersecting the bank around polished stones, the sweet-bitter taste of wild blueberries growing adjacent to the water. I have steered myself to these things which I have sensed and celebrated. But now, at the end of my life, I am tired. I am content to put the paddle down on the floor of the canoe and to simply drift, relinquishing myself to the force and the grace of the moving water. The details of the river banks are less defined, but I still feel their presence and their beauty. The canoe is taking me into a soft mist, further obscuring the details of my surroundings, the horizon is no longer clear, yet the boat runs true. I feel safe; I am not afraid. The boat is taking me where I need to go, and I know I will be all right.

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