Impermanence Revisited

Tulips and Bluebells
Tulips and Bluebells

Here in Pennsylvania the tulips are in various stages of maturity. The beautiful yellow ones in front of my house dried up and blew away, while the others are somewhere near the end of their life cycle.

I found these in a local park and they seem to be in their prime, but in a few weeks they will be gone forever-dust to dust. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older or maybe I just notice it more, but things seem to move a lot faster now.

Watching the flowers come and go is also watching the days speed by, and I know I’m running out of time. Of course this is how life works; we’re here for a while and then we’re gone. And whether we acknowledge it or not, suffering comes from wanting things to be different than they are.

W. Somerset Maugham, author of The Razor’s Edge has a great perspective on impermanence: “Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”

Along the way, take time to smell the flowers, in as many ways as you can for as long as you can.

The Right Track

The Right Track
The Right Track

Getting on the right track isn’t easy, even figuring out which is really the right one can be confusing. For example, the track on the left in this photo is actually the right track for the returning train, and sometimes they have to switch to the middle one to get to where they need to go.

It might be easier to think of it as a path, and as you may have discovered for yourself, people sometimes go down the wrong path to get to where they think they need to go. This is true for addiction and all kinds of things that come with living in this world of illusion.

Finding the right path takes as long as it takes, if you realize you’re on the wrong one, get off and begin again, repeat as necessary. Mahatma Gandhi said the path is the goal; my goal is to find the path to freedom.

This is a line from a song called Daly City Train by Rancid: “Some men are in prison even though they walk the streets at night, other men who got the lockdown are free as a bird in flight.”

There really is no easy way to be free.

Don’t Fear the Sunset

Pequea Marina
Pequea Marina

“There are those who fear the sunset, worried they will never see light again. There are those who ignore the sunrise, squandering dawn, believing they will never run out of daylight.

And then there are those who have learned to live in the sun’s warmth, gauging time by its positions, thankful at night that the day happened. Be aware of time. Use it wisely. Be thankful for the light allotted.” Richelle E. Goodrich

The Problem with Mayapples

Mayapples
Mayapples

The Mayapple was once called the witches umbrella, and was thought to be employed by them as a poison. The English version of this plant is called Manroot or mandrake, and is believed to be alive.

According to folklore, its screams when pulled from the ground would render a man permanently insane. The plant is almost entirely poisonous and was once used by Native Americans to commit suicide.

There is also an old mountain superstition that a girl who pulls up the root will soon become pregnant. If you can ignore those few little things, many people say the fruit makes a great jelly. I think I’ll pass.

Water Your Dreams

Amethyst Dream
Amethyst Dream

“Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success.

Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.” Lao Tzu

Existentialism Anatidae

Existentialism Anatidae
Existentialism Anatidae

“A kind of joy came upon him, as if borne in on a summer breeze. He dimly recalled that he had been thinking of failure-as if it mattered. It seemed to him now that such thoughts were mean, unworthy of what his life had been.

There was a softness around him, and a languor crept upon his limbs. A sense of his own identity came upon him with a sudden force, and he felt the power of it. He was himself, and he knew what he had been.”

John Williams, Stoner

Never Jam Today

Fiddlehead Ferns
Fiddlehead Ferns

So I went to my favorite garden, in the rain, to photograph some flowers and call the post April showers. The problem with that is you really have to wait for the rain to stop.

I read the N.Y Post from cover to cover, drank a cup of coffee, smoked two cigarettes and it was still pouring. Patience is a virtue I thought, just relax and wait it out. But patience is not my strong suit, so I grabbed my camera and mini tripod, pulled up my hood and walked the path.

The rain was finally slowing down when I saw something amazing, fiddlehead ferns. They were trying to hide under a dripping bush, and I knew it would be easier tomorrow morning in better light, but I was already there.

The sun’ll come out tomorrow, so you gotta hang on ‘til tomorrow popped into my head, and I said screw that. I figured I can at least take a few shots to practice my composition, so I did.

According to the weather channel Annie was right, and maybe I can do better tomorrow, maybe not. Then I remembered what Alice discovered; “The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.” Words to live by.

A Tale Told By an Idiot?

Bleeding hearts
Bleeding hearts

In Macbeth Shakespeare writes: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

I have to admit that I’ve felt that way before, as most people probably have when they realize that they aren’t going to live forever. A tale told by an idiot seems a bit strong though, and if Shakespeare were around today he would probably get a prescription for Prozac, but I digress.

After a light rain I went to a garden full of flowers and trees in a nearby park, which in itself is something very special, and I noticed that the bleeding hearts were starting to bloom.

Walking down to a small pond with a waterfall, I looked at them as if they were something new to me, because they were. In a few weeks they will be completely gone, and they will come back next spring whether I’m there to see them or not.

Watching these absolutely amazing flowers I remembered the feeling I used to get after washing down a couple of Xanax with a glass of Vodka. It was a feeling of calmness, and I knew that even though the tale doesn’t last, I like to be here when I can.

I no longer need drugs and alcohol to get that feeling, a walk in the garden can do it in a heartbeat. If life signifies nothing, so be it, its only going to be a short walk anyway.

The Decisive Moment

Yellow Columbine
Yellow Columbine

Yesterday I found these yellow columbines at Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse. The light was perfect, I had a tripod, and it was as calm as a virgin who never told a lie. But for some reason I ignored all that, I was indecisive and hungry so I left.

This afternoon I went back and it was cloudy and windy. I stayed for an hour in the hope that everything would change, it didn’t, the decisive moment was yesterday.

Henri Cartier-Bresson once said: “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”

Dammit.

Retirement-Now What?

Now What?
Now What?

Although I’m not officially retired, I haven’t worked in about nine years other than a very small online business. I get up every morning and ask myself the same question; now what? There are plenty of ways to fill your time but not all are equally satisfying.

Terri Guillemets once said that “Sometimes it’s hard to tell if retirement is a reward for a lifetime of hard work or a punishment.” I’m sure many people feel that way, especially if they’re struggling financially like myself, but it’s not only about the money.

I used to work for a guy that owned one of the largest restoration companies on Eastern Long Island. When he was well into his seventies he tried to retire and failed many times, preferring to work until he died.

I have a friend in Strasburg who is 78 years old and the best motorcycle mechanic in Pennsylvania. Until very recently, he worked six days a week, sometimes 12 hours a day by choice. The last time I saw him he told me he was retiring for good, but I have a feeling he’s back in his shop with a garage full of bikes and a smile on his face.

Both of these people had more money than they needed, but neither was the type to sit around and do nothing. When you retire you need a reason to get up in the morning, something to not only fill your time but to fill your life.

As hard as it may be to believe, especially if you’re nowhere near retirement age, doing nothing all day is not easy. Even Eckhart Tolle got tired of sitting around after a couple of years.

In Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, Pooh says: “Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

When you’re three years old that may be great advice, but unless you drink heavily (not recommended) it’s not so great when you no longer have a job to go to and complain about for eight hours. Ah, those were the days…

Nothing Special

Tulip
Tulip

I left the house at 5:30 to photograph the United States Hot Air Balloon Team in Bird-in-Hand. It was a beautiful, calm morning and I had an extra battery, a tripod and high hopes.

The balloon went from trailer to air in twenty five minutes and floated off into the sunrise. I took 50 photos that I knew I wouldn’t keep because I’ve seen it so many times before. Here in Lancaster, watching a hot air balloon is an ordinary thing, and even at dawn it seemed like nothing special.

I went home and as I walked towards my front door I noticed some tulips in the garden, took a few quick shots, then downloaded and deleted everything because they weren’t perfect. But I went back to look at the flowers, and this time I really looked (and photographed).

The photo isn’t perfect but the tulip definitely is. It opened within the last hour, will close at night, and by the end of the month it will be gone. I was looking for something amazing and walked right by it.

In her book Nothing Special, Charlotte Joko Beck talks about awareness. “We don’t have to try to develop awareness; we simply need to notice how we block awareness, with our thoughts, our fantasies, our opinions, and our judgments.”

I was looking for something special, something awe inspiring, and these flowers are as close to a miracle as I was going to find. You don’t have to go far to be inspired, you just have to be aware of the things that are right in front of you all the time.

All Mama’s Children

Haines Shoe House
Haines Shoe House

The rain had just stopped as dawn broke over the Haines Shoe House in York, Pennsylvania yesterday, and I remembered a song I heard years ago working on a much larger house in Southampton.

The lead carpenter was a former lawyer who found that chopping wood was more rewarding then Jurisprudence, and he listened to county music all day long.

The song was All Mama’s Children by Carl Perkins and it went like this:

“There was an old woman that lived in a shoe, had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. They were doin all right, til she took em to town, the kids started pickin em up and putting em down.

Now all your children wanna rock, mama, all your children want to roll. They wanna roll, wanna rock, wanna bop til they pop. All your children want to rock.”

The Haines Shoe House is now open for guided tours and they serve gourmet hand-dipped ice cream and Mellie’s Makery treats (it’s not just a bakery it’s a makery). Rocking and bopping are encouraged but only outside.