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.
“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
Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre has been called the bible of existentialism. It’s a long, difficult book to read, and depending on who you ask, it’s either a work of pure genius, complete nonsense or both.
It might be worthwhile to look at some other things that Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in order to understand existentialism and his perspective in general.
For example, he said: “All I really want to do is go to the book store, drink coffee and read.” Back in his day book stores didn’t even have Wi-Fi, so you know he was serious.
Another thing that’s crucial to understanding the man and his philosophy is this: “I do not think therefore I am a mustache.” Well, obviously.
And possibly the most important thing he ever said is: “Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.”
This is especially true of most outdoor photography unless you plan to shoot wide open, convert to black and white, and call it something obscure like being and nothingness.
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.
I wrote this for a creative writing class in 2008, a couple of years after my third rehab. It’s about making new friends in a place known as The Ranch House on the grounds of the Norristown State Hospital. The guests call it what it is, a looney bin.
Peggy, the oldest, forever in her tattered robe, hopscotching down the hall when she’s not talking to herself or crying.
Adrian, the young, spoiled wannabe junkie, whining about not getting strong enough meds.
Stacy, fresh from the pizza shop, smiling and stumbling around on Seroquel.
Steve, the happy criminal, acting like he’s at summer camp.
Victor, a child in a forty year old body, slipping into schizophrenic rants about hidden cameras in the vents.
Donna, the large breasted, healthy looking nurse, explaining her addiction to Vicodin.
Sara, the stuck up prostitute, waltzing through the cafeteria like a queen.
Susan, the tough, freckled, career alcoholic trying to play bouncer.
Carl, his laces taken away, flapping down the hall all night in oversized shoes, driving everyone crazy.
Lucas, the seasoned gang member with the bitten off ear, bragging about his tragic childhood.
Tom, lanky and pale, trying to beat himself to death after a half-assed hanging attempt.
And me, a paragon of sanity, here with my friends.
“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it.
But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.” Lauren Oliver-Before I Fall
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.
The dictionary defines contentment as the state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are.
Socrates said: “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” Yes, but I want more…
I was in a greenhouse yesterday looking at seeds and starter plants, it was really a beautiful place to be, and for almost three minutes I was content. A cat calmly strolled in and completely ignored me, or so I thought.
I remember Eckhart Tolle saying something about cats as Zen masters, so I asked this cat to teach me about contentment. Again he ignored me, but I watched him.
He walked carefully between the rows of flowers and herbs, and I wondered if he was telling me to take time to smell the flowers. Then he began eating them, and I wasn’t sure if this was a sign to eat healthier or to do whatever makes you happy.
After he finished destroying a basil plant he hopped off the table and headed to his favorite place, which was literally the best seat in the house. He lay down on some warm boards in front of a sunny window, and looked at me as if to say: take a picture it’ll last longer, and then went to sleep.
If he was trying to tell me something I missed it, and on the way home I thought about new motorcycles, mansions and yachts, just a few of the things I feel I need to be content.
But I had the whole day to do whatever I wanted, I had enough money for lunch, and I had a picture of a Zen cat.
Charles M. Schulz said: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.”
Maybe that was his message; maybe I simply needed a catnap. So I went home and took a nap in my warm bed in front of a sunny window, and it was good. Now all I need is to move into this greenhouse and start eating plants.
There’s a great shade tree to park my bike under, my yacht will be moored of course, and as Elmer J. Fudd taught us, nobody really needs a mansion.