Where do these moments flee?
I often lament the ephemeral nature of life.
The feeling is especially acute when it comes to members of my family and my pets. Part of me is like a child perpetually asking why.
Why is the sky blue? Why did Nana die? Why can’t the cat live forever? Why did Daddy have to go?
We are tattooed—marked for life—by our affection for things that will not live long.
Everything reeks of impermanence: our colorful, fleeting meals; our luminous young faces; our sweat-soaked feelings of lust or love…
We cannot manage stasis and still grow and stay alive.
So, the years peel away and pick at us. Inside, we feel exactly the way we did at 16 or 20 or 30. Outside, we gradually sag and gray. We earn the faces we deserve. We prune up and pickle. We are wizened and—at the same time, if we are lucky—we are filled with wonder.
The fact that nothing lasts is what gives life value. If something is finite, it becomes precious, a pearl beyond price.
Not Older, Better
“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.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham
Why does this make a lump rise in my throat?
I want to eat up my life like ants swarming over a warm cake. I want to burn through it and see it etched into my skin. I want to remember its ephemeral nature, and squeeze out every drop.
Animals live each day in exactly that way. They live for the moment, nothing more.
Our pets ask for love and food and care—but they don’t worry about a thing—even getting their needs met. They don’t bother themselves with the possibility of sickness or aging or death. They simply awaken each day with a sense that this is it.
And when their days come to a close, they make their exit, eager to see what is beyond this 3-D world.
They seem to inherently understand that all life is energy and energy cannot die.
Fall Into Wonder
All life is impermanent and fragile. We will one day shuffle across the river of death and find ourselves on another, less familiar shore.
I am comforted by the fact that I don’t believe we can, or will be, erased from the book of life. We simply change boats and head out again.
We find new companions and constant familiars, perhaps another glossy dog, panting excitedly beside us. We learn to walk and sing and take risks. And always, there is someone—a mother, a lover, a friend—helping us to remember the simple pleasures of life.
This glistening river.
We can swim here and drag our fingers through the water, but we cannot hold the current as it rushes by.
Shavawn M. Berry’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Huffington Post, elephant journal, Journey of the Heart: Women’s Spiritual Poetry, Olentangy Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Vagina – The Zine, Rebelle Society, The Cancer Poetry Project 2, Kinema Poetics, Kalliope, Poet Lore, Westview – A Journal of Western Oklahoma, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Concho River Review, North Atlantic Review, Synapse, Living Buddhism, Blue Mountain Arts/SPS, and Poetry Seattle. Her technique essay on the dramatic monologue/persona poem is featured in a poetry database published in 2013 by Ebsco Publishing. In 1998, she received her MPW in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where she specialized in Creative Nonfiction and Memoir.
Ms. Berry teaches writing at Arizona State University where she just completed a 2013 Lincoln Ethics Teaching Fellowship. You can follow her on Facebook or read more of her work on her blog. A portfolio featuring a selection of her essays, blog postings, and prose is available at Shavawnberry.contently.com.