- Our long-time neighbor from across the street died suddenly and unexpectedly over the last two weeks. Someone who had retired, walked and exercised himself into seemingly the best shape of his life. A minor pain, a simple operation, unexpected complications. Shock.
- We were not close, but our lives moved in parallel. And suddenly we are forced to realize that the great cycles, such as what this spring represents, are in some ways illusions. This was also to be another typical spring leading into summer for him and his family. Our world sometimes appears robust, but occasionally it takes unexpected tragedy to force us to understand how fragile and transitory everything actually is.
Living through entropic spirals
We imagine cycles
Each day like last and next, each year, each spring
Sometimes, even, each life.
Our universe, harshly rushes in mysterious time
Ignores our pattern making, our silly mathematical fantasies.
No day, year, spring, or person like another.
- Another great aged tree in the neighborhood begins to die. This giant purple umbrella canopy stood here since Beachcroft was declared a neighborhood in 1924. My wife sheltered under it while awaiting her school bus in the fifties. It’s the second immense beech in the last few years to be affected, and _ for a while _ it leaves a tremendous void, until our eyes and memories adjust to new reality.
- We have a huge old fir in the front yard, almost as large as those carted to Rockefeller Center every year for Christmas. It has become infected with insects that eventually destroy such species around here. Now it is a year-to-year thing. Suddenly it will dry up and be cut away. More permanence gone. We expect trees to go on forever, part of our dreams, like rocks in the landscape, only felled by hurricanes or other accidents. More transitory illusion.
I plop myself down next to Mike and Annie at Mill Dam Park. Boats launched down the ramps now at a pretty steady rate, mooring locations out on the water beginning to fill. “Nice day,” I wave vaguely at the clear blue sky. “Nice spot.”
“Liked it better before they fixed it up,” grumps Mike. “No shade trees, no charm. Not nearly as nice as it was.”
“Nothing is,” chimes in Annie. “Too many cars, boats, lights, traffic, overhead jets.”
“Trash on the side of the road,” adds Mike.
“Leaf blowers,” I huff. Everyone nods agreement.
“All better when we grew up,” says Annie. “I’ve lived here my whole life, and you wouldn’t believe what a paradise it once was.”
“Yeah, my wife says that all the time,” I note. “But then, she does like the shopping these days.”
“I think we did grow up in the best of times,” muses Mike. “Overseas places were still exotic, land was open, globalization hadn’t killed off local stores.”
“People lived better, more rationally, more secure in family and tradition,” Annie scowls. “Neighbors were neighbors.”
“O tempora o mores!” I moan sarcastically.
“You’ll have to translate that for Annie, I’m afraid,” Mike watches a gull swoop down on a discarded wrapper.
“Don’t be silly. I went to a good high school _ education was better back then too. But I definitely think we had golden age that nobody else will ever get,” Annie finishes as we all lapse into meditative silence.
No matter what, I decide that like any adventure it has been fun. Wouldn’t trade.
- Weddings in the good old days _ at least in myth _ were some of the most transitional moments of life. Single life over, a family to start and grow, financial and emotional responsibilities. A true moment of complete adulthood to enter the ongoing and enduring community. Forever, supposedly. At least by statistical measurement a lot of that, if ever true, is long gone.
- We head off to a wedding near Washington this weekend. Fortunately, our niece is not one of those self-centered young things who expects everybody to jaunt to some remote island at their own expense and pick up all the checks. It is also still planned that this marriage is to be the start of children, a forever family, a life together through whatever. At least at the time of the ceremony, this will continue to symbolize significant transition. Another era moves forward.
I tried to never be a selective observer of fortune. Good times are always intermixed with bad. Wanting to live in a different time _ past or future _ always involves collecting its best aspects and ignoring everything else. Much the same is true of envy of other people’s lives.
I like to believe that these last sixty years have been some of the best, for most people, in most places. Sure everyone faced nuclear destruction, pollution disasters, runaway population, and loss of confidence in what the future holds. I will not list marvels, which are many. I will ignore the fragility of lives _ being in control until suddenly some horrible disaster arrives. That is the lot of humanity and always has been. Does not matter if death is by earthquake, black plague, Mongol hordes, or ISIS.
I also think the world is less rich in being. Too much crowding ruins destinations, too much everything makes not only species but also entire experiences _ including certain types of lives _ extinct. Places become subtly identical _ which I hate. Everywhere is common, dirty, and annoyed. Not at all as it was a short time past.
Everything is melting into one massive stew. I was privileged to taste some of the different flavors while they lasted. No less than that, I was able to believe varied and delicious meals would be served each tomorrow. Now _ well the meals are there _ the varied cultural lifestyles that made them memorable are not.
Perhaps I am wrong. I hope so. Transitions have always happened and will for as long as people survive. I’m just happy I enjoyed mine. If I want to proclaim it as a great time to have lived through _ taking no claim or blame _ I feel free to do so.
- Curtains roll up on spectacle. Days of warmth following rain transform the landscape. Very little in spring weather is impossible, but by now around here snowfall has become very unlikely, hard frost only a little less so. Insects are everywhere, less noticed than the massive showpiece blossoms. Horticultural prima donnas dance on stage one after another, sometimes colliding.
- A week of transitions. One of the few certainties in the world is that more will follow. Fortunately, for a while, there is a great deal of yardwork to do, and grand vistas to appreciate, and new little miracles pushing up each morning.