Time's Tricks (written 2018)

05/04/2018 08:19

When I was in my late twenties and had first left the city where I grew up, I would go back now and then and stay with my parents for short visits. My dad used to say I was like a duck coming in for a landing, implying that I never stayed long. He wasn't just referring to the brevity of the visit as a whole. I'd lived in Calgary and region for the best part of 30 years before moving elsewhere and I had so many ties there, so many friends scattered within that city's reaches. I was still young enough to be caught in the illusion of endless time where I'd be able to do it all. The siren call of lively friends and interesting experiences easily won out over tea and talk with my aging parents. It was embarrassing to listen to their nostalgic family anecdotes, mildly irritating to be expected to give up the more enticing entertainments beyond their door. I have often regretted my carelessness in those years, but I do not see my behavior as unusual or intrinsically wrong in some way. It is a truth of life that children grow and yearn to leave home while parents yearn for more of what has been. Viewpoints that result from life experience are necessarily different at different places along the arc of a life. The young yearn more for what is in front of them, the aging yearn for what seems to be behind. So the ducks land, grab a bite or two and fly on.


I'm in my sixties now. My own children behave as I did. Not in order to hurt me, but in order to live their lives according to what is most enticing now. Now I am the parent, less enticed by flying and more inclined to tell embarrasing stories. Alas, nothing unusual here.


What I'm pondering as another family holiday passes is how both ends of the spectrum are caught in yearning...whether it is forward or back. While I now understand the impermanence of youth and the limits of time, often I am no wiser when it comes to lessening the suffering of desire. So I find myself hearing my father's voice as I usher the kids out the door at the end of a shared celebration meal. Then, with the whisper of my dad's words in my ear, and the image of his sardonic smile in my mind's eye, I bring to mind skillful effort to be mindful not just of the events of this moment but of the emotions stirring, and the crossroads I'm standing at. If I am diligent, I am able to smile as I close the door behind them and open to what remains here with me, rather than sinking into sadness. I am able to wave desire out the door with them and settle back into now, which is fine and full.


Here there is a warm home and much that is beloved. Yet all of this, like the company of my children, will not last. I can be caught in sadness or not and the choice is here in this brief moment of seeing how it all passes. The tulips I bought to symbolize the spring that has not yet made itself known outside the windows, are already drooping heavy heads. The scent of the lilacs is sweetening toward decay. Even so, all that I love is leaving. Should that make it less a source of joy and sweetness while it's here?


I wonder if these words will seem melancholy to the reader and hope, perhaps unrealistically, that they will not. For what makes for more melancholy in my experience is to know we miss the sweetness here in our haste to travel forward or wish to travel back. My wish now for myself, for those I love, for all beings, is that we live this fleeting moment unfettered by desire's push or pull.