By Dana Gornall
“Sunsets, like childhood, are viewed with wonder not just because they are beautiful but because they are fleeting.”
An ordinary day just like any day in March.
The air temperature has shifted a bit, just two weeks ago the driveway was piled with snow—snow so high it jammed the snow blower. Snow so high it reached my Golden Retriever’s chest when he went out to pee. But now there was a little bit of warmth in the air, albeit most likely temporary. It is Ohio, in early March, and we aren’t likely to get off this easily. Winter still has its grips on us for at least another month.
But standing there on the front stoop before work, waiting for the dog to do his business, my eyes catch the motion of dripping. Drip, drip, drip, water hits the top of the fire pit—the one I had bought at the end of summer two years ago. The one I found discounted at the home improvement store. Waffling back and forth over which design I liked better I finally chose this one, which was really not much different than the other ones, but had a cover, metal screens surrounding all four sides with stars on each screen.
Drip, drip, from the roof, where icicles and snow were now melting and hitting the top frame of the fire pit, forming rainbow circles along the edges.
Rust. Dusty orange like the red-orange dirt I remember seeing in Colorado at the Garden of the Gods, so many years ago on a trip with my not-yet husband. We toured around, visiting Red Rocks Pavilion and I bought a dusty orange shirt that was dyed from the dirt and an orange incense burner that had a peace sign and a globe painted on it. The incense burner still sits on a table in my room with a Buddha statue given to me by a friend and a plastic blue chalice I bought over 20 years ago at Pier One. The shirt I lost track of long ago.
It struck me that I should pull the pit further under the roof awning, protecting it more from elements. But I remained frozen in place, considering the image of dusty orange rust and rainbow circles.
I thought about the fact that things change little by little over time when we aren’t looking. When we aren’t focused on these things, but on the importance of getting to work on time, to getting to the gym, to getting dinner made or the dog let out. And all the while that which was once pristine slowly fades or changes. Souvenir shirts get misplaced, not yet husbands become husbands and then ex-husbands (sometimes). Things bought new become worn with time.
I overheard a man the other day on the phone with his insurance company. He explained there was a leak in his roof—a roof laid down many years ago. Shingles layered on top of one another, were now fading and curling up at the corners. One day he had come home to find a small puddle growing on the floor and a slight swelling in the drywall ceiling.
The nameless representative asked if there had been an incident, a fierce storm of some type, or perhaps an object hit his roof like a tree or a basketball pole. The man replied nothing new had occurred other than that leak.
“Sounds like wear and tear,” I heard her say, as he had his phone on speaker. “It’s not something that we can cover. That and acts of God will not be covered.”
Acts of God will not be covered. What an odd statement.
Wouldn’t all that happens from sun up to sun down be acts of God (if you believe in a God)? The shifting of the weather and wind, the dripping of melting snow, the slow appearance of lines on our skin as we age, the gap between life stages as we move from child, to adult, to parent or caretaker, back to adult to being cared for.
Each turn of the wheel, each moon rise as the world spins, and we go about our day to day and fail to see the tiny shifts of change. The dirt shifts under our feet in tiny increments, paint peels from the siding that covers our homes and bricks begin to form miniscule cracks that splinter and spread into larger ones.
Elizabeth Gilbert said that, “It all goes away. Eventually, everything goes away.” And Alan Watts said, “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
It’s the tricky thing called impermanence—both a blessing and a curse. While we peg away at the hours during mundane tasks, perhaps our jobs or a commute, we wish away the day. We count down the minutes until we are freed from the monotony. Yet when we want to hold onto those moments, or look back at fond memories, we grasp—oh we grasp so tightly.
But nothing stops time. Nothing hastens it or slows it down. It just is. And sure as the dripping of snow off the roof, the crumbling of brick foundations of our homes, and the passage of life moving through day by day, it all changes.
Still on the front stoop my daydream fractures and I move to the fire pit and pull it under the awning. Drip, drip, the cool, icy water hits the top of my head and runs down my back causing me to startle and shiver. I am a little more awake now.
I call the dog in, pull on my shoes and reach for my bags. It’s time to start the day—a day filled with nothing moments that slip past us while we remain in motion.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” – John Lennon, Beautiful Boy
Editor: John Lee Pendall