Monday, April 17, 2017

Fleeting beauty of life ~ my column from Sunday's paper

This is what I believe: No matter how long we live, life is short. This idea of impermanence has been on my mind lately.

Last weekend, Jilda and I went to the Birmingham Art Museum to watch a Buddhist monk work on a sand mandala. This sand mandala comes to life when the monk pours colored sand on a piece of board. It is temporary art. The piece takes two weeks to complete, and the result is beautiful. Once finished, the monk sweeps it away.

I’m not a Buddhist, but I’ve read about it. Impermanence is one of the three marks of existence for Buddhists. The older I get, the more I realize just how impermanent life is. Nothing here on earth lasts forever. Well, the only exception is when one misbehaves in grammar school. That information, as we all know, goes on your permanent record.

Last Saturday, Jilda called our niece, Samantha, to see if she and her son, Jordan, would like to go to the art museum and see the monk in action. Afterward, we told them we’d go to Niki’s. That was the hook because Niki’s is one of their favorite places to eat in Birmingham. They were excited.

We left at 10 a.m. and drove into town. After walking through several of the exhibits, the monk came in to continue work on the mandala.  At 11:30 a.m. the monk planned a meditation. Anyone interested in taking part was welcome to join in the exercise. The meditation was for anyone regardless of religious beliefs. Jordan came to the museum to explore and wasn’t excited about sitting around silently with people he didn’t know. He and his mom headed off to the kid’s area where he could explore and do creative things. Jilda and I did the meditation. There were about 30 others there as well. It was a peaceful experience.

Afterward, we had a chance to get a close look at the piece of art the monk was making. It was a thought-provoking piece of temporary art. It was a good day for us all.

Fast forward to this morning. Jilda smiled as she walked through the door after fetching the mail. She said, “the John Rose is blooming.” The news made me smile too. I think Jilda’s grandmother called these climbing roses The Seven Sisters.

Jilda named ours the John Rose because it was a gift from our good friend John Elliott around 1990. We think of him often, but especially at this time of year. He died not long after he gave us the rose cutting. He had a rare form of aggressive cancer and died during the blizzard of 1993. He left us too soon, but his passing reminds us that life is short. Impermanent.

When Jilda and I were younger, we got with our circle of friends almost every weekend. We had parties at the drop of a hat.

Someone would say, we can do it at our house, and everything came together organically. Someone would bring the meat, someone else brought the buns, everyone brought cold beer, and at the end of the day, we all went home smiling.

These days, it seems the only time we all get together is at funerals. I would like to change that because life is impermanent — all we have is this moment. The old saying, “Live each day as if it were your last,” is a wise approach to life.


  1. I like to think of things I have planted continuing to grow and bloom long after I am gone. And that it the only form of immortality I have any wish for.

  2. You are so right about the impermanence of life. All we have is now and no matter how rich and educated we are, we all die poor as we can't take anything with us when we go...
    I watched a youtube video of the monks making these amazing sand mandalas and then tearing them down. They have lots of patience and skills.
    PS, I'm so sorry about your friend Louis getting ready to leave this earth which brings this post full circle.
    Hugs, Julia

  3. Anonymous11:09 AM

    We live on in our loved one's memories. Jordan will never forget you & will talk about you to his children & grandchildren, & they will tell their children!!

  4. Very good post Rick, it reminds me of conversations we also have of get togethers we used to have with friends,life is definitely short and your observations are spot on.

  5. Profound. Yes we should enjoy each moment. Life is certainly to short to build regrets.

  6. Regrets are hard to live with. I try to live each moment to the fullest, but there's always room for improvement.

  7. Many times when folks meet Jack and say "It's good to see you", he'll usually say, "It's better to be seen than viewed!" I know, a weird sense of humor there but it's so true that life goes by quickly and we usually regret what we haven't done more than what we've done. Does that make sense? So I've tried to make sure we gather as family as often as possible and try to have friends over more than we've done in the past few years.

  8. Temporary. This message bears a startling resemblance to the sermon we were privileged to hear Sunday morning. Truth feels so good!

  9. Good column. I know John would appreciate a rose named after him! And yes no matter the age life itself is temporary@!


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