Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Passing Through

"On a Desert Trail"

Yesterday morning while driving my car, I passed by a dad and his two little boys waiting for the school bus. The boys looked very much like my own boys did back when they first started school, and when I looked at them standing there with their dad, for a moment I became very nostalgic - even melancholy. 

My boys are adults now, one of  them is married. "Where did the time go?" I thought. 

Then just as I was about to lapse into reminiscences of those happy days when I was the one waiting with two boys for a school bus, wishing that somehow I might go back in time and stop the clock, I snapped out of it.  

As I looked at those two boys and their dad at that bus stop, I had a moment of clarity, a moment of crystal clear insight, realizing that life is never about permanence. The one stable factor about this life on earth is that it is never stable. Life is always about "passing through" it all.

This morning as I reflect on yesterday's flash of insight, I also realize that my life in the desert has been teaching me yet one more important life lesson. I am not sure I would have had such a clear insight into the fleeting nature of life were it not for what the desert has been teaching me since moving out here. 

When you walk out onto the vast expanse of the desert floor, the towering stone mountains in the horizon, it all seems so permanent, so solid and stable. But you quickly learn that although it all looks permanent, the lesson the desert teaches is about impermanence. The desert is never a destination.  It is always a place of pilgrimage- a place of "passing" through."

You might travel to the beach, enjoying the sound of the waves, the soft sand on your feet, maybe finding a place to camp there or a beachfront hotel with an ocean view.  However, you never travel out into the desert to actually stay there. The wilderness is too rocky, too stoney, too immense. It's too hot to stay put there in the day and too cold with too many scary creatures to stay there at night.  

The desert outside my house is, in fact, filled with trails- a myriad of trails, some marked well, some hard to find. I walk those trails every day along with all those other fellow travelers on the way. We greet each other on the trails and then go our separate ways.  But trails are there for passing through and not staying put or camping out. 

The desert trails teach me a great life lesson: "Life is a desert, filled with lots of trails to help guide travelers who are "passing through" it all." 

I wish I had learned the wisdom of this "passing through" lesson in my younger years as I was building up my own personal kingdom. When you are younger, life seems a lot more permanent than when you get older. I wonder if, maybe, had I been wise enough to travel more lightly and cling less tightly, life might have been a lot more fun. 

Nonetheless I do not live with sadness remembering what was, nor do I live with regret over what might have been. I simply live with what now "is."

As usual I sit in my garden on a winter's morning and I look out onto the desert. I can see one of those wilderness trails, it passes right in front of my house. Every day the trail reminds me that I am a pilgrim, and I am just "passing though."

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