Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rock Cairns and other Impermanance

I took some awesome (hopefully) sunset shots last night - I love my new camera - but haven't uploaded them yet. But trying to capture the sunset as it washed over the clouds and reflected off the wet sand and waves on the shoreline made me think of these rock cairns we saw in Vermont.

Point? I have one, really.

These slow-to-assemble piles of rocks were at one of the swimming holes we visited. Built from thin smooth stones from the bottom of the river. Assembled meticulously by other swimmers, each stone slightly smaller than the last. My kids tried to build their own and gave up after ten minutes. Too much effort.

And yet, the following day when we walked by this same spot, the cairns were all washed away, either by a storm surge in the river from all the rain the previous night or by some curmudgeon who enjoys knocking them over. Gone. All that's left now are photographs. Kinda like the sunset I was trying to capture on film last night. It's gone now except for my memory and the photos.

So many things are like that in our world. Here and perfect one moment, inspiring awe or at least a smile, and then gone the next. The cake you spend hours decorating for a child's birthday party, devoured as soon as the candles are blown out. The gifts meticulously wrapped and be-ribboned under the Christmas tree, only to be ripped apart Christmas morning. The care taken in placing that mint on your hotel pillow on the freshly made bed, for no other purpose than to eat the mint and pull the sheets apart to sleep under... the ideas that flit through a writer's head in that half-haze of sleep only to evaporate with the morning light.

You get the idea. So many things are impermanent.

I think this is one of the things that drives authors to want to be published. Or at least drives me. To leave a record of the stories running through my head. Something to point to and say, I did that. This is part of me.

Mark Twain is long dead, but his body of work lives on. Charles Dickens, too. Shakespeare's been dead even longer, and yet his plays and sonnets are still taught all over the globe. Still relevant today. What drove them to write so prolifically? Well, money for one, as all three were working writers. But there must have also been some thought in their heads as to their legacy. Leaving their marks on the world.

I like to frame my kids' artwork and hang it around the house. My daughter has several of her own painted canvases hanging in her room. Not that they are great art, but they give her a sense of pride and accomplishment. She can look at them and think, I did that. I made that. There's a big canvas of undersea creatures hanging in my sons' room that my oldest did when he was 5. Both of the boys still think it's cool. (They think my painting of Calvin and Hobbes is a little cooler, because it's more recognizable perhaps, but the strange fish are still cool.) Validating. Permanent.

At least for now.

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