Rhythm of Life
“When I sit by the Potomac River and watch the swirling currents, when I lean against a great sycamore tree and sense how its life will continue beyond my own, I intuitively grasp how my existence is vivid, changing, empty of any solid self. As we feel our belonging to the natural rhythms of life, the illusion of being separate and threatened begins to dissolve.”
Tara Brach, Ph.D. (Radical Acceptance, p. 177)
In my neighborhood, there are ancient live oaks, with trunks that two large people can not reach around. Their roots heave up sidewalks and streets. The power company carves out the middle of them to clear paths for lines. But, somehow, they survive. I call them the grandmothers. Walking through the surrounding streets, one can see the many generations of change. At some point there was a pecan grove here, five or six trees still stand tall and drop their nuts in Autumn. In the early years of the twentieth century, the Birmingham Zoo covered twenty or more acres just down the street. A few of the original buildings still stand alongside the rudiments of stone walls and sidewalks. It's a park now with ball fields and a library. When kids' baseball or softball games are not being played there, young Latino guys play pick-up rugby on Sunday afternoons; young parents push strollers and walk dogs.
All around me, old people move on to retirement communities or nursing homes, and young people buy the houses and begin the long stretch of child-rearing. Down the road from the park is a sprawling complex of factory buildings that once housed Avondale Mills, a textile industry that for more than a century employed hundreds people. Here and there, one can still see row houses, lined up side by side, that were the mill village. Like in most Southern towns, the mill closed and the buildings sat empty for decades. Now a thriving industry is once again bringing life—breweries for craft beer and liquor in the factory buildings; restaurants, bars and coffee shops line the street that used to be a decaying railroad crossing. Those row houses have been refurbished and painted New Orleans colors. Gentrification thrives in the Deep South.
All this is to say that life is a changing and expanding circle and we are part of it. We are born, we live, we love, we enjoy our days and nights, we go through hardships and great, good fortune, we grow old and eventually die. We may not live as long as the trees, but we live longer than the birds and the butterflies. Life was here before we came, and life continues after we're gone. The rhythm of life is forever forward. There's comfort in that. And, not only comfort, but joy, if you're open to it.
In the Spirit,