Everywhere I looked was motion: leaves filling the atmosphere. It occurred to me that fall is truly astonishing... but only a few months ago I was admiring the start of summer, and before that the miraculous spring. What I love so much about living in New England is its seasons. It's a constant song of change.
I grew up in a cement city in the sub-tropics. Hong Kong only has very mild seasonal shifts, where a half hour marks the difference in the setting sun from December to July. And I think we can live in a false pretense of permanence in a place without such distinct seasons. It messes up our minds a bit. It makes the incoming tides of change in our own lives seem entirely unnatural.
Of course, we're always seeing this permanence around us to some degree. It's called "permanence grasping" in Buddhism, and is said to be the root of all our suffering. We hold ourselves, those around us, and all the things we crave and all the things we can't stand, to be inherently existent. Fixed in a certain way - therefore we are completely at the mercy of these external forces. This leads to a lot of fear and anxiety.
What we're not realizing, and what Buddha taught, is how deeply involved our minds are in creating these projections. Our minds are extraordinarily powerful in creating our experience of the world. The way our world appears is largely dependent upon what we're focusing on.
Yet all produced things are the nature of impermanence. Everything is constantly re-forming, re-creating and re-imagining itself. And the great hopefulness, I would say, of Buddha's teachings is how he shows that if we can learn to train our mind to see this impermanence directly, this emptiness, then we'll know the true nature of all things.
This direct realization of the nature of things is what causes liberation, or nirvana to occur. It's not some far away place. It's just described as what happens when our mind finally sees directly the nature of everything around us -- we just can't see it yet because our minds are obscured.
By the time I got to the Western Prom, I was electric with delight. This wild wind was moving through me and I stood on the porch of my friend's house — staring up into the sky and marveling at the trees shaking their leaves free.
I would like to stay here and continue watch this radical transformation of fall, but today is the day I get ready to board a plane and fly off on my travels around the world. And as I sit with my morning tea, reading the amazing new Maine College of Art view book that I am taking with me (my journey to Asia is to do projects for MECA at various Chinese art colleges), I happen upon a quote -- that somehow says it all.
In the words of the great American painter, Andrew Wyeth:
"There's a feeling that, yes,
you're seeing something that's happening momentarily,
but it's also a symbol of what has always happened in Maine.
The eternity of a moment."
Photo credit: Chris Glass, Wiki Commons