Fleeting and Eternal

I often sit and stare at the sky, watching the clouds drift and dissolve in silence. Bugs

Picture of St. Francis Hall, St. Bonaventure. Taken by me.

furrow through the grass. Pools of shadow sift light. Branches murmur in the wind. Now and then, people cross on sidewalks, their soft strides pacing conversations as they pass away. Sometimes they wave.

Right now, I’m doing the same: sitting under my favorite tree on campus, looking at the brick buildings strapped to the ground, the drunken sky a whirl of cirrus and cumulous flooding the blue above.  It’s summer and the quad is quiet and still–almost deserted. The buildings slumber, their windows dark, their doors closed.

Normally I feel lonesome in the slow trickle of strangers and the empty hours before me. I do today. But something deeper always opens in such moments, as if it requires the sun-laced stillness of an empty afternoon.

Normally a current of present-day concerns grasps me. I loose sight of the bugs in the grass and the white clouds sailing in the blue above.  I have work and obligations to consider, a schedule to frame my time. Sometimes they are wonderful concerns, joys that people spend years fighting to maintain, rocks that stabilize lives and structure existences–things like friends, or romances, compliments, responsibilities, and jobs.

In truth, such concerns have value: they make us happy–or, at least they make me happy. But sometimes I must step into another sphere and see the world of present-day concerns shadowed like figures through foamed glass because, though they make me happy, they also make me tired.

So, my grip slips and the relentless grid of time loosens. My schedule clears. I’m suddenly left staring at the bugs and the clouds in the shadows of silent buildings, trying to find the eternal by engrossing myself in the fleeting.

I’ve found enough failure and lost enough friends in my short life to know some stark human truths. As we impose unity or permanence on our lives, it squirms from our categories and leaves us with a fallen house of cards–or so I’ve found.

My grandfather will be dead soon and my parents are getting older. I had friends I’ve never seen again. I was once in love, but now I only have the letters buried in a freezer bag, the memories laced over sidewalks like ghosts. Traveling, I’ve built connections, but the steady beat of miles and time wears them away. Soon, I graduate university.

Yet, in moments of freedom, I feel that these losses– and the inevitable losses ahead–don’t matter much. Even victories thin.

Life becomes a broad canvas. As artists we focus, our blush flecking paint and blending hues in one small corner as we live. Only stepping back reveals the whole subject, a brittle masterpiece framed by limits.

Perhaps there is nothing eternal here. Perhaps day-to-day concerns are all there are. Yet, I feel that life has deeper currents, sometimes buried in the cold silence of solitude like springs waiting to breath forth water.

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