I was driving home the other day, and I was looking at the storm clouds in the sky. As always, I found myself singing: 'bring me a wheel of oaken wood and a rein of polished leather, a heavy horse and a tumbling sky brewing heavy weather'
It struck me as I studied the clouds. We speak always of how nothing stays the same, but some things do. The clouds that captured my imagination that day have captured my imagination always. My mother used to peg her bed sheets between two clothes lines and they formed sort of a hammock. I remember as a small child resting my arms in the billowy tunnel that the white sheets made and studying the clouds above me. There were interesting shapes to be found in the sky, and I remember vividly the moment that I lay on the ground and realized that the clouds were moving above me. I was old enough to know that the earth I lay upon was in motion but I had never before felt its actual movement. There was a wind moving those clouds as well, a lofty wind too grand to ruffle the hair of one so lowly as me. The clouds changed shape before my very eyes, and moved across the sky as I lay in the grass and watched in awe.
I thought of other things that I have known for always and will remember for always: thunderstorms that made me cry in fear as a child. Yet now I love them. I was a teenager sitting on a back patio listening to them move in. A young mother in Virginia. A sad and lonely middle-aged woman in Michigan. I remember a promise that I'd made to my bald self in the middle of chemo in the middle of winter (two years ago!): that one day I'd be on my own back porch watching a storm move in. The wind would blow my hair in my eyes once more, and when the rain came, I'd leap to my feet to come inside, but I would take a moment to savor the feeling of the fat rain drops on my skin. It was a comforting thought, and the day did come when I was sitting on the back porch watching the storm come in, and the hair was in my eyes. I remember that promise I'd made to myself in the midst of a very hard time, and when I stood to come in from the rain, I took that moment to savor the feel of the rain drops just as I promised myself that I would.
There are a lot of things that are a trigger to other places and other times. Rocks, for instance. I have always collected them. I'd always wonder if that ancient rock had ever caught someone else's eye. It had been there for all of time, and I wondered if perhaps a pioneer had picked it up and marveled at it.
The sound of rain on the roof is one of my earliest memories, yet I know that it is not only my memory. It has belonged to people that lived long before me. Long after I'm gone there will be people that I will never know, some of them my own descendents. They will sit in houses that I have never been in, and they will listen to the sound of rain just as I did in my own time on this planet. I wonder about these things, about the sound of wind in the trees, the voice of my mother, about the sparkle of snow so white that it makes your eyes water to look at it, about the sound of water trickling from as spring just as it has trickled always, about the warmth of the sun, and the smell of lilacs, and the sight of daffodils on the first warm spring day. The moon. The stars. Lightning bugs. Peeper frogs. The hoot of an owl. All these things are my memories, to be sure, but they are common to all of us really, and even more than that, those things are part of the memories of people gone on before us, and those things will continue to be part of the memories for people who will come long after we are gone.
It comforts me, these small glimpses of permanence, these pieces of eternity, those things that are now, and will be forever. In their permanence, I see an eternal and unchanging God, and I am grateful, and in the face of all that which is eternal, I see my own impermanence. Somehow it makes me feel better to think that when I am gone from this place, the wind will ruffle the hair of my children and grandchildren for me. They will breathe deeply of lilacs in the spring, and rejoice at the warmth of the sun. They will watch lightning bugs and have their own childhood memories of running in the darkness with jars with holes punched in the metal screw on lids.
We are the products of a previous generation, and they are the products of the generation before them. We cannot see the beginning of all that was before us, just as we cannot see the end of what is ahead. We are born and and we create our lives and our memories, and then our time is done. We leave another generation who create their lives and their memories, and when their time is done, there will be yet another generation, and so it goes, just as it has always gone.
Nothing stays the same, but that is not the whole truth of it. Those changes take place in a framework that does not change, and the more that I pondered these things, the more beautiful it all seemed.
Debby Hornburg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She and her unchanging husband are in the midst of changes, and really, it is beautiful.