Transience

Two things happened this week that got me thinking about transience.  Early one morning as I was taking my dog Holly out, I was stunned to see a rainbow arching over the end of our cul-de-sac! (I can’t even remember the last time I saw a rainbow in real life.) A light misty rain was in the air, barely perceptible, and the morning sunlight was just starting to stream out from under a heavy bank of clouds.  I was so excited, I ran inside and yelled for my son to come out and see it before it disappeared. I must have sounded hysterical because I startled him in the middle of a spoonful of cereal and for a second he thought something was wrong. He quickly joined me outside in his bare feet and we took a few minutes to marvel at the rainbow before rushing back inside to get ready for school. By the time we came back out to jump in the car, it was gone. Why is it that the representation of a rainbow has become such a cliche, synonymous with Care Bears, unicorns and everything trite?  When seen in real life, there is nothing more grand, more magical, more intensely pure.  Would it even be possible to put a rainbow in my artwork without being either ironic, sarcastic, comical, or naive? I might try that.

The second transient thing that has overwhelmed me this week is the flowering trees in my neighborhood. Whoever planned the landscaping here had a wonderful idea: each street has a different type of spring-blooming tree lining the sidewalks, and they each bloom in succession.  It begins with the pinky purple cherries on the court up the street in mid-March, which I painted two weeks ago. Now it is time for the pale pink and white cherries. Next the deep red-pink cherries on our street will begin to open. I have been walking Holly twice a day up to this spot to enjoy these wondrous blooms. The flowers were very crisp and white when they first came out about a week ago, then slowly became fuller and more billowy, developing a hazy pale pink cast. I was curious about this and looked very closely at the individual flowers to see that there is now a deep pink splash in the very center, while the outer petals are nearly white. I noticed how different they are from the Bradford pears, which have a more greenish white color, due to their yellow green centers. In fact, the pear trees are almost done flowering and the fresh green leaves are beginning to take over. Soon the cherries will also be ending their once a year show.

My human nature wants to hold on to these things, grasping to keep something that is inevitably slipping away. The rainbow and the cherry trees bring up all these emotions for me: the fear of losing something (or someone), the anxiety of not having enough time, the desperation to own it and keep it safe, the disquietude of forgetting. This is part of the reason we take photos and make images: to hold on, to freeze something in time, to tell our stories before they fade away… before we fade away. Can I let go of all this? Can I simply enjoy each moment, knowing that the impermanence is what makes it so special? Can my artwork celebrate each moment, or recall the past, without holding on so tightly? Or does the act of making the image somehow set it free, allowing me to move on? Can I put down the heavy suitcase of the past and carry my memories with a light hand, like a bouquet of helium balloons tied to my finger?

End of March, ink and colored pencil

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One thought on “Transience

  1. “My human nature wants to hold on to these things, grasping to keep something that is inevitably slipping away. … Can I simply enjoy each moment, knowing that the impermanence is what makes it so special?” Laurie, you capture so much in these few words. I think of how often I rebel at the thought that I cannot keep a moment forever, that any effort to capture it “as is” is fruitless because “captured” it is something else entirely.

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