For nearly a year now, I have written intermittently about impermanence, about how everything changes, all the time. Sometimes, as I have described on these pages, change is so unexpected that it takes your breath away. Life is turned upside down, with all expectations and visions of the present and future squashed in a flash flood. Everything you have spent years creating is suddenly gone.
Many images are used to describe the temporary quality of experience and of human existence more generally:
That it is like writing on water with your fingers (how quickly the stream flows on, obliterating precious thoughts);
Or, it is like a candle flickering in a doorway (where the slightest wind snuffs out the light);
Or, like clouds in autumn or a flash of lightning on the distant plain;
Or, like a mirage of water ahead on the roadway (I used to see such mirages as my family drove from Seattle to Long Beach and Encinitas to visit grandparents);
But none of these is quite as spectacular as a rainbow seen through raindrops, or a massive double rainbow stretching across the plains, where it caresses the ground from south to north.
On a three-week journey to Ireland in 2002, I saw more rainbows than I had seen in all of this lifetime put together. And, in the past weeks of tumultuous weather in central Colorado, rainbows have appeared out of nowhere—breathtaking in their beauty. One evening recently, we watched with neighbors as a brilliant double rainbow appeared to connect our house with Ellen’s, next door.
But more striking than the appearance of this profound beauty is its disappearance. One moment, the earth and sky seem alive; the next moment, emptiness. Nothing has intrinsic permanent existence. The rainbow is my symbol for the fragility of the ten thousand things.