The weather was unusually mild and quite pleasant. I decided to enjoy some rare August quality time outdoors. I walked leisurely along East Norfolk Avenue. It’s a stretch of the town’s main street, near where the street becomes a state highway at the eastern town limits. Although the transitional highway traffic seemed heavier than usual, I didn’t mind because the flood control levee was within view.
The levee is where a man-made alteration of the landscape blends in with the natural world. The boundary of the levee near the edge of town has more natural habitat than most of the cropland further away. The levee part of the countryside is peaceful and more filled with life than the intensely cultivated corn and soybean fields in the rest of eastern Madison County, Nebraska.
Nearing my destination, I must cross East Norfolk Avenue in order to reach the portion of the levee I enjoy most. While waiting at the crosswalk for traffic that never stops for pedestrians, a funeral procession arrives in the westbound lanes of the highway/street. I’m guessing there was probably a funeral at the “Peace Church” a few miles further east of town.
The stream of vehicles was led by a Norfolk Police Division SUV cruiser. Right behind was one of those new style of hearses based on an SUV body that I don’t like. I prefer hearses that are converted Lincoln Continentals or Cadillac sedans. Behind the sports utility hearse was the pallbearer limousine–another dressed up SUV. That was followed by a conventional Cadillac limousine conveying the next of kin. Behind the funeral vehicles were a few dozen conventional cars, pickups, and more SUVs filled with mourners.
When the last car of the procession passes, I take advantage of the gap in traffic to sprint north across Norfolk Avenue under the gaze of the policeman driving the trailing police SUV. My mind begins to ponder life and death.
Impermanence is a good concept to contemplate while strolling through a place like the levee. Impermanence is a basic fact of life on Earth and everywhere. Although human society puts up a façade of permanence, there is nothing whatsoever that is truly permanent no matter how much we want to believe it to be. Everything, everywhere is in flux–always changing.
The steel and paint molecules of the SUV hearse, the dirt, the flora and fauna of the levee, the Planet Earth and the rest of the Universe exist in continual cycles of living and dying. The most difficult fact to accept is our own human impermanence. Even our mental, conceptualization of impermanence and change is not permanent nor eternal.
Our unwillingness to accept the totality of impermanence is the basis of our suffering. We take our everyday existence and what we do for granted. We feel like our lives will always be good or bad or somewhere in-between. We are rightfully concerned about paying for food, shelter, and care for ourselves and those we love.
As John Lennon famously said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” That life event might be a traffic accident, a heart attack, testing positive for Covid -19, or a relationship breakup. Suddenly the life we were used to, has taken a sudden shift.
It comes down to what to think and do in the aftermath of a major change. Do we try to patch up and restore the old way of living or do we accept that our view of life has fundamentally changed? Mourning and grief sweep over us for awhile. It may even take on the appearance of permanence. However, we remember that nothing whatsoever is forever. The grief will change in intensity and presence. Our lives will continue along until they don’t anymore.
I mindfully stopped the mental chatter of philosophizing. I noticed that the air was dry and sweet. The levee was filled to the brim with living change. It was a good day to be alive.