Written late spring/early summer
Suzuki Roshi was once asked if anything was constant in this life. He replied with one word: change.
A couple of weeks ago I watched a wave of hail moving from behind the hills, over the temple and through the valley. Directly above my office, directly above my writing desk, is the dining room balcony. Drum-rolls of hard ice falling onto the flat surface of the balcony roused me from my concentration. I went upstairs to watch the weather.
A few days earlier it had felt like summer had arrived. The sunshine was bright, and the air was warm. It was a real change from the sun and cold wind of winter and spring days. The sun-rose in the garden started to flower. Each delicate, Barbie-pink, flower lasts for just one day.
On my day off, I was looking forward to a day in the heat. I sat in the garden eating breakfast, looking out over the copper-beech, with its orange-yellow blossom, and the plum tree just coming into leaf. Grey clouds drifted in, settling over the sky like a soft blanket. Still, I spent most of the day outside.
In the evening it started to rain. Noisy rain. The cats ran inside, mewing at us, complaining about the weather. I could hear the water from the roof flooding down the downspout and overwhelming the drains. It rained hard through the night. The following morning it eased a little. The rain drops were smaller and softer. More like mist than rain. The slate tiles of the coach house roof I can see from my office window were dark with the wet.
It’s tempting to complain about the rain, and praise the sunshine. But they are each beautiful in their own way. Someone was decorating our shrine room on those wet mornings. It wasn’t ideal conditions, the light was dim, and the paint took longer to dry, but the garden loved the rain. The potatoes plants doubled in size in a couple of days, and the cucumber seedling I planted out on my day off grew taller by an inch a day.
The summer colours were dulled a little by the mist, but still the deep pink magnolia flowers burst from the grey.
If we can just find the right place to stand, all weather is beautiful weather. And all weather changes. The same is true of our own lives.
There are large changes that a life goes through, and we might have some sense of what they are: of how the energy of a life shifts from childhood, through the teenager years to adulthood and old age. Having some sense of this can bring us a kind of solace, we can make peace with knowing that one thing changes into another. But we shouldn’t hold on to tightly to this idea of cycles. Just like the weather there can be unexpected storms in the summer, or days of sunshine in the winter.
Thoughts, feelings, our physical health, all of these change over the years, and all of these change on a daily basis, and all of these change from moment to moment.
The simple act of knowing this can bring us to a calm centre point.
We can’t control man, if any, of these circumstances. But, like the weather, we can change how we look at them, and how we experience them.
In every circumstance there is something beautiful, and every circumstance is always beginning to change into something new.
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This article first appeared in All About Malvern Hills