All compounded things are impermanent.
Of all of the tragic images coming from NY and NJ, the one of a widow clutching a piece of china, all that was left of her material world, made me cry. Even the newscaster had tears in his eyes. She seemed so alone, she'd lost her husband, and now her house was gone, just gone. She said she wanted something to take with her. When she found the broken plate, she was satisfied; she could leave the wreckage that used to be her shelter. The parting shot was her walking slowly toward a relief group, the plate still held to her chest.
I've thought of this woman, and more despondently of the woman whose two sons were swept from her arms, the father and daughter who stayed behind because during Irene their home had been vandalized, and now both are gone. I can't help but consider the thousands of people permanently affected or displaced by this massive storm.
As co-editor of a small poetry journal, I expect poems to start coming in that contain weather, loss, broken things. But then most of our poems contain the broken elements of our lives. We write about love, knowing how fragile it is; we write of autumn's yellow leaves as they release themselves from the trees and fall to be swept away. Maybe we write to save that ideal moment, that shared whisper, that image of autumn becoming winter.
Impermanence. We hate the word, we hate the idea of it, and we often spend our lives denying its existence. How ironic that turning and facing impermanence gives life an unexpected sweetness. Accepting that everything and everyone is made up of exhaustible materials, including ourselves, both terrifies and comforts us.
As writers, we work with our word lists, we scribble our thoughts, choose line breaks and better words. We submit our work to be heard, but I suspect that seeing our thoughts in print is also concrete proof that we matter. It is our little stab at immortality. It is our broken plate, something to hold to our chest when the world has become utterly incomprehensible.
No matter our losses, we'll keep writing, and we'll keep sending, and we'll keep pushing that submission manager button, the one that still seems ludicrous and unreal. Once in a while someone will tell us our work made them think or cry or reconsider. And in that moment we will be as permanent as we're ever going to be.
My writing often deals with the environment, my poetry filled with allusions to natural and man-made disasters. I have unlimited hope though, there is just too much wonder in this world to become a defeatist. As Margaret J. Wheatley said, Hopelessness has surprised me with patience.