Life is fluid

by Kim on July 13, 2014 · 20 comments

Yesterday we visited the tourist sites in Washington D. C. Basically, we saw memorials to those killed in war or to those who tried to stop war and other human atrocities and were assassinated because of it.

Korean War Memorial

We visited the Washington Monument but couldn’t go to the top because we didn’t have a ticket. We visited the holocaust museum but couldn’t see the exhibit because we didn’t have a ticket. We visited the Martin Luther King Memorial and the Korean War Memorial and the Lincoln Monument (we didn’t need tickets for those.).

At the Vietnam War Memorial someone left a note behind, propped against the gabbro reflecting wall. It said: I kissed the ground at El Toro. A promise kept. I had to swallow my tears in a hard lump down my throat. A 12-year old girl, her ponytail high and bouncing, turned to her mom and said, “Well, that’s traumatic.” But I imagine that child has no real idea what traumatic even means. And neither do I.

Vietnam War Memorial

D.C. is a beautiful city and I was happy to be there. But it is a bit depressing remembering the worst of humanity. I suppose, though, that is why we remember. We hope with all hope that we won’t repeat the mistakes of history even as we’re repeating them.

After a day in the crushing heat it was time to go. So we retrieved our car and left the city and weaved through traffic back towards our campsite. We stopped for dinner at a chain restaurant named and designed to resemble an Irish Pub. The Cubs were playing on TV. We sat on the back porch underneath a patio fan and sipped beers. The suburb we were in was just like everywhere else except, inexplicably, all of the cars in the parking lot were backed into their parking spaces. Brian said, “It’s probably so they can get away faster.”

Later that night at the campsite we lit a campfire to keep the bugs away. The air was cool but the humidity clung to our skin with the woodsmoke. I am still reading about Buddhism so I sat in my camp chair and read by the firelight.

One of the best things I have taken away from my study of Buddhism is the knowledge that life is fluid. Obviously, I knew this on some level, but it has been important for me to realize that I am predisposed to think that once something is a certain way it will be like that forever. For example, I might think that once I have enough money I will always have enough money. Or that once they are married they will always be in love. Or that once he gets healthy he will stay healthy. But life doesn’t work like that. Things come together and then they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. Pema Chodron said that, not me. Life is fluid.

I read my book until nearly midnight and then got up to brush my teeth. The bathroom at the campground was a 15-minute walk away. It was dark and the beam of my headlamp illuminated the path in front of me. Everything else was as dark as a closed linen closet.

The moon above was a full shine of silver-gold, pregnant and round. The full expression of everything the moon can be.

I turned off my headlamp to see if I could navigate by moon alone and while I stood waiting for my eyes to adjust I thought about walking meditation. I just finished reading The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldburg who is a writing teacher and also a Zen Practitioner. She has her writing students do slow walking meditation where they (I imagine) creep around like hunting cats, every movement slow and intentional, their minds tuned towards vast stillness.

I thought, I will try it. Right here in this silent campground, cloaked in darkness, I will try it. And if anyone would have seen me they would have alerted security because I looked like a lunatic, creeping along in the darkness, trying to focus on my breath. I moved slowly and with intention, aware as my right foot met the ground and then my left. My bracelet dangled around my wrist. My breath went in and out.

But the moon kept casting shadows of the tree branches on the ground and my mind kept wondering at the shapes they were making. It was almost like the moon was asking to be noticed. And so instead of focusing on my breath I let myself focus on the moon. I put my full face up to her full face.

There were frogs croaking in the underbrush and the wind was shaking the branches of the trees. The moon was perfect. It felt like a gift to be roofless and rootless, walking to the bathroom through the Maryland woods underneath the light of this perfect moon.

I knew that in the hours and weeks that followed the moon would become smaller until, one dark night, there would be no moon at all. But I also knew that, after that moonless night, there will come a moment when someone will spot her, the very first sliver of her, glowing in the sky anew.

Life on fire footer revised

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie July 13, 2014 at 11:03 am

Life is fluid…that is a lesson I have begun to slowly start learning as well. I seem to always be working towards some kind of goal, some finish line – but life goes on. And sometimes the finish line changes or disappears and you find yourself in a new race entirely. It’s a huge mental shift to make.

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Kim July 14, 2014 at 6:10 am

Totally. I just love that idea of things coming together and falling apart and then coming together again. I try to remember that when things have come together to enjoy it, because they won’t stay that way and when things have fallen apart to take peace in knowing that they will come together again.

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sharon August 24, 2014 at 11:21 am

The circle of life! The challenge for me is really finding the peace and enjoying both things for the teachers they are. Learning to not cling or grasp to the times that come together because it is all impermanent. How do you let go when you find yourself clinging?

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Kim August 25, 2014 at 9:27 am

Oh, I wish I had an easy answer to letting go. I cling, definitely. But it helps to keep the reminder that life is fluid in the forefront of my mind… sometimes I need to remind myself over and over again.

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Patti July 13, 2014 at 11:57 am

I love your reflection in the wall, that’s a great photo! Washington, D.C. is one of my most favorite cities because it is so vibrant and because there is always something going on – good, bad or indifferent. Every time we go I feel a little bit more alive somehow. I think it’s the blend of past and present and that the city is the heart of the country. And unlike so many cities, D.C. is what I describe as an open air city, I never feel closed in. The memorials can be overwhelming. We have been through the Holocaust Museum and it’s emotionally difficult and the experience weighs heavy, but I think it should. It’s good to remember, it’s good to learn from the past and as you say, hopefully learn how to move forward.
Patti recently posted..The Great Southern Oregon Give-a-Way ~

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Kim July 14, 2014 at 6:11 am

D.C. (in my limited time there) reminded me so much of Paris. It is a very European city. I really loved it.

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Nicole July 13, 2014 at 9:49 pm

I was thinking the same thing: that little girl probably has no idea how to use traumatic. But, I wonder, did you hear her mom explain what that note was about? It would have been a good teachable moment.
Nicole recently posted..Getting Scammed by Hertz Hurts

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Kim July 14, 2014 at 6:11 am

Her mom did not respond to her at all, she just ignored the comment. I wanted to say something! Ha, can you imagine? Obviously it wasn’t my place.

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Karyn @ Not Done Travelling July 14, 2014 at 7:11 am

The moon is the essence of my spiritual belief system. It waxes and wanes, just like a woman. Maiden, mother, crone. Everything grows and fades.

Another way of looking at it: “This too shall pass”.
Karyn @ Not Done Travelling recently posted..I’m Epileptic & Can’t Scuba Dive (As Told By Gifs)

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Kim July 16, 2014 at 7:03 am

Absolutely. Love it.

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Sarah Somewhere July 14, 2014 at 7:52 am

There is so much here, Kim, I love it! Most of all, I love the image of you and the moon creeping through the night.
Sarah Somewhere recently posted..Bienvenidos a La Penita de Jaltemba!

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Kim July 16, 2014 at 7:03 am

Haha. That’s how you get arrested in campgrounds!

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Emily July 15, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Glad you had a nice visit in DC! If you ever come back to visit in the future, I’d recommend checking out one of the meditation groups hosted by IMCW here. Safe travels!
Emily recently posted..Washington, DC Photo Album

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Kim July 16, 2014 at 7:06 am

Thanks Emily. I would LOVE to do that. I wish I would have known. I feel like we have to do this job again just so that we can do all of the amazing things that we learn about upon leaving the city we’re visiting.

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Aurora July 15, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Love this. On the eve of returning to the states after a brief (too brief) visit to Peru, it is such a good reminder of the fluidity of life. Thank you for this. Keep walking through the night, Kim!
Aurora recently posted..These moments (or, how I fell in love with soccer)

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Kim July 16, 2014 at 7:06 am

Thanks Aurora. I’m glad you got back to Peru and of course I have no doubt that you’ll be back again.

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Renee July 17, 2014 at 7:06 pm

I’ve been to DC twice in my lifetime so far, and it’s definitely a place I want to get back to because I’ve barely had the chance to scratch the surface of that amazing city. The war memorials are really hard to be with. I could barely take in the number of names on the Vietnam Wall memorial without feeling overwhelming sadness for everyone who died not just in that war, but all wars, everywhere throughout history. But, as you said, there is fluidity in this life, and there are plenty of reasons to be equally as happy.

I’m glad you followed your inclination to turn off your lamp and look up to the moon and also find your way in the darkness. I’m assuming you didn’t end up in the pokey or this blog post might have had a different title. ;-)

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Kim July 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Haha, nope, I escaped prison this time. That would have been a story to tell!

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Nguyen July 21, 2014 at 3:00 am

The Vietnamese war was very sad. I know it because I’m a Vietnamese. however life goes on. As you said, Life Is Fluid. I love that analogy! :)
Nguyen recently posted..5 Eye-Opening Reasons How Travel Can Make Your Life Better

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Kim July 21, 2014 at 8:17 am

Yes, I’ve seen the war museums and memorials in Vietnam too. It was terrible on all sides :(

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