My family and I went on a mini road trip. The day was warm and breezy—just perfect. The hills were exquisitely dusted with little yellow, purple and white wildflowers. My mom would have loved them. I almost felt like the earth was singing for her. As we entered a little river canyon, one hill was on fire—not literally—but it had a vibrant orange cast to it. California poppies!
There was no place to pull over, so we decided to stop on our journey back. We had a nice outing together. We ate lunch and went to this great rock shop that we love. Then we made our way back to the poppies.
We got some good shots, but my family wanted to climb the hill to get pictures without power lines. I was done taking pictures and content to admire them from where I was at—to be alone with my thoughts. A woman pulled up behind us to take some pictures. Wanting to share in the wonder of it, I said, “Aren’t they gorgeous?!” She eyed me up and replied, “They’re the same every year.”
After she drove away, I stood there, alone in my thoughts, and considered what she said. I got really sad, because they’re not the same this year—the world is not the same. My mom is not here. Nothing will ever be the same again. I became deeply, overwhelmingly sad and started to cry. We think that people and situations—that life—is fixed. We glance at something—or someone—and end our exploration or togetherness there and put it in the “I’ve already seen that before; been there, done that” category. We create the illusion of permanence. We categorize and order our experience to feel stable—and immortal. But what we lose is the freshness and opportunity in each new moment. This is not a new thought. Around 500 B.C., Heraclitus said, “You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.” I’m sure many native cultures had similar thoughts. It often takes loss to realize that we took life for granted. But I had never felt it in such a raw way. It made me angry. At what? Myself? My mom? Humanity? I wanted to scream, right there on the roadside. I wanted to throw myself to the gravel in the agony of it all. Instead, I crawled into the car and curled up and cried. My family returned from their hike, and we all drove home in silence.
But the poppies, oh, those poppies! In his poem "Hamatreya," Emerson says, “Earth laughs in flowers.” I could almost hear them….