Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away—an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.
The nautilus shell was exquisite, brown and white and perfectly striped. The math that lay like a dazzling creation spell over all who lived in the sea showed clearly in the spiral, each cell as great as the sum of the two previous sections. Everything in the ocean was a thing of beauty and numbers, even in death.
Mermaids could live for a long time, but their bodies became foam that dissipated into nothing when they died.
The poor little mollusk who lived in this shell had a very short life, but his shell could last for centuries.
Ariel sighed and brushed her fingers over it, feeling strangely melancholy despite the triumph she literally held in her hands. Years of being mute could be swept away in a second. Years of frustration, years of silent crying, years of anger.
And then what?
If she destroyed it, what would it change?
― Liz Braswell, Part of Your World
Some things only become visible to us when they undergo change.
We take for granted all the constant, fixed things, and eventually stop paying any attention to them. At the same time we observe and obsess over small, fast-moving, ephemeral things of little value.
The trick to rediscovering constants is to stop and focus on the greater panorama around us. While everything else flits abut, the important things remain in place.
Their stillness appears as reverse motion to our perspective, as relativity resets our motion sensors. It reboots us, allowing us once again to perceive.
And now that we do see, suddenly we realize that those still things are not so motionless after all. They are simply gliding with slow individualistic grace against the backdrop of the immense universe.
And it takes a more sensitive motion instrument to track this.
― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
Whereas during those months of separation time had never gone quickly enough for their liking and they were wanting to speed its flight, now that they were in sight of the town they would have liked to slow it down and hold each moment in suspense, once the breaks went on and the train was entering the station. For the sensation, confused perhaps, but none the less poignant for that, of all those days and weeks and months of life lost to their love made them vaguely feel they were entitled to some compensation; this present hour of joy should run at half the speed of those long hours of waiting.
“When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud. But really, Marilla, the flying part is glorious as long as it lasts…it’s like soaring through a sunset. I think it almost pays for the thud.”
The color-patches of vision part, shift, and reform as I move through space in time. The present is the object of vision, and what I see before me at any given second is a full field of color patches scattered just so. The configuration will never be repeated. Living is moving; time is a live creek bearing changing lights. As I move, or as the world moves around me, the fullness of what I see shatters. “Last forever!” Who hasn’t prayed that prayer? You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying; it is a canvas, nevertheless.
—Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Everywhere, imperceptibly or otherwise, things are passing, ending, going. And there will be other summers, other band concerts, but never this one, never again, never as now. Next year I will not be the self of this year now. And that is why I laugh at the transient, the ephemeral; laugh, while clutching, holding, tenderly, like a fool his toy, cracked glass, water through fingers.
―Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together. Maybe even open our hearts to each other. But that was only for the briefest moment. In the next instant we’d be in absolute solitude. Until we burned up and became nothing.
―Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart
ANDE-2 Spheres CASTOR (left) and POLLUX (right), via Nasa (Public Domain)