The Past Falls Away

The past falls away.  There, I said it again.  The phrase appeared in my head yesterday while at Dinosaur, a loud rib joint filled with Columbia students kicking back and Black folks just back from church , sitting at a tall, round and little table with friend Judith and two strangers.  I like it.  Yes, it sounds like something someone wrote a while ago and so, in the face of my claims to creativity, recalls good ol’ Ecclesiastes 1:9-14,“There is nothing new under the sun.” So be it!  The past falls away captures the theme of what’s currently on my mind and sounds so much more  like “Hey, look at me, I’m a writer” than

I can’t remember anything beginning with capital letters anymore, and the computer obliviated all my poetry and rearranged the labels on all my photographs, and the only reason I’m writing this right now is because I can’t remember why I turned on the computer much less walked into this room in the first place.

Dinosaur turned out to be the end point of  a long and delightful walk along the Hudson to photograph crocuses. On that walk Judith, a friend since 1992, brought up a whole passel of memories which, in my brain, registered as no more than little signs reading “Exhibit removed.”

Much in that same vein, dinner that night with neighbors Paul and Cate further exposed another enormous stack of missing memories–like who used to live in our building and who lives here now on my floor.

Someone outside

invisible around the corner

plays sad bagpipes

in the morning rain.

Time and aging though are fine healers.  All this losing and forgetting would get me down in the past.  Not now though.  Not today.  Right now–and for reasons I can’t supply–there’s more feeling of relief, of unburdening.  There’s a strange and lovely and perhaps eerie part as well.  It’s all  remarkably similar to feelings that hit me while on a Buddhist retreat on Living and Dying and hearing Atisha’s Nine Contemplations, the first of which is, “Death is inevitable.”


OK, I know that we all know this, that we don’t need the writings of an eleventh century Indian monk to  be reminded of it.  That being said, retreats have a way of opening me to a whole new understanding of the obvious.  Atisha’s first contemplation hit me in a way I’d never have expected: as  a cause for celebration!

If it’s inevitable, my little mind reveled, then I don’t have to worry about it!  I can just keep riding my bike in traffic and letting unseen and unknown strangers prepare my meals in restaurants.  I can accept the prevailing Westerlies and walk under the sidewalk sheds which adjoin construction sites filled with beer-drinking, reefer smoking hod carriers and continue to work joyfully in a neighborhood where those unauthorized to carry weapons do so anyway.  Better than wow: Whoopee!

But then maybe better than both.  Maybe “aahhh…”

Published in: on March 25, 2011 at 11:48 pm  Leave a Comment