Several years ago, I was traveling in Asia, hiking and taking in the culture. I was in Tibet, heading for a town and some hiking at altitude. Most of Tibet is high desert. On the way, we passed some beautiful sand dunes. The crisp lines among the hilly dunes were striking. I took a bunch of photographs, but not really giving the dunes much thought, other than photographing the lines in the best light and shadow possible.
My group went on to an amazing hike, at 15,000 feet, in the mountains surrounding a Buddhist Monastery. While we were hiking, a few things happened. There was a storm in the distance that was clearly visible, but some distance away. The wind was whipping and prayer flags danced in the wind. A family was hiking in front of us. They were on a hike with a purpose. In Tibet, the ground is very rocky. There is no wood that can be easily harvested. When a death occurs, the body is cast off a mountain and vultures take care of the remains. It is a circle of life, but could be thought gruesome for westerners to conceive. We saw the huge birds swooping down. Then the family stopped to have a picnic lunch. Life continues.
After our hike, some food, and some rest, we headed back the way we had come. We passed the same dunes, but they were unrecognizable. The storm had blown away all the crisp lines, and there were simply piles of sand. The beauty was gone, or at least different, but the ever shifting landscape would create something else and it also would be beautiful. That too would be swept away by time and seasons.
Yesterday, a friend of mine died in a small plane crash. It is horrible. It is still surreal. It can’t be that he was just here, and now he won’t be here again. He has left behind a grieving family and many friends. No one gets up in the morning thinking it will be the last time. No one kisses their spouse goodbye in the morning hurriedly on the way out the door with either one of them thinking that that will be the last moment they shared. The raw pain someone feels at losing a loved one seems like it will never go away. Time shifts emotion. Time heals. Grief is an odd emotion though. It sneaks up like a sudden storm, shifting the landscape at unexpected times. We can never know when someone is experiencing a wave of emotion sparked by something completely outside of current circumstances. Be gentle with people. Say “I love you” and mean it. Live with intention and no regret.
After some time, the beauty is remembered. The beauty is always remembered. The sands shift, and life continues. Children will grow up reflecting their father in their eyes. They will tell stories to their children. The moments are captured, as if in a photograph with a perfect blend of light and shadow. Memories endure, time shifts, life continues.
For Annie, Wilson, Sam, and Elliot. In memory of Reagan Miller.