“Bows and flows of angel hair/ And ice cream castles in the air … I’ve looked at clouds that way” – Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides, Now’
I wonder if you would join me in a little experiment. No matter where you’re reading this– at home, in a coffee shop, wherever. Simply close your eyes for ten seconds and then slowly re-open them again.
Now look around at your surroundings and imagine yourself simply not being there. What would be left?
If you’re lucky, what you’d be feeling is a perspective that many don’t often stop to consider: whether here or not, life will go on with or without you – always has, always will. As an old friend was fond of saying, “What will it matter, 50 years from now”?
“It’s cloud illusions I recall / I really don’t know clouds at all.”
Some years ago, I was back in my childhood home cleaning up my dad’s estate, and was struck by the feeling that, with him gone, the old house seemed to be no more than a few sticks of desperately lonely furniture.
Up in the attic, I found some childhood toys and school books of mine and although I was obviously important to him, he never showed it.
“Tears and fears and feeling proud / To say ‘I love you’ right out loud.”
It was like I still lived there, so whose house was this, anyway?
“Dreams and schemes and circus crowds / I’ve looked at life that way.”
Another time, we were viewing some old family videos of our three children as youngsters. There they all were, racing around the house full of laughter, while playing with a litter of new-born pups. What excitement! What joy! What chaos! It filled me with pleasure, but when I turned the VCR off they were all gone… along with that magical feeling.
I mean, we’ve lived in this old farm house for thirty years, but what of the families before us? Did they walk these same floors? Of course they did. So, whose house is this, anyway?
“It’s life’s illusions I recall / I really don’t know life at all.”
Recently I was one of many locals who attended an ‘open house’ – courtesy of a new couple to the area. They recently bought and, with great care, renovated the old village church.
Many memories were shared among former parishioners, of when our collective families attended services and community-based events over the past decades. Also joining in the fun was a retired minister representing a rich heritage of pastoring the ‘flock’. And as the laughter and joyous commotion rose to the rafters, I found myself wondering again: whose house is this anyway?
Canadian educator Marshall McLuhan famously predicted our interconnected world as a “global village”… like a house with many rooms. Yet no matter where we live, home really resides in our heart.
Fifty years, or fifty minutes from now, how would you like to be remembered?
Would you be a loving parent or loyal friend; a decent person who contributed to society; or someone who made a contribution that also benefited the whole world? If someone is better off because you lived, then yours is a legacy that will be missed … now and forever.
“So many things I would have done /But clouds got in the way.”
I think we pay back for the love we received by showing others that we care. As Gandhi noted, “Where there is love, there is life”. Not that I’m any expert; through salty tears I have seen love, fear, loss… and love again.
“It’s love’s illusions I recall / I really don’t know love at all.”
— dedicated to George & Maree
Fred Parry / www.fredparry.ca (2013)