Life is Ruinous, but Beautiful
Fingertips digging into my hair, I stood at the closed door next to Old Man. He was looking in a forlorn way at it, like just outside that door held the meaning of life, and it was just out of his reach. I opened the door and Old Man Dog raised his nose to the air to take in the smell that is unique to summer rain. The humidity seemed to instantly bristle my hair, as the hair on the back of his neck seemed to relax. Slowly he stepped out with his little old man feet, settling down onto the porch like he were a human settling down into a rocker.
Alright then, Old Man, I’ll sit out with you. I settled onto the decorative tile floor, just to watch Old Man watch. The rain drops were making little water splashes the size of half dollars as they catapulted themselves onto the sidewalk. He watched them like they were the busybodies of the neighborhood bringing him all the juicy gossip. The gossip must not have been too shocking, because as the moments passed he listened more and more peacefully. Maybe they weren’t busybodies at all, but sages.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Emerson’s famous words rolled through my head like the whisper of the wind ever so slightly rustling the pine branches that towered in the distance.
My eyes slowly settled in on the arch shape along the roof at the entry way to the porch. It is a simple arch shape, nothing too fancy or exotic. No matter, the bird of paradise was leaning into that arch, showing off like one would assume a plant that grows bird shaped flowers would probably act. The rain was slapping down onto its leaves, giving off a muted, hollow sort of sound. Each drop made its own individual muted clunk, and with dozens of clunks, the space was full of the sound of show-off plants.
That arch against that grey sky with that bird of paradise creeping in—suddenly I felt transported to some ancient, decrepit place. It was like some ancient religious place that was being swallowed once more by the tropics that surrounded it. Ruinous, but beautiful.
I straightened up my back and closed my eyes for a moment while inhaling the sound, smell, and the feel of my ruinous beautiful place.
Life is ruinous but beautiful. Ruinous, because there is a constant state of change. A person is never the same person they were ten years prior. There is a constant cycle of regeneration wherein a person reinvents who she is, if for no other reason than the consequences of age. The old person is a ruin, but the new one is beautiful.
There is a transition period where we try to reconcile the loss of the old and the gain of the new person that ten years of slow and steady aging have brought—ten years of wisdom and experience. Youthful, bouncy enthusiasm may have dissolved in those ten years, but it is replaced with something more practical and resolved.
Old Man was sitting perfectly patiently still, just watching the rain. Maybe his old and wise canine eyes were seeing the cycle of life in it, with all its movement and change. Those old wise eyes accepted all.
He watched it for a long time, only coming in when it had stopped. He had seen it all, and that was enough—Old Man needs a proper bed to take a nap on, of course. Running my hand down his thin back, I could feel the big transition he has made from “older gentleman-dog” to “elderly gentleman-dog.” He hasn’t fought that change in the least, just watched.
Maybe when I rest my eyes on him he will remind me to only watch change patiently too.