We all noticed it. My daughter stepped outside the apartment door this morning and ran straight back inside asking for her school cardigan. As I sat in the interlude between one school pick up and the next later in the day, I felt the bite of the air for the first time and was suddenly cold in my summery top. Even in California winter approaches it seems, perhaps with more stealth than elsewhere but with no less intent.
We’ve adjusted these past weeks to the cadence of the new academic year; fresh patterns and habits have begun to coalesce and take shape. There’s a playground that we like to visit, now that our son’s transition to high school has added a second stop to the school run. It’s on the grounds of a recreation center, imaginatively constructed with several different spaces for free play. I spend time there most afternoons watching my daughter swing and slide happily as the dog snuffles, ever hopeful, amidst the fallen brown leaves and strewn pink blossoms, until my son hops off the yellow school bus and we are reunited once more for an evening of family. Our dog adores any activity where he is simply one of the children; this daily interlude adds a wonderful dimension to his experience. He sits with me in silent patience in the car, waiting for my daughter to come bouncing out of school. At the very end, he rushes impatiently to greet my son, who not so long ago, ran and climbed in autumnal playgrounds on chilly Manhattan school afternoons.
As I sit, amidst the leaves turning brown all around me, I’m reminded of the passage of time which is much on my mind these days. Why this is exactly I couldn’t say. Perhaps it’s simply seasonal, perhaps because our dog is a little unwell at the moment or perhaps simply because my younger one has started school and the kingdom of babyhood has drawn up its bridges and concealed itself within a different dimension. Whatever the reason, I sit with the feeling of concern: time and life pass us by so quickly and are both so fleet of foot. Have I truly noticed others, I wonder? Have I given enough, have I used the tools that my Buddhist faith has provided me with to the best of my ability? And so the chill in the air serves as the sharpest and the kindest of notices to live and walk with the greatest of care; attuned to the wily treachery that lies within. To strive in the cultivation of the virtuous, the noble and the fine and to remember that, in the final end, it is only with one’s own eyes that one can truly see one’s character.