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December 8, 2021

from Skipping Church, by Suzanne Kelsey

The Buddha taught that attachment to anyone or anything or any place is futile because nothing ever stays the same. Change is the only constant. All is impermanent. 

For many years I witnessed this law of impermanence during my daily walks with Ginger in the woods near the Coralville Reservoir, then the postage stamp prairie on the edge of Ames, and the prairie in Scott County Park, north of DeWitt. Bloodroot pushes out of the ground in April like old, gnarled palms that turn youthful and flat as they rise, then old and leathery as spring progresses. Sweet Williams release their aromatic lilac scent for a few days in May, and then the smells turn musky and fade. Purple coneflowers bloom in June like they are forever, then pass the baton to their yellow cousins. In the fall a deer carcass gets picked over by hungry, cawing ravens; a hawk flies over with a screaming mouse in its talons. Canadian geese honk southward and then north again, leaving the old and sick behind.

All of this without a single complaint on anyone’s part.

Before her last days in DeWitt, even dear Ginger silently accepted her own impermanence as her eyes turned milky and her joints turned stiff. Toward the end, she chased squirrels only in her dreams, with yips and twitching paws.

If you let go a little, you’ll have a little peace, the Buddhists say. If you let go a lot you’ll have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you’ll have complete peace. Mahusukha, the Great Happiness, the great release. Nature knows it and Ginger knew it.

—Suzanne Kelsey, Skipping Church: Notes from an Accidental Minister's Wife