evanescent joys

Walked the track again with my son this morning. Early, before the heat. We didn’t stay long — three times around, plus there and back, the whole excursion takes about 40 minutes — but I like to think I am perhaps offering him some small, everyday rituals to remember. The quiet, shapelessness of cool mornings in early summer. Occasional companionable chatter. 

Sometimes we talk about our plans for the day. He’s working on a little animation project. I’m juggling a meeting or two in an otherwise open-ended day. By the end of the month, the rhythms we’ve acclimated to will change again. But for now, I’m trying to make the most of the time, mostly formless, punctuated by little bursts of activity. 

The early spring blossoms are all gone now — the forsythia, the cherry trees, the irises. The peonies are peaking, but they won’t hold on much longer. Now, the roses. Sweet pea vine. Astilbe and lavender. Purple salvia in abundance. Honeysuckle. 

For better or worse, I’ve spent some time these past few weeks going through all the notes I’ve kept for the past two decades now, tracing the origins of certain lines of thought, ongoing preoccupations. Although most of what I’ve kept is useless, uninteresting even to myself, there are occasional lines or ideas that will spark something in the present. A note my past self did not yet know that future self might need. There is a certain kind of pleasure in this traveling back and forth in time. This reconciling of past and present lives. 

In the museum, in an exhibition hall filled with ancient armor and weaponry, I asked my son whether he thought he believed in past lives. I find myself often thinking of this when confronted with the unfamiliar, ancient world. I find it difficult to imagine all these eras have passed without me — without even some version of me. I suppose it’s a kind of “fear of missing out” on a protracted, epic scale. How else to explain the odd twinge of recognition when entering the reproduction of a darkened, medieval dining hall? Or the study of an 18th century Chinese scholar? 

Many ways to explain it, I suppose. But for the moment, the hushed reverence and the chilled, mostly empty exhibition halls, lend an air of magic and mystery to our wandering. An openness to possibility, to the inexplicable. 

“I like the idea of it,” he said. 

I said, “Yes, I like that too.”

The last gallery we enter is a reproduction of a 19th century Japanese ceremonial teahouse. There is a group of schoolchildren there, sitting on the little stools they have carried in from the hallway. Someone standing in front of them with a clipboard is asking questions and a few children raise their hands enthusiastically. 

As we leave, we see the sign, informing us that the name of the teahouse is Sunkaraku, “which reflects the spirit of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony as a temporary refuse from the complexities of daily life.” 

Sunkaraku, meaning “Evanescent Joys.”