Lights out

“what remains” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper.

“what remains” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper.

My son Gabriel is an unusual kid: while other twelve-year old boys like to play video games, he prefers to watch BBC science documentaries. So much so, in fact, that his dreams have included a narrator with a British accent.

He has matter-of-factly explained to me that the average mammal species lasts about one million years. On a planet more than four billion years old, that’s the blink of an eye. This means that Homo sapiens, the clever species that tamed fire and invented the iPhone, could be gone before we know it.

lights out
we discuss
our extinction

What with all the grocery lists and oil changes of everyday life, it’s easy to lose the grand perspective. But the truth is that for all our striving, even the most influential and famous of our species—President Obama, Pope Francis, Oprah Winfrey—will be forgotten long before the pebbles on the beach turn to sand.

Yes, there is something sad about all this. Billions of people work hard every day to make it through this life and to leave something of lasting value. Yet in geological time, all this effort will amount to approximately nothing.

At the same time, I find some reassurance in taking the (very) long view. It puts our human insanities in perspective, and enables a sort of Zen detachment from the grim daily headlines. Keeping the big picture in mind helps me find a sense of lightness and acceptance of our predicament.

what remains
of the mountain
sand between my toes

OK, so nothing I can do in my time here will last longer than the flap of a butterfly’s wing. Ultimately, this helps clarify what’s really important. Not money, degrees, titles, or fame. Not even the amazing children my husband and I are raising: in a hundred years, we’ll all be history.

At the risk of sounding too woo-woo, I’ve come to feel that what matters—and what may be the only real and lasting thing—is the energy and intention that we put out in the world as we do our work. Call it spirit. Call it love. And no matter how much time we are given, no matter how long our species survives, let’s make the best of it, and call it good.

“what remains” was first published as a haiku in With Cherries on Top, Ed. Michael Dylan Welch, Press Here (2012), and reprinted in this world:Haiku Society of America Members' Anthology (2013). The art was first published on Haigaonline (December 2013).

Makino Studios News

Wet Paint: Ten new haiga (haiku paintings) have been posted to the Current Work section of the Gallery on this site.

Red Moon Anthology: The poem below was selected for a just-published collection of the best haiku of 2013, fear of dancing: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2013, edited by Jim Kacian:

some part of me
still wild

Annette’s Blog: For previous posts, including this one from June 2012 on Gabriel’s scientific perspectives, see Parallel Universes.

NaHaiWriMo: February is National Haiku Writing Month. Get daily prompts and share your efforts on the NaHaiWriMo Facebook page.