Probably the most exquisite expression of mono no aware in Japan is the cherry blossoms that arrive each spring, their beauty enhanced by an accompanying sadness that they will only last for a short while.
Mono no aware (物の哀れ), literally “the pathos of things”, is a Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence (無常, mujō), or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life. Mono no aware is the ephemeral nature of beauty – the quietly elated, bittersweet feeling of having been witness to the dazzling circus of life – knowing that none of it can last. It’s basically about being both saddened and appreciative of transience (from Wikipedia).
Brett and I never imagined our great adventure would end so abruptly. We had planned to travel into the year 2022 and had a list of places we wanted to visit. We were going to spend at least a year in Mexico, and travel from there back to Argentina and other places in South American, and also visit Panama to see the canal before heading back over to Europe.
But life has handed us, and the world really, a reminder of the impermanence of things, and of the transience that occurs in life, sometimes suddenly. This is not to show the foolishness of making plans, as some would say, but that all things in life, both good and bad, eventually change or come to an end, as does life itself.
While Brett and I are both happy and grateful to be back on Kaua’i, we’re also sad that our nomadic life has ended. We know we will travel again someday, but not in the same way or with the same feelings of adventure we carried with us these past months. We miss our life on the road, of being in a different place, doing new things, meeting new people, and learning new ways.
We grew very close as we traveled as we depended on each other for both companionship and sustenance. Our relationship flourished on the road and we found new strengths and a deeper connection to each other. Many of the adaptations we made along the way will stay with us, but we are now having to pick up and remember old patterns and habits once again. Whether these old ways will last or be needed remains to be seen, but after such a sudden change to our lives, they are comforting and are helping us make sense of where we are and what we need to do.
What a good time we had though! We were blessed to be able to travel as we did, and we had a truly wonderful time doing it. We constantly felt as if we had won the golden ticket. Neither of us can remember a bad experience, although we remember becoming frustrated at times. We took more pictures than we can count and these past few days we’ve been amazed by how clear our memories that go with the pictures are, that we can remember what we ate that day or people we met, or what was going on around us when we took the picture.
We knew our nomadic life wasn’t going to last forever, but we thought we’d get to end our full-time travels on our own terms and on our own schedule. Change, however, writes its own rules from time to time. The changes we’re facing now have happened quickly, too quickly actually, and adjustment to this new normal of isolation and sadness is not easy. What is easy now is to be scared. We know though that this too will eventually pass and life will change yet again. Our task now is to appreciate the transience and impermanence we face for what it is – an integral part of life. Mono no aware. We are not the same people we were before. For now, we can and will take joy that we, our family, and friends are well, that we have good friends nearby, that our youngest daughter is with us and safe, and that we have returned to a place we love.