Forms changing is an important underlying theme of Leaves In Her Hair.
Derwydd says to Lyra, “The only thing that is real is the light before form and after form dissolves. Forms are a dream. And they change; forms always change.”
So it is.
An ocean wave rolls along as a round bulge in the surface of the sea; rears up as it comes to shore, white lace blowing back from its crest; curves into a shining arc; then crashes into a churning chaos of foam
A tree grows from a shoot to magnificent height, falls, crumbles, returns to earth.
Water can be a crystal of snow, a sheet of ice, liquid in an infinity of shapes, clouds flying in the sky, mist rising from the earth.
All living creatures, including us humans, are born, grow, flourish, age, and die, returning to dust and ashes.
Even though we are surrounded by mutability, there is a strong instinct in human kind to cling. We cling to youthful beauty, to the ecstasy of new romance, to the magic of a starry-eyed toddler, even to such ephemeral accomplishments as a clean house or a freshly weeded garden. We know we will grow old; romance will either shatter or settle into comfortable familiarity; the toddler will eventually become a challenging, maybe even pimply, adolescent; the house and garden will soon need cleaning and weeding again. But still we cling, only to be frustrated, disappointed, heart broken by loss. As Lyra was devastated when Derwydd let go of his dryad shape.
Throughout history, humans in every culture have looked beyond change, seeking something eternal, unchanging, some essence that remains even though visible forms pass.
The psalmist writes, “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like the flower of the field; for the wind passes over it and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.” (Psalm 103)
All the great religions point us to that which is beyond our changing world and urge us to release our attachment to earthly things. Jesus taught, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and dust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.”
Some devote their lives to seeking and connecting with the essence beyond form. But most of us live in the world of change, working at our jobs, raising our children, only occasionally glimpsing that other elusive reality.
Lyra experiences a reality beyond form when she goes to her magical glade and dances into the light, but then must come back to her everyday world of childcare and housekeeping.
Clara (Never Again) muses on the rather unusual shifts in her life. “So strange. The Elirians healed me to express my essence. If that is so, why am I uncomfortable in this body? Maybe because an essence belongs on the eternal plane, and I am here in time, walking the earthly path between birth and death.”
How do we dance then, between the eternal and the changing?
I think we must enter fully into life, let it flow through us, knowing it is a flow and any attempt to stop it or cling to its forms is futile. As we surrender to the flow, we may find it easier to be present with each moment. Then we may discover that in the immediacy of the moment, the eternal shines through.