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All things are impermanent.

The Leslie Street Spit was my favourite place in Toronto: my most Toronto place in Toronto. The ground itself is built of rubble of its buildings, and those buildings were built of the stone, wood, and metal of the surrounding land. And that rubble in turn is being reduced by the ever-changing water, sun, and cold. Out there I could feel grounded and ungrounded at the same time, naturally, and without dissonance.

So of course it was one of the places that I revisited when I knew that my stay in the city was coming to an end. But I know that I will visit again, if I can, just as I know that it will be different next time.


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Attachment is suffering.

Max deeply wanted something that was out of reach – and being an 11-month-old Golden Retriever, he probably wanted the lake itself, or some specific bit of the snow on it. It doesn't matter. He was on a leash, and the ice wouldn't support him. He had to go without.

Max isn't my dog. He belongs to a friend, and I was just borrowing him for a little while since we live much closer now. Even knowing that it's just a short-term visit, it's still hard to give him back. But even when the dogs were mine, even when I got them as puppies, I still knew that all I can do is borrow them, short-term, and would eventually have to give them back. Seeing heartbreak coming from a long way away, volunteering for it, doesn't make it any easier.


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Nothing has inherent existence.

I couldn't go home after work, so I walked. My home of the past sixteen years was up for sale, and a potential buyer was there instead of me. But my home was just an abstract concept: not poetically, but legally. All I was selling was a share in a corporation that existed solely to own a lease. There's literally no there, there – just check with your bank, and they'll tell you that I'm right. (I got 98% of asking.)

But how is that different from anything else? I've answered to the same name since I first learned what it was, but I'm a different person and living a different life from a year ago. Five months ago. When I look carefully, really look, there's just nothing there.


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Awareness is without concept.

It's a dramatic moment, with the wind visibly pushing the tree, breaking against it and flowing over, year after year.

It's a wispy cloudy sky, I'm at the storage unit where the moving truck has just left most of my stuff, and this is a tree in somebody's back yard, with more trees beside it.

You can name things. You can know the situation surrounding those things. But to do that is to apply categories and filters, which is reductive, not expansive. So to really know a thing, probably, is to not categorize it, and just let it be. And to know that it's not really any one thing at all. And that it will not always continue be the thing we think, as it wasn't before. And that if we cling to our idea of it we suffer.


The four seals are the essential Buddhist understanding. These aren't them. I'm not qualified to say what they are, so I'm definitely taking liberties with these variations that are how I personally apply them. And the last one is substantially different in phrasing from the customary expression, if not its intent. But I can't grasp the concept as it's traditionally presented, which… makes sense.

Dzongsar Khyentse writes:

In order to be a Buddhist, you must accept that all compounded phenomena are impermanent, all emotions are pain, all things have no inherent existence, and enlightenment is beyond concepts.  [source]

Not everyone agrees with Rinpoche's expression of the seals; at least one is intentionally provocative. (Other translations and discussion is only a short search engine away.) But they are true, and I see them sometimes in my photos. I also use them to keep myself grounded, or not, as needed these days.


Each of these photos was recorded with a different camera. Two of them were recorded just days apart. The oldest is from less than four months ago. The newest is from two weeks ago. Two of the cameras only see in infrared. All of the cameras are digital. Focal lengths are 24, 28, 40, and 45mm equivalents. One used a zoom lens. Three of the cameras can fit in jacket pockets. All of them were hand-held.