Letting It Happen, Letting It Go

For me, salvation was in the clouds. About a month after moving to Phoenix, I noticed that almost daily, the hot, dry, convectional desert air created massive, elaborate cloud formations. What's more, the cloudscapes were so beautiful that I wanted to remember them forever, so I started painting them. I found myself inventing new words to describe the way desert clouds play with light: upglow, backshine, rainblur. Each is the name of a baby joy that grew as I came to love the desert, the perfect minimalist stage on which the clouds perform their glorious dances. Oh, believe me, I live in a beautiful place.

Sometimes it bothers me that before I've even started painting a skyscape, it's gone. But the truth is, something we love is always ending. If we keep in mind that the thing we've lost was itself the child of separation, it's easier to let go. We learn the way through loss to gain, expecting unimagined delights to be born from every sorrow. It becomes not only possible but delicious to follow Rilke's advice: "Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking / finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins."

Martha Beck is the author of six books, including Steering by Starlight (Rodale).

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