El Dedo de Dios, The Finger of God, was a rock spire in Puerto de las Nieves, near Agaete on Grand Canary island, off the northwest coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. I visited the island sometime around 1990 or 1991, and searched for the formation by asking people "Donde esta el dedo de dios?" ("Where is the finger of god?") in the best pidgen Spanish I could muster. I doubt I'll ever get to use that phrase again. I finally got a bunch of fisherman to stop pulling their boat onto the beach long enough to reply to my question by pointing it out for me, just a hundred or so feet away. The setting sun was lighting the rock from just the right angle for my photograph, which I quickly took before returning to my car and the drive back to my hotel.
I blew the picture up and have had it hanging on some wall or another for the past 20 years now. The other day, I learned that El Dedo de Dios was destroyed in November 2005 by Tropical Storm Delta. It's been gone for a decade without me knowing it.
I wasn't planning on going back, but I now feel a sort of poignancy knowing that I'll never get to see it again, even if I wanted to. Impermanence - what was here yesterday is gone tomorrow. It's a sad feeling, but it also makes me appreciate having seen it all the more, and has me wishing that I had savored the experience more when I did. I should have sat on the beach and spent some time with it, instead of just blithely snapping off a picture and moving on to the next tourist attraction.
I never got a chance to share my azaleas with the world this year. Long-time readers may know that I have exceptionally short-blooming azalea bushes in my back yard, and part of my fondness for them is that their pink and while flowers only last a week or two before falling, and this year, a storm knocked all the flowers off of the bushes before I even had a chance to enjoy their short lives. But it's the ephemeral nature of the blossoms that makes me appreciate them when they are out. If they lasted all summer like my neighbors' bushes, they wouldn't seem as precious or as special.
Impermanence is swift; life and death is the great matter. Nothing lasts forever, but instead of being sad about that, we should enjoy what we have when we have it all the more. Sad songs make me feel sad but also allow me to appreciate the good times, hard times teach me to enjoy that which I have now, and reconciling myself with the inevitability of my own death makes me glad that I had such a good, long run at this mortal life. Recognizing our impermanence and more broadly acknowledging the suffering inherent to the human condition deepens and enriches our experience.
All of this all may sound cliched and obvious, but we've heard it and thought it so many times before that perhaps we've forgotten it. Maybe the finger of god has to fall over before we remember that we're not here forever, either.