The Thing About Time

“The thing about time is that time isn’t really real…”

The Secret of Life, by James Taylor

What is it about the second time around that makes something go faster? Like when you’re heading to some new place just a little ways out of town… and you’re reading the directions for each turn… and it seems to take forever… only to seem half as long on the way back?

It was that way with my second reading of Prodigal Summer. I spotted a copy at the second hand store and brought it home to steep in its long steamy July from deep within this January snow.

I settled in for a long expected pleasure of this read, only to arrive toward the end too soon.  I was sure someone moved my bookmark. I checked the previous chapter, but I had already read it.

My suspicion lingered, even after I finished the book.  Just to be sure, I spot checked a few different chapters, but they had all been read.

I wanted more.  I wanted to know about Deanna and the baby, and follow Eddie Bondo back West.  I wanted to see Nannie Rawley kiss Mr. Walker, and to watch Lusa mother those kids, and Rickie become a man.

What is it about “more” that we think will satisfy us?  How are we all such junkies to it?– as if we’d could ever be satisfied–with just one more chapter or one more scene or one more chance to…

Moderhsohn, detail,

I got to thinking about the nature of time as I trudged up the hill outside my home.  There I was, a 47 year old child, with a sled in my hand.  I realized then, that I was finally, finally in less of a rush.  Even though I hadn’t skiied or snowshoed yet this winter, and had only skated once, there was time.  I knew there would be more winters–even within this one.

At the same time, I knew how abruptly time could shift a life, no more evident for than the day my first son was born–two weeks early. I hadn’t even laundered the diapers.

While I labored, my husband threw them into the wash, and I’ll never forget the sight of them strung on the line–Forever a reminder of how suddenly life can change. How one could be thrust into a new beginning; how something that seemed to last forever, like a summer pregnancy, could suddenly end.

–Or that a lifetime raising kids could just a quickly be something of the past, growing further and further away, until there was nothing left but memories of grown men who were once on my lap.

Last Minute Laundry, Casey Deane

I know that a life can end like that too.  When I think about those diapers on the line, I imagine my own death might take me by surprise. I imagine all the things I hadn’t yet done.

As a doctor’s daughter, I’m no stranger to death. I lost a loved one to an accident when I was young which left me acutely aware of how a single moment could be your last–How a casual rebuke of a goodbye kiss from a your husband could be something you’d regret forever.

I wish I could say that I live my life with greater respect for the moment because of this awareness, but even funeral directors don’t.  I’ve asked them.

This isn’t a very hopeful sign for our human carelessness with time. But then I remember that I don’t have to get it right in every moment, that I can get it right most of the time–this week or this month or this year or over a lifetime.

“Now the thing about time is that time isn’t really real,” goes the song.”Try not to try too hard.”

Sometimes life makes so much more sense inside a song, which is how I felt as I slid down that hill in the snow–ageless me and the timeless sky.

“Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill,

but since we’re on our way down,

we might as well enjoy the ride…

sliding down…

and gliding down…

it’s just a lovely ride.”

Kelly Salasin, February 2011

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