Thursday, March 22, 2007

Time on My Mind


Trailers for "The Last Mimzy" freak me out. Only moments ago, Timothy Hutton was the hot—but tortured—guy in "Ordinary People." Now he's the father, a parental foil for the real action.

Elizabeth and John Edwards announced today that Elizabeth's cancer has returned, this time with no hope of a cure, only management. Yesterday, while I was unpacking a gift sent by a loving and lovely friend or walking my dog or drinking green tea, Mrs. Edwards was waiting for news that would change her life, her family's lives, and possibly the country's future.

Neither of us knew of the other because we are separated by physical distance (as well as the vast difference in our experiences of those moments). Could similar "distances" be created by layers of time? Could time be rippled like the surface of the pond this morning?

Carrie's Rojo left her an e-mail predicting his love for 7:00 EST. "Eastern Standard Time." What is that? We collectively agree that in any given moment it's a different time on an Atlantic beach than on a Pacific beach, a different time in Poughkeepsie than in Punjab. We can objectively know that the colors and temperatures of the water are different from one coast to another. We can measure and compare the angle of the sun above the horizon at specific moments. But what do we know about time?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

As a former hospice volunteer, I've been blessed to be present for deaths. In the weeks of volunteer training, one idea came up over and over: everyone's life is different, but our deaths are all the same. Shortly before death, people believe departed loved ones are in the room with them. In my experience, no one sees living loved ones who are not present; they see people who are not, in our understanding, alive at the time.

But who or what is more alive than our memories?

Some of the memories I've been examining are real enough I can pick lint from the nap of my velvet party dresses, real enough I smell the vomit splashing on my legs, real enough I turn my head to hear more clearly the sounds I'm describing. Are those events less real today than they were when they "happened" 35 years ago?

Like the old Chicago song, I wonder if anyone really knows what time it is. More than that, I wonder if anyone really cares.

12 comments:

kario said...

What a great set of examples to bring you to this question! I agree that time is really tricky. Just try explaining to a four year old why it's a different time in Argentina than it is here...

The memories are sometimes so incredibly real, I wonder if our brains are recreating them, hormones and all, for our benefit. Thanks for the food for thought.

Go Mama said...

Great reflections!

Mystic Wing said...

Very thought-provoking post, sis.

I've decided to play hooky today and spend the day out in the woods and hills watching spring arrive, and will be considering the questions of time and space that you posed today.

Regarding the "difficult" writing you've been trying...

Try writing it as a lean, understated prose poem rather than narrative. That might be the way into such personal material.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Great food for thought!

Ziji Wangmo said...

Great inquiry. I have a teacher who says, "there is no space in time. There is only time in space". Imagine if we could live without the constraints of time?

Deb said...

What a profound exploration! I love how you've pulled so many disparate events together and woven them into a beautiful reflection on timeless themes. This is a post to read and re-read. Thank you for the soul tickle. Love.

Prema said...

I once wrote a paper about the history and notion of Time. Lots to say about it. I was thinking about Elizabeth Edwards in a similar way.
Lovely reflections.

Amber said...

You are such a beautiful person. It fits that you have been a hospice worker...And I feel the same way about being with people at a time of death. It is an honor.

:)

Kim said...

What a beautiful and thought-provoking musings. I will be thinking about this too!

And I ADORED Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People and Taps. Loved him. Dreamed about him. That certainly brings me back.

Stacy said...

Nice piece!

Michelle O'Neil said...

Love Rojo!

(Jenny Rough gave me a novel called Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman that tackles this issue of time in a wide variety of ways. It was really interesting).

Monica said...

Well worth examining, Jerri. I think of this all the time. I wonder about it constantly.

Love this. LOVE it.