It is Sunday afternoon, with a hedge that needs to be trimmed, lush grass overgrowing itself and the annuals and perennials stretching up to absorb every drop of sun that they can get. Suddenly it is summer in Minnesota. A few weeks ago, when we were teased with the idea of warmth, the air remained raw and wet and cold. Today, it is as if the cold and wet could not possibly have existed. The shade is comfortable, and a breeze plays off my bare legs. I have foregone the orthotic to enjoy the unfettered dance of gentle wind and dappled sun, tree whispers and birdsong, all playing out in this little garden against the civilized hum of lawn mowing and traffic and commerce and recreation. In my State, this is a day that you can only imagine at other times of the year. In my state, it is respite from the weight of realistic calculation.
I think this beautiful day argues for the truth of Vonnegut’s famous line, “Listen, Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.”
Listen, sometimes I come unstuck in time, floating between the sublime and the energizing, the feared and the fatiguing. Today is time travel, back and forth between imagery, both frightening and delightful. Today, I recharge, leaving the future to its own paths. I can understand how easy it would be to disengage from all of this. Dis ease does that to you. I can understand how you would want this to never end. Dis ease does that as well.
My thoughts have been so jumbled this week. We need some good news. It won’t come from the voyeurs in mainline TV news, even though they try with their feel good stories and cute pet tricks. I appreciate the attempt, but it is feeble in the face of dis ease. This week, I am laser-focused on so many friends who hurt, so many with conditions that threaten life and lived joy. The lump in the throat, the carried weight in the gut, the physical pain and the emotional devastation–all of these come to me as if their pain is my pain, their hope and fear is my hope and fear.
In time, I have watched loved ones wind down, and it is always their conscious engagement that goes first. The body has its own rhythms, and it takes it awhile to catch up to human intent. I remember my grandmother saying to me on the phone, “I don’t want you to send me anything anymore. I am done now.” It took her body three weeks to catch up to her conscious decision, and I still marvel at how she did it. In time, others will watch me wind down. I am unstuck—lumps and weights of hope and fear.
I wonder if I am more susceptible to time travel because the newborn summer is what I imagine when I need a space to recoup. Perhaps it is because these are the days I will lament most when they are gone. I cannot imagine living without them. Imagination is an irony that isn’t lost, for even though these days inspire me, that one act of imagining is dangerous, fraught with emotion, wonder and unknowable destinations. I cannot think of an activity as wild and in need of structure as imagining. I cannot think of anything that defies the discipline of mindful structure as the stream of consciousness musings that suddenly emerge into pictures of possibility, tidy yet unkempt, restful yet active. Time travel.
I float in this semi-conscious state. It is pleasant twilight, back and forth between naps and reading, reflection and dreaming. It is relaxation of the discipline of living in the moment that holds fear and grief at bay, allowing conscious vigilance to dissipate. Perhaps I will think on the loves of my life, or perhaps it will be the job that I still care so deeply about. Maybe it will be the all-important decision of a crisp beer or a nice Torrontes with dinner, or maybe it will be to decide not to decide. I know one thing. Even in this semi-conscious state, I have come to see the differences between what is really important, and what a long-lost friend used to call, “conversation while dancing.” Dis ease does this to you. You begin to pull away from the things that don’t feed your soul, or if you have to engage with them, you ask yourself why you are wasting this precious gift of life on such drivel.
In my own life, I find it harder and harder to take seriously the turf wars, the one-upmanship, the personal ambition over the common good, the street fights for (really, let’s be honest here) nothing but toys. Often now, in the middle of these pitched battles, I am not really there. I hover above them out of time and out of body. As the engagement in meaningless combat over this microscopic patch of temporal existence ensues, I ask myself, “What do we think we are doing? Do we honestly believe that in this striving of wills, we can acquire something that will hold off the logical conclusion, something that will result in ultimate victory?” In spite of the fact that we have proof to the contrary through the priceless relics of the dug up pharaohs of old, we still believe that it is possible to actually take it with you. Timeless and yet timed out, they could no more take it with them as we can, but the hubris of human pride is hard to shake. It is easy to become fearful, to think that acquisition is what will protect us from the finiteness of our eye blink on this planet. It is easy to believe that the person who dies with the most toys will actually win.
Don’t waste my time. I ought to be home collecting kisses from my one true love, celebrating this fraction of a microsecond in the history of this glorious creation.
Time travel breathes, and in its exhaled breath are the epiphanies of joy and love–the embrace of a friend, the smile of a loved one, the eye to eye exchange that says how much each of us is glad in this moment. So much, and it costs so little. In my heart, I know only too well that both my hopes and fears are in these breezes of time.
So I am breathing in hedges and grass, flowers and sound, the music of living. I promise not to go into John Lennon songs, or even to be tempted by the Temptations. It is no trivial thing to time travel. All those pasts are still in the concentric circles beneath our current place, and all those imagined futures circle out above us, shaped by the choices we make with the moments we are given. Listen…
I’m going to collect kisses now—past, present and future. It is the joy of gentle breezes, freedom from orthotics, and being unstuck in time.