The Nature of Time
After an extended visit at my sister’s, I will be back at my house today. I will discover what is happening in my yard, as well as what I might have missed. Are the peonies already gone? Will the iris be in full bloom? Some years, the ephemeral spider lilies spring, flutter their skinny petals, and die in my absence. Whenever I begin to wonder if time has any substance, I run smack against nature.
The stiff magnolia leaves on the tree planted by my grandfather began to wither. Head thrown back, the tree doctor examined his patient. Old age, he pronounced. The tree had reached its life span and was dying. A big of mulching, a lot of tender loving care, and the tree survived. For how long, we don’t know. Before this experience, I’d not known a tree had a life span. Of course it did, but if these majestic presences are prisoners of their allotted years, what chance do we stand?
My yard is planted so as to have something always underway. If it’s not the daffodils, it’s the snowflakes. Sometimes the phases overlap—the Lenten roses bloom straight into the re-appearance of the ferns. At one point in my life, I had an Addams Family theme going on: dragon’s blood, spider lilies, and toad lilies. This made the Lenten roses nervous. The dragon’s blood eventually gave up the ghost. That time of my yard is now in my past. In its place, Solomon’s Seal grabs hold and flourishes.
The dog lies forlorn on the hotel bed, head on her paws. Her woebegone gaze follows our packing up, on the move again. This is not her idea of a good time. She values routine, and becomes instantly happy in the “now” of this slightly smelly “dog-friendly” hotel room. In contrast, I too easily place myself at an earlier time. I look up and there’s my ex-brother-in-law blustering into my sister’s foyer, wrapped in a bulky winter jacket, unleashing the dog from its walk. Bending to pick up a glass, I pause, certain my mother is standing beside the cooktop, though she could not join us this trip. The red bows that grace my sister’s house at Christmas suddenly jut into the birds of spring that dominate this trip. This slippage of time both comforts and frightens me. Comforting because, though the magnolia will die, it will always live. Frightening because the dragon’s blood will wither and that is the reality my time travel denies. And you know what they say about those who deny reality.
here’s to creative synthesis . . .