In the middle
of a life that’s as complicated as everyone else’s,
struggling for balance, juggling time.
The mantle clock that was my grandfather’s
has stopped at 9:20; we haven’t had time
to get it repaired. The brass pendulum is still,
the chimes don’t ring. One day you look out the window,
green summer, the next, and the leaves have already fallen,
and a grey sky lowers the horizon…
“Gosh, it’s December already,” a friend remarked a few days ago. “Where on earth has the time gone?” “The older I get,” she said, “the faster time flies.”
I commiserated, feeling much the same. It’s a sense of time racing by and made all the more fleeting by the rush of holiday activities. As invitations multiply, I quietly balk, wishing I had more time to do the things I enjoy, to awaken to a day without any appointments, deadlines, or the never-ending list of “to dos.”
…Time is always ahead of us, running down the beach, urging
us on faster, faster, but sometimes we take off our watches,
sometimes we lie in the hammock, caught between the mesh
of rope and the net of stars, suspended, tangled up
in love, running out of time.
(“In the Middle,” by Barbara Crooker, from Word Press, 1998.)
“Time is always ahead of us…”Where has the time gone? It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves more than once. Put it another way, and the question becomes, “What have I done with my time?
Remember the unorthodox English teacher played by Robin Williams in the 1989 film Dead Poets’ Society? “Believe it or not,” he tells his students, “each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die.” Williams’ students rallying cry becomes “carpe diem,” or “seize the day,” a call to live life to its full potential. Did that mean they were more attentive to time?
According to www.poets.org, the Latin phrase carpe diem originated in the “Odes,” a long series of poems composed by the Roman poet Horace in 65 B.C.E..
Scale back your long hopes
to a short period. While we
speak, time is envious and
is running away from us.
Seize the day, trusting
little in the future.
Time…is running away from us. Or is it that we’re not paying attention to what time offers? In “The Gift,” William Stafford invites the reader to rethink time.
Time wants to show you a different country. It’s the one
that your life conceals, the one waiting outside
when curtains are drawn, the one Grandmother hinted at
in her crochet design, the one almost found
over at the edge of the music, after the sermon.
It’s the way life is, and you have it, a few years given.
You get killed now and then, violated
in various ways. (And sometimes it’s turn about.)
You get tired of that. Long-suffering, you wait
and pray, and maybe good things come – maybe
the hurt slackens and you hardly feel it any more.
You have a breath without pain. It is called happiness.
It’s a balance, the taking and passing along, the composting of where you’ve been and how people
and weather treated you. It’s a country where
you already are, bringing where you have been.
Time offers this gift in its millions of ways,
turning the world, moving the air, calling,
every morning, “Here, take it, it’s yours.”
(From: The Way It Is, Graywolf Press, 1999)
“Here, take it, it’s yours.” As the crush of holiday shopping, socializing and gift giving intensifies in the next several days, time may feel like it’s racing by, or, as it used to when I was small and waiting for Santa, it may drag, one day stretching into forever. What matters, I think, is that we pay attention to time, to life.
Suppose your life a folded telescope
Durationless, collapsed in just a flash
As from your mother’s womb you, bawling, drop
Into a nursing home…
Einstein was right. That would be too intense.
You need a chance to preen, to give a dull
Recital before an indifferent audience
Equally slow in jeering you and clapping…
Time takes its time unraveling. But, still,
You’ll wonder when your life ends: Huh? What happened?
(“The Purpose of Time is to Prevent Everything from Happening at Once,” by X. j. Kennedy, from The Lords of Misrule.)
Write about your relationship to time. What has time taught you about life? What gifts has time offered you?