I am not the first person to ask: what is time? By what action does it transform our physical surroundings, our physical beings? What component of time is it that carries us to and beyond happiness, into and away from grief? Time is a fluid dimension that interacts with space in order for us to exist in the physical. Shamans know how to time travel and take others with them. Consummate shamans slip in and out of time at will, but even they eventually leave this world.
All that exists on this earth is at the mercy of time. As humans we can sort through old photographs, marveling over the changes in our children as they mature. We can grieve over the days when our hair was richly colorful, not washed out to gray - or washed entirely from our scalps.
A man who has been like a father to me is nearing the end of his time. He is living on his own terms at this point, but his big heart is worn out. It beats now because he simply wills it to continue to beat. That is what the doctors say. The one thing time can not touch is who he is, and this good man I have loved all my life, is essentially unchanged. Still sharp witted and forever testing to see if you are paying attention. If not, the joke's on you.
Sorting through photographs today my entire life passed through my hands. Pictures of my parents before they met and fell in love. Pictures of my grandparents in their white haired retirements. Photos of my children as babies, toddlers, grade schoolers, sports stars, goof offs, and graduates. My daughter's wedding. Pictures of pets long since gone from this world. Photos of friends and family, and pictures of the men I once loved as a younger woman. Bits of time caught as an instant in two dimensions, proving that time exists if measured in the changes, the rising and falling of all things. Nothing stops the inexorable current of time.
I found several photos of my old dog Duke when he was a puppy. Not a fat little butterball puppy, but when he was about half grown, hanging out with his boy, my son. Smooth boy arms around a happy dog's neck - big dog paws across the boy's legs - wrestling on the ground - side by side in the lawn chairs - the dog playfully trapped between blue jeaned knees.
That old dog just spent three nights and days at the vet's with a life threatening obstruction of deer bones in his bowels. Each night when I came home from work, there was no old dog waiting, no silent best friend. There was no living alarm if someone or something unwelcome should come toward the house in the dark. No one to help tend to the horses but me. The coyotes likely marked all of his territory in his absence, those wild cousins he repeatedly warns away. Thanks to a dedicated veterinarian, the old dog is home now, and apparently not much worse for the wear.
A baggie full of medicines and instructions for a bland diet and strict orders to take all the deer parts away next time, and I think the old dog will be good for another few years. A few years.
Whether we live a few more days or weeks or years, we can only live one second at a time. How to find eternity in that tick of time? I wish I could hug that smooth armed boy once again and tell him how dearly I love him and will always love him beyond time. I wish I could hold close my beautiful daughter dressed in the lace of her wedding gown for just one more second to say how beautiful she has always been and will always be. I wish my dog was still young. I wish this good man who looked after me as a child... I wish he was a young cowboy again forever, his gentle arm around his smiling wife, his old raw boned ropin' horse still alive, nickering softly at the gate for him.
I wish time was not the thief it is.