Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Time passes


I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.
                                                        Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Look at our front yard tree, an Autumn Purple Ash. Just like its name implies, it is October and it is "purpling," the tips of its leaves changing color. The leaves will become deeper and deeper in color in the next week or two, and, if I am lucky, I will see the entire tree enshrouded in purple before all the leaves fall to the ground. We planted this tree some 25 years ago or so, and there have only been a handful of times that I have been lucky like this. Some years, a hard rain or wind will lift all the leaves off before they reach their purple peak, and that's always a strange sensation to know it's another year before the chance will come again. Many years - honestly, MOST years - I've been simply too busy to notice...backing down my driveway, heading to school in the opposite direction from the tree, returning home from teaching after dark. It makes me sad to think how many times I ignored that tree. I think if I had a 'do over,' I would go out of my way to see the tree. I would add one block to my drive, beginning my day by turning and driving in front of my house, and soaking in the "autumn-ness" of that tree before heading off to work. I guess that's another lesson from the pandemic, yes? The varied rhythms of plants and trees during the different seasons are beautiful to observe. 

There are moments in life when I am bursting with a very similar, transitory feeling, much like the tree. Do you experience this? Happy, near perfect moments, where you feel rich, deep, expansive love coupled with the awareness of it being fleeting, it is passing, it is momentary. This is certainly true around celebrations and big milestones, or even when traveling - all times when I am engaged in something significant that is also, by its very nature, passing or temporary. I am thinking more of small moments where I have felt both present and - strangely - nostalgic, such as:

- my oldest son, maybe four or five years old, sitting at the table with me as I worked, practicing writing his name over and over...how he'd write almost a mirror image of his name, backwards and wobbly letters, and how I thought those letters were just perfect and shouldn't ever have to change, but I knew they would...

- laying next to my youngest son when he was about ten years old, reading to him at bedtime, and knowing at any moment, one day very soon, he would no longer need me next to him at bedtime, none of my boys would ever need this anymore...

- listening to my middle son share a funny story from his teaching day, that first year of his teaching, when he still lived at home, and laughing so hard, while simultaneously aware that soon he wouldn't be coming in our house door at the end of the day...

- Tony and I enjoying a hike together, wandering along on a winding path uphill through the woods, having to watch our step very carefully, wondering if we over-extended our abilities...

- my Dad saying "I love you" in his final days, and me wondering, would I hear him say this again...

There are even much lighter moments where I have the same sensation - say, two bites from the end of a most-delicious pizza!

This sensation is at once sweet and wistful. It is the very temporariness of the time - the 'going,' the departing - that adds so much richness to what I feel. I suppose time and experience lead me to this feeling. I've lived long enough to have gained some wisdom from living...I've experienced something so similar before, I 'connect the dots,' I see where it leads, where the moment is headed. It's as if I am in two places at once, present and future, loving and missing. 

Actually, I don't suppose it is simply happy or positive moments that lead to this rich reflection. I can think of negative moments that proved to be, at once, "the writing on the wall" - a foreshadowing of the need to do something quite different, a new path, even, a way out. However, I choose to focus on the happy.

Am I just describing melancholy?

Can one have melancholy about a pizza?

These days, I am almost in sensory overload from these type moments with my granddaughter ("Frog"), knowing full well that this two year old child will be gone in a flash...and watching her laugh with delight
as she shakes rainwater from flowering mums, 
as she squeals "Again! Again!," when we roll her stroller  under weeping willow branches that brush her head, or 
as she sits on the side of the road and rubs the leaf of a lamb's ear plant because it is so soft. 
Yes, being around Frog is to be in a whirlwind of these moments, "we're having, we may never have again."

In my house growing up, my Mom would frequently toss out a favorite expression from her high school Latin classes: "tempus fugit" - time passes. Life is change. That was her closing argument, her way of telling each of us to get over something, or to deal with something. "Tempus fugit." What makes me chuckle now is she changed the expression over time. When she was elderly with dementia, she inadvertently inserted an 's' on the end of the original Latin, and would exclaim, over and over "Tempus fugits!" in the midst of most any conversation. Makes me chuckle every time I think of it, and now I often exclaim the same thing, in my house.

Time passes.

Tempus fugits!


  1. This post really spoke to my heart today. I love the purple tree and how you are thinking about the times you want to "redo" and really notice the tree. The moments with your sons and your dad...I can relate to wanting to be in the moment while simultaneously preserving it. Lovely post.

  2. This is a lyrical reflection, filled w/ lovely memories and echoes of past regrets about the rush of time. “There are moments in life when I am bursting with a very similar, transitory feeling, much like the tree.” I find myself sensitive to time’s passing as I’m forced to stay close to home while the world twirls in its axis. I worry I won’t get to see the things I long to see. I’ve often made Ken drive around the block so I could look at our landscaping from the point of view of those who pass by. Same w/ Christmas lights. This morning I took a picture of the quaking aspen in our front yard. It’s so pretty against the blue sky.

  3. Tempus fugit... that’s an expression we need to be mindful of, especially with our children (and grandchildren) as much as with our elders. Time
    stands still for no one.

  4. What a beautiful read, Maureen. Reading your post today is like listening to the breeze flow through the trees. We are, I believe, only living fully when we realize our moments will never come again. You, however, have found a way to keep them safely nestled in your writing. What joy it is to share in your moments.
    -Marina R.

  5. Oh, Maureen, I was lost in the beauty of your words. Such a lovely post today. I can relate to so much of your feelings. I too am in that older and wiser chapter of my life, and a slowing down time for me. The poignancy of the purple ash tree under-appreciated for all those years is very touching.

    My one word for 2020 is Time, and yes, I am super aware of it passing this year. I have also begun to more fully enjoy each of those passing moments. I said a resounding YES when I read these lines:
    "There are moments in life when I am bursting with a very similar, transitory feeling, much like the tree. Do you experience this?"

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts that add to my thoughts today.