I have been dismayed by the concept of time for as long as I can remember. Now and then, people have remarked they think me odd for not liking to look at long-ago pictures of family and friends. I suppose that, for them, reminiscing about past times helps to keep those times alive in the present and integrated into their current lives. It doesn't seem to work that way for me, however. When I look back, I tend to do so with a profound sense of loss and sadness that what once was will never be again. It is almost as if time is a tangible foe, always working against me, taking away what I have loved most.
When I watch a stream or a river flowing by, on the other hand, I find myself relaxing into a welcome sense of timelessness. This morning's walk took me past a nearby stream that flows through an expansive, pastured floodplain. I stood on the road above it and watched, thinking to myself about how this creek has probably been flowing for hundreds of years and how, if left alone, it will continue to flow far into the future. I know perfectly well that what I think of as “the creek” is really made up of so many individual water molecules, each rushing past me only once on their way to the Chesapeake Bay. But I prefer the larger, the more eternal (if faulty) view that this creek has always been and always will be. It brings a sense of peace.
Today I watched the water, higher now with the added volume of melting snow, swirl through an oxbow formation in the middle of the pasture. One day the water will complete its work and the small peninsula being carved out of the meadow will become an island. I noted that its neck is appearing even more narrow these days and I see evidence of new wear on the steep and eroding bank... All of which caused me to return to my musings about the passing of time and its accompanying changes. I thought about my mortality and about the fact that I am as powerless to stop the flow of time as is the creek bank to stop the flow of water that washes its soil away. I realized something else as well, however. It was the water's force that created the creek banks in the first place and it is this same force that continues to create a place for bank swallows and belted kingfishers to excavate their nesting sites each year. The banks, battered as they are by the inexorable, relentless flow of the water are continually being sculpted into something beneficial for the lives that depend on them. It is my prayer that I might allow time, and whatever it brings, to have the same effect in me.
For a long time I have been wanting to sneak down the hill, under the fence, through the pasture and out to this particular spot to spend time on the peninsula sitting, watching and reflecting. I'd better do it soon for, given a few more storms, it may be too late.