Saturday, April 2, 2011

Time in the Mountains

Time in the mountains:

“…the character of lived time is changing in radical and unprecedented ways: temporal discomforts are widely expressed and felt and the question of time, previously left to professional philosophers or Slav ruminators has become a public issue as well as a private problem.” Eva Hoffman.

Time is mysterious and somewhat incomprehensible. We live in so many different kinds of time but rarely notice.
I was graphically reminded of this recently when I spent an action packed week in Vancouver away from the farm. There’s always a frisson of nervousness leaving the farm and my animals – but in this case, it had to be done. I needed a new car. Mine had been smashed to smithereens when some addled person drove off the road and hit me.
First there is the road trip, a familiar one, traveling down out of the mountains, five mountains passes later, sailing down that steep long hill into Hope, out of the snow and into the rain and then the grey sad boredom of the endless ‘free’ way stretch of road past Chilliwack and Abbotsford and Langley and Surrey, that seems to take as long as the whole rest of the trip combined.
And then while in Vancouver – time was equally mysterious. It stretched and twisted in strange ways. It seemed somehow possible in a week, to cram in an almost endless series of events. I wrote, taught, watched films, had tea and lunch with various friends, went to the university several times, bought a used car, bought books, cooked, played with my grandson. And then got in my new used car and drove home. Back to the mountains. Back to mountain time.
It always takes me three days to get back to the farm from anywhere, regardless of where my body is. The first day is for rushing around, checking to see if anything all has changed while I was gone and for unpacking, laundry, dishes and walking. The second day is exhaustion day, and by the middle of the third day, everything starts to feel normal and it is hard to remember that I was ever away. And the odd thing is that no one notices. What felt so momentous and jam packed with events was just another week to the folks living here. And since they usually only see me once or twice a week, (everyone in town seems to meet everyone else in town at the grocery store) unless they read Facebook, they don’t even know when I am away.
Definitely, time moves more slowly here in the mountains. And of course, there is a place here, as well, where there is almost no time and if I sit still long enough and stare at the mountains, the sky and the lake, I can almost get there. Or walking, or staring at water, the sense of immediate time falls away. There is another sense of time. After all, the land was here a zillion years before there was a me or a thought of me, and it will be here in whatever shape or form for many zillions more. It changes slowly and constantly all the time. Trees emerge; animals come and go, rocks erode but my existence has little impact.
On the other hand, for me, the small changes I make, a fruit tree here or there, a garden bed, a fence, new animals, have a huge impact even though they are infinitely small and easily overrun by natural processes.
But to me, to me they mean there will be food for another meal, another season, another year.
I spent the first week home planting seeds in the greenhouse. Seeds are amazing; they are like a small explosion of time in a speck. A barely discernible seed means a tomato plant covered with fruit in August. Or the rich scent of basil spun into pesto. An hour spent planting seeds in small pots in the greenhouse produces such amazing benefits two or three months down the road.
The first time I really noticed the utter variability of time was walking with my grandson, Gaelin, when he was two. One day, while his parents were eating lunch, it took us almost an hour to walk a city block. We looked at ants, and dandelions, at the cars across the street, at sun on tree leaves. We explored a bus stop, a fence, a gate, and chased a bee. It was great. I learned a lot.
Time has been variable and problematic this winter and spring; whenever something happens like a car accident, a fight with a friend, an illness, (all of which happened to me recently) I try to remember that someday soon, these incidents will be in the past and that the emotional storm I am living through will soon be gone. It’s not so much about living in the moment as it is about surfing time’s many and variable waves. And staying afloat, -- whatever the weather.

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