Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Black and White - Time

Chapter 43 - "Time"  From Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption by LB Johnson

In the morning's snow there were small tracks; some the bold steps of the predator, some the almost openly meek meanderings of a creature not yet aware it was prey. There were the sure steps of deer; another set of small fairy-like paw prints that simply ended, perhaps with a shadow and a mouth set in the "O" of pain that bespoke owl.

If you looked closely enough, you could see the narrative variants of the cessation of life---a tuft of rabbit fur, blood-speckled snow. Further on, a scattering of feathers, the type designed for speed intermingled with the downy innocence of plumage which had been designed for failed hiding, lying in a tiny crater of snow.

It seemed like only yesterday when summer was blazing. Now as I walked back to the house I shared with my husband, darkness approached before even dinner. Barkley was there at the door, the movement of his tail a tick against the time he waited for me.  
We'd set our clocks back, we'd stopped saving our daylight. My day here, one late evening, lay under a blanket of night that began to thicken and bunch up around six, when just for a moment light hovered in an orb over the lake. Then with a blink it vanished up into the heavens, leaving just black exhaust in its wake.

The memory of that day comes back in the early mornings when the light creeps in too early and I still want to sleep, bringing with it the alarm of things to do.

Summer was here, and now it was gone---time passing much too quickly. On the wall, an anniversary clock of Mom and Dad's ticked, the evening light illuminating only its face so that it appeared to hang suspended in space. A ticking clock, holding in its hidden depths the regimented chaos of this world I've inherited, its ordered cadence the sound that moves me onward at a dizzying speed into a future still unperceived.
Two hundred years ago the days had their own measured order, as full and steady as the moon that rose each night in the sky. No one could have imagined today's electronic dislocation when on the advent of the industrial age time was taken from us and enslaved to a clock. Time changed from that of a fellow worker to an overseer, a sharp rap with a stick, a shrill whistle of warning.

Off in the distance, I saw a train---stopped, yet with that sense of imminent departure that trains seem to possess. People no longer traveled much by train; we went in cars, faster and faster as roads got longer and days got shorter; driving to the market for our dinner instead of walking the land in search of game. The game itself had moved further inward, as had we.

In the dimming light, I looked through some photos. There was one of me in the cockpit of a jet where I spent several years of my life pushing my limits. There was a photo of a piece of lace that helped make a wedding dress, one that I burned with the rest of the memories of that mistake. I got married so young and too soon because I had a broken heart and thought a husband and perhaps another child would mend it. It only showed me how fixed the scars upon my heart were; and how unforgiving was he who saw them.
There were pictures---so many pictures of my brother and me. Allen was still my best friend, even after all these years. As adults, just as we did as children, we’d sit out at Dad's as we traced the stars with the beam of our flashlights. Not as a point in space, but a point in time---the pinnacle of childhood where morning and night and summer are one; the sleight of hand of fate and blood that would later shape us both so far distant as not to be conceived yet. Over the years, he pretended to not see some occasional tears; I pretended that I accidentally dropped the ice cube from my drink down his neck.

Years later another picture, a camping trip with Allen. We were out all day, heading in not by any clock but by the rhythmic cadence of breath and the measure of bone and muscle. The family dog was reluctant to come in from the water, “Just once more!” he seemed to speak to us. But our stomachs signaled dinner, and with a whistle we called him in. He came up the bank panting and trembling with the excitement of the day, to soft voice and gentle hand, seeking his pack.

Back in camp, we settled to clean our fish and prepare our supper, hot coals lighting our work. Allen said grace to the communion of a small glass of whiskey and water, giving thanks for slightly burnt roast meat, a can of beans, and some bread that once actually resembled bread before it had seen my backpack, tasting of the outdoors. It was the best meal we all could remember eating in a long time, tasting of our labor and tinged with the smoke of our wildness.
The dog settled into sleep by the dying fire as in the darkness we prepared our bedding underneath an ancient sky. As the world slowly wound down, stars beginning to spin their stories in space, we talked. We talked of the world and its beauty, its love, and its sin, where the words are our history, not other people’s words which are not their past but only the empty gaps of their days. We remembered Dad’s stories of hunting as a boy in Montana when as children we lay quietly, listening to bedtime stories that knew no age limit; looking up at the quiet belly of canvas, hearing not a clock but only the measured breath of contentment as sleep brushed up the remaining crumbs of the day. When was the last time you spent a day like that---with no clock, no schedule, just time with those that mean the most to you? Now, too often we rush and we scurry and we do not take the time to stop and think of the times we gave up---the times spent rushing after something we didn't really want or something demanded of us. Wasted minutes, wasted days.
Until suddenly years have passed, and the second hand poises in mid-second as you pick up the phone to make a call in the late hour. You know he will answer---and in that instant, all you register is the sound of breath and heartbeat, the phone held away from your ear. Outside, the rush of the wind; and somewhere far away; the mournful sound of a train as you gaze at a photo of a young family on the wall, the red hair standing out like a flame, waiting for him to answer.

You talk as you always did as if nothing has changed from childhood; but as you listen to him, you hear something else---the proverbial clock in your pocket. It's still ticking, more slowly, with a sound, you never noticed before. Then with the moonlight reflecting off a tear that's forming, when you are certain the world is one still hush, you hear a bark from the backyard, Barkley the Labrador, wanting to come in and sharing your time all that he asks for. So you set the phone down for a minute and open the door to call the dog in, as that happy bark fills the world with articulate tone, a steady beat of time. Time you both still have.


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