It curves; it expands; it shrinks. Einstein said it is relative.
What does that mean?
As I looked at time as a little girl, I thought it stretched. Christmas took “forever” to arrive. And Christmas Eve seemed to last twice as long as it should before Santa arrived.
I reached school. Now time seemed pretty elastic. A school day sometimes seemed to be 24 hours long. But summer vacation just galloped past, not giving me time to enjoy it all.
Then I grew up. Exams could last forever. Meetings with bosses had minutes that crawled. Holidays flew past.
But I dreamed then. The speed of light was constant and nothing could go any faster. But I thought, “What would it be like if I traveled at nearly the speed of light.” I could get to the sun in what – maybe eight minutes. Or I go could back millions of light years to the ‘Big Bang’ when the universe was created.
Those were mind tricks. As I grew older, it seemed time passed faster. It took no time from one Christmas or birthday to another. Deadlines – a necessity in journalism – seemed to roll around faster as the years went by.
But I think, “How did I reach my 60s. Surely that many years has not passed?” And I look at my mother. She’s seen the arrival of cars, airplanes, rockets, the space shuttle. She was around for men arriving on the moon and for the explosion of the computer and the Internet.
Does her time speed by faster than mine or faster than my nieces or faster than her great-grandchildren’s? Einstein said, “No.” I’m not sure I agree. I’ve spent about 34,394,560 minutes on this earth. And I’m sure the ones in the last fourth of that time have sped by faster than the ones when I was a child.
You stand on Lake Placid’s shore
clear water revealing
fish just hanging out,
four ducks sailing into what was nothing like
a South Carolina August afternoon
because the sun kisses gentle
while breeze lays ripples on wet
like your fingers ruffling my hair at night
when we’re falling asleep;
swallowtails—yellow wings flirting with currents,
to a sound I am sure
My mother’s hands show love. I see her hands and know who it is – even without looking up at her face.
Those hands are worn. They are lined with large blue veins. They’re wrinkled with the passage of time.
Her nails are short and ridged. A few brown age spots have shown up. (I consider them decoration that doesn’t have to be added.)
Her hands have soothed children. They picked my brother Chip up when he held his arms up to be carried. They held my hand as we walked down the street, me skipping to keep up. They’ve also spanked children.
They’ve stirred food and washed dishes. They may hold dishes more gingerly now, but they still hold them. They’ve washed and iron clothes. They’ve probably been wrung together as she worried about her children or others in the family.
They’ve done more. They’ve typed letters and term papers and research papers. Those hands have learned to use a computer. They’ve graded students’ papers.
And they’ve trembled as my mother sat by a casket or a hospital bed. They’ve also been active in prayers – either the gentle kind of folded-hands prayer or the active kind of taking food to a friend.
Now they are less busy. She worries that they are too idle. But she still uses her hands for others. The methods have changed; the love has not.
Brown fur, legs a blur
scurries through tall
grass, goes to ground—
a hole beneath
a storm drain slab.
hug his head
like a teddy bear’s.
He didn’t ask for company
this cool August morning
We are strange companions.
Playing in or around
It is not forbidden
It is not illegal
You will not be punished
The sign is not my mother
Like overflowing water
Brown with silt
It is not my father
Beneath the white water
The sign is calm
The sign is quiet