The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

This year marks the tenth year I've been retired.

In that decade, Joyce and I have counted ten birthdays. We've added a grandchild and two great grandchildren. We've traveled to Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, Delaware. I've lost both my parents. We bought a Jaguar XK8. We sold a Jaguar XK8. We've reunited with old friends from college and high school, joked, laughed, suffered, and cried. In short, we have lived.

In short, indeed.

Looking at a coming decade as it approaches, ten years seems a very long time.

But looking back on the same decade, the span of ten years seems breathtakingly short, brief as the light from a wooden match.

Why is that?

Where does the time go?

Across the morning sky, all the birds are leaving...

In your youth, time creeps. That hour before school lets out seems interminable. Adolescent time crawls slowly along, tortoise like, in spite of your attempts to lean into it, to push it forward faster and faster toward the world of adult possibility.

But once you grow into that adult world, once you're in your early twenties, it's like jumping on a bullet train as it hurtles through the unknown at near warp speed. You struggle to get your balance and then hang on for dear life as the train flies down the corridor of time. The days blur into weeks and months and years.

You're so caught up in the rush of days and nights you barely notice the seasons turning. Forty years pass. You see four decades in the rear view mirror. But it's one of those weird mirrors where everything is changed, the time that is reflected back at you seems much shorter than it was. The four decades are four hours now. And then one day you reach for a cup of coffee and you see your hand is wrinkled and it shakes a bit. You look in that weird mirror at your own image and you're 60.

You try to keep your balance as things begin to slow. But the momentum you've built up carries you along, rapidly at first, and then slower and slower...64....65.....66. And then finally at 70 you slow down. Way down. Almost to a stop. And you look back.

Everything you've experienced, everything you've done seems to have gone by so quickly it makes you motion sick. Everything is spinning around fast but your head is spinning slower. The significance of an individual moment, the importance of that big meeting, the heat of your anger during that confrontation, all of it has been peeled away by the headlong and furious rush toward entropy.

In these slower days of remembrance and the sometimes futile attempts to make it all make sense, you may doubt if the journey itself had meaning. It's quite possible, you say, that it was a journey full of sound and fury which signified nothing.

But you were there, by God. You were living it. Think back. That one frightening at bat in Little League which turned into a home run trot. And that time on a spring night on Reservoir Hill, when you popped the question. That all day oral and written qualifying exam. That time when the rotten proscenium curtain fell an hour before opening night. That risky speech to the division which changed your life.

Think what you will now, those things and a thousand others just like them meant everything at the time. 

And it was good and bad. Bitter and sweet. And there was love. And children. And though parts might have been rough and you made mistakes, you picked up the slack, you forgave and were forgiven. You dug in and took a stand and fought the battles that needed to be fought.

But damn, it all went fast.

Where did the time go?

Who knows?

Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know, it's time for them to go...

"Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire."
                                                                                      Jorge Luis Borges



  2. Very well said, Dan. The other thing about time is... you can never get it back. I spend a lot of time reminiscing these days but the strange thing is how how incredibly difficult it is for me to remember all that "very important stuff" I was caught up in ten to 20 years ago. Which makes me think it wasn't so damned important, after all.

    Nice tune... I always loved Ms. Collins. And while we're on the subject of tunes about time... one good song deserves another. I loves me some Joni, too.

    1. Buck, thanks for that link. I'd forgotten about that song...haven't heard it in years. Like Joni says, "It won't be long now / 'Til you drag your feet to slow the circles down." I'm doing some pretty heavy foot dragging nowadays!

      And what you say about the "important stuff" is true in my case too. A lot of it has been completely forgotten and what I remember doesn't seem so important anymore. Except for one or two things which I intend to do a post on someday.

  3. The Missus and I were pondering this just the other day. Seems the first 20 years we were married felt much longer than the last 15. Quite frankly, the 14 years since I retired from the Air Force have gone by in a blur.

    I'm not sure where the time goes, but I'm still enjoying the ride.

  4. Sarge, I think you're right. Things do seem to go faster as you age. Up to a point. Then, in my case at least, they have seemed to slow down some. Which is good, because like you, I'm still enjoying the ride.

  5. I'm glad to know I have good company for the rest of the journey. I can sooo relate to your post. The battles, the deadlines, the work of raising a family do indeed seem a blur. Maybe as the wisdom of old age comes into play, the memory slips so that we don't implode!
    Yep, it's been one Hell of a ride so far!

  6. Amen, Scooney. And I think you've got something with that idea about the memory slips helping us keep from imploding. I'm looking for anything positive about forgetting things! :-)

    Hope you got the hatches battened down up there on the Ridge. It's after 2 now and the wind is blowing pretty strong.We're going into the family room downstairs til it blows on through.