Sunday, October 20, 2013
Days, weeks, months careen by. I have a vivid memory of writing birthdays on the calendar last January and hanging it in my kitchen, savoring the unflipped pages like money in my wallet. It seems impossible that was ten months ago and it's time to order a new calendar already.
Walking in the bright and balmy glory that is autumn here, watching salmon spawn in the Lewis River, I feel all the seasons at once. The new life of spring exists in the eggs being laid and milted over. Remnants of summer whisper from the warm breezes. Winter's bones are just beginning to show in the branches of big leaf maples whose leaves provide the quintessential fall delight as I kick my way through. My habitual dread of the cold gray days of winter is tempered by my vision of spring on the other side.
The school year just started. Yet seven weeks have passed. The kids already don't look like the pictures I took of them on the first day. And in scanning the school calendar, the end of the year is just a series of events away: conferences, Thanksgiving, conferences, Christmas, Presidents Day, MLK Day, Spring Break, testing, June12. In that light, retirement will be here far sooner than it feels most days when I'm surrounded by small voices making large demands and having to make a thousand important decisions on the fly.
However the velocity of time seems to increase as I age, leaving me breathless and sometimes afraid, I'm discovering it's not as linear as days on a calendar. Opportunities and relationships I thought irretrievably gone circle back around. Struggles I thought would never end fade away in the turning, and reappear on the next rotation, but often transformed. Parts of myself, the wounded ugly unbearable parts, I thought safely buried in the past, push to the surface, rowdy children demanding to be heard.
And friendships. Oh friendships. That's where I'm seeing the circular nature of time the most these days.
A book group. Four of us met regularly for over a dozen years. More than a year ago we stopped meeting without warning or explanation. None of us tried to get things going again, and I figured we'd run our course. I've missed our conversations, although they were rarely about books—or maybe it's because they were rarely about books. I've missed the women and wondered about their lives. There has been some contact, but nothing like the intimacy of our Sunday afternoon gatherings. A week ago a message on my phone informed me we're starting up again the beginning of next month. I'm ready and eager to meet who we are now, both as individuals and as a group.
A blog group. A year ago six of us met each other for the first time. Bloggers who had connected in pairs and had conversations about wanting to meet others in that circle, we made the gathering happen. On a gorgeous sunny weekend in a magical Victorian house overlooking the Puget Sound, we felt in many ways like we'd known each other forever. We talked about making it an annual event, but at the end of the first weekend, no one was willing to commit to the future. I figured it was a one-time gift, savored the memories, and felt a much stronger connection to these women as I read their blogs. Then a few weeks ago an email came asking if we wanted to meet again. In a matter of hours we all said yes. Next weekend we'll see each other in person for the second time. In every way that matters, we are old friends of a certain age who know and see deeply into each other, and hold dear what we see.
A writing group. After years of trying to find a group of writers to work with, late last summer four of us came together with a common desire for the accountability of a committed circle and a common love of writing. The thing I love most about us, aside from the joy of writing with other women, is that each of the other women is an especially treasured friend. The family of my heart: one a sibling, one a cousin, one a daughter. Watching the group form into its own entity is a wonder, a gift of great measure. We meet today for the fourth time.
There's so much more: childhood friends, my brothers, my husband, a cherished cousin, students, parents of students, colleagues. The relationships ebb and flow, like the ocean, always present and forming the horizon line of my life. Some seem pulled out beyond my reach, until one day the tides bring them to my shore once again. Some manage to become the ocean itself, being sustenance and security—being there always. Some are pulled or drift away, floating somewhere beyond my sight, on the other side of the great circle.
Here's what's different in this last third of my life: I recognize the magic in time's flexibility. As long as I stay open, no relationship is ever over. No possibility is ever extinguished. Nothing really ever ends. As time seems to run out, I'm thinking it may being doing something else entirely. If it can go from the linearity of childhood to the circles of this stage, I wonder if time might not simply take on a new form in the next leg of the journey.