"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, October 20, 2013


One of the gifts of being in the last third of life is a different relationship with time than I had in earlier decades. It is far more flexible than I ever imagined in childhood when a year was a lifetime, and the night before Christmas seemed to stretch endlessly. I marvel a bit that it's only when a definite end sits on the horizon, when I can no longer ignore that there will be an end—that's when the complexity of time actually begins to be revealed.

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.


DJan said...

This is so beautifully written, dear Deb, and I marvel at your ability to say what I'm thinking. I am reading a book right now called "The Curve of Time," and it seems appropriate to quote from it:

"Standing in the Present, on the highest point of the curve, you can look back and see the Past, or forward and see the Future, all in the same instant. Or, if you stand off to one side of this curve, as I am doing, your eye wanders from one to the other without any distinction."

I am so looking forward to our weekend together. Blessings to you and yours! :-)

Linda Myers said...

Lovely post, Deb.

Barb said...

Your musing on time makes me nod in agreement, Deb. Relationships, events, struggles, achievements ebb and flow - I don't believe anything is lost forever.

BECKY said...

Deb, this is so beautiful! I'm sorry I've been such an absent blogger friend. I do appreciate your comments on my blog and I'm trying to do better myself. What wonderful times you're having! Meeting up with blog friends, writer friends, reading friends, etc! Yes, life is good! (And I LOVE autumn, too!)

Sandi said...

Oh Deb, I hadn't thought about the idea that we are in the last third of our lives, assuming we live to be 90 or so! Thirty more years, give or take a couple, and I'm suddenly excited about what's to come. Those circles you speak of, I feel a certain anticipation of where they will lead. I look forward to the journey.

"I recognize the magic in time's flexibility." Yes, there is magic, not only in the flexibility, but in the rightness of the moments we are graced with.

Thank you for a post that makes me feel rich with the flexibility and the rightness of your friendship.

Retired English Teacher said...

This is another beautiful, insightful post. I learn so much from you. I learn I have along ways to go as a writer, but I also learn so much about life. I love how you speak to us in images. I think that is your greatest gift when it comes to writing. I may not recall your beautifully crafted sentences, but I will always remember the images that bring to my mind.

"Winter's bones are just beginning to show..." Wow.

And you are right, " time...I'm discovering it's not as linear as days on a calendar."

Can't wait to see you.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Nearly three years after retiring and a few months after the end of full-time daycare, I find that I'm in a very different relationship with time, too. I haven't managed to analyze it as well as you have, but your post gives me a wonderful place to begin. And I love the circles of women you have created to enrich your life!

Richard Hughes said...

I love your take on time. It's got me to thinking about time and what it means to me.

yaya said...

I've discovered in this last 3rd of my life that I'm just beginning to "get" who I am and where I'm going. But I will admit that when I say my age out loud I am a bit stunned! My brain still thinks it's in the second 3rd of my life! I could read your words forever..love this post.

Anonymous said...

Your posts always leave me feeling relaxed and thoughtful Deb. I just love reading your words e.g. "Winter's bones are just beginning to show in the branches of big leaf maples" that is a beautiful image. I do believe life is all a circle, indeed, we run in circles for a lot of it but the friends and family within our circle sustain us. Than k you for another inspiring post. :-)

Dee said...

Dear Deb, thank you for these words of wisdom. Your philosophy and your realization of the essence of relationships and time remind me of the writings of Pema Chodron. I'm glad I read this today because is is balm to my soul right now. Peace.

Terri Tiffany said...

I love this. You make me think of my life and those friends who have come and gone, Makes me wish I was headed on a weekend with wonderful friends.

kario said...

I love the willingness with which you succumb to the ebb and flow, not fighting it or railing against it, but moving through phases with your spine straight and your heart open. That is why these things circle back around to you, I am certain.