As the year winds down, time and the passage of time are on my mind. Driving along the Olentangy River, I see the sycamores have emerged again, their trunks startling white against the grey-brown of the other trees lining the river. The crops are all in and grey-brown fields stretch to the horizon, the end of the season upon us.
It is that stub time of year, the last fleeting days of December, the day when darkness comes earlier and stays later.
Aunt Ginger is a reminder of the relentless roll of time. At 85, she is a diminutive version of the woman she was at 80. Her step is shakier, her mind is shakier, and when I look at her, I am aware of a fragility that was not there five years ago. I told Warren that Aunt Ginger is becoming translucent.
Ginger is down to the stub time of her life. She speaks occasionally of where she is, not with despair, but with amazement. "85!" she'll exclaim. "I never thought I'd live this long!"
The press of time is on lots of minds this time of year. I avoid shopping malls as a matter of belief year round, but especially at this time of year. All the same, one Saturday a few weeks ago found me at a Target shopping for a menorah. There was a palpable tension in the air as shoppers tried to find that perfect gift, all of them aware of the clock ticking towards Christmas. My cashier commented that she hated this time of year. She was pleasant, but clearly she was already counting the days until the store closed on Christmas Eve and the rush was over.
That cashier was down to the stub time of the holiday shopping season, not to mention the stub end of her patience.
Even avoiding the worst of the commercial feeding frenzy, I find this time of year has a rushed, harried quality to it. Being married to a performer and the Symphony, I find my time gets squeezed between rehearsals and performances. Warren's schedule is even worse and he tends to take December on a dead run. There have been days that we have peered blearily at one another, wondering what day it is, how late the evening will go, and what absolutely needs to be done at home versus what can be put off for another day. Warren's last performance was on December 19, and both of us felt tremendous relief when the conductor put down the baton.
On the shortest day of the year, I took a solitary walk around a nearby park in the chill afternoon. The loop I walk follows the Olentangy briefly, and I noted again the sycamores. In the evening, I lit the menorah for the sixth night of Hanukkah and watched the candles burn steadily. In the corner, the Christmas tree was had just bought and decorated that morning was aglow with its own lights.
Endless time: the passage of the seasons, the winter solstice, the wheeling around of the sun and moon that brings the winter holidays back to us again.
Thoreau observed that "time is but the stream I go a-fishing in." In these eternal moments of light and dark, the stream I go a-fishing in is deep, and its bottom strewn with stars.