We inherit a fairly literal idea of time. Just as a life has its birth and its death, the day its hours, the calendar its weeks and months, most of us live a day at a time, and then wait for the next one to arrive. However, it feels rather different as you get older. ‘Time’ is more of a confused patchwork of images and memories, plans and projects, people and places, rather than a seamless continuity. It doesn’t stand still but nor does it march on and on until one day, for us, its stops. It’s all around us.
I have been reading an absolutely brilliant book of short stories, ‘The Turning’ , by the Australian Tim Winton. In one of the stories he writes, ‘Time doesn’t click on and on at the stroke. It comes and goes in waves and folds like water; it flutters and sifts like dust, rises, billows, falls back on itself…the past is in us, and not behind us. Things are never over’. He reinforces this image by linking all his stories, although each one is an entity in itself.
I am moved by this ‘folding over’ idea and recognise the way in which bits of my life can sometimes vividly reoccur. Some of them are more welcome than others and have to be tolerated if not resolved to my satisfaction. But there is this strange way in which the past can suddenly become contemporary to us.
My sister recently died and there has been the inevitable sadness of a good person now lost to her family. My loss has been unique to me; perhaps selfishly so. There is no-one now with whom I can share childhood experiences, and have the benefit of an older sister’s knowledge and advice. I was always planning to ask questions about people and events when next seeing her, but can do that no longer. But even if some of those early moments are unresolved, they remain with me and others with greater clarity. As Tim Winton says, the past is in me.
If in some ways now alone, I treasure it.