In the Presence of Time


I moved my sleeping roll and pillow to the back of my truck as the small oak tree cast thick shade over it in the mid-day sun, and it was much cooler than my tent. The shrike, back in its roost in the short tree, let out the occasional screeching call. I pulled the shell closed to keep out the black flies and I laid back with my beer and book and read for a while until I fell asleep, where time passed but had to presence.

Wind rocked the truck as I rested, and a sudden gust eventually woke me from my nap. I sat up for a moment and rubbed my eyes. The others were either sleeping or reading in their tents and I had plenty of time left in the afternoon to think and let the internal dialogue take my mind away. I crawled out of the back of the truck and found a cold beer in the cooler. I noticed the shade had moved off the cooler and so I slid it a couple feet back under the tree shade where it would last another hour or two. The shrike next door startled again, possibly from its nap too. I sat in my chair and let my mind wander – about time and how we pass through it.

Time is a fickle dimension in which we move.  As we move through time, our mind, our thoughts, our experiences influence the rate at which it passes. I thought about how I missed my family, my wife, friends, dogs. When the hours of the day are spent lying awake in the heat of the day, time passes slowly and with painstaking realization of separation from what I love. I relished the trip we made to visit Sunny’s mom for her birthday. I had been tired and working all day, but drove to Folsom for her surprise party. I wanted to be there – wouldn’t miss it for all the wealth in the world. I remembered leaving at 5 a.m. the next morning to get home, pack, and drive all day to go do field work. I remembered how quickly the time went by while we drank wine and beer and ate food and visited while the sun set over the American River and the nuthatches visited the feeders off the porch. We watched and the moments there in the last golden hour of the day passed. Almost like I just dreamt it and woke suddenly, it was done. Seemed unfair – that time spent in good company passes so quickly, while time away, the times when we recognize the importance of those relationships seem to pass slowly. Irony in the way we want more time when it passes so quickly, but when alone time passes slowly and we are forced to face the reality in which we exist. We never get time back. Enjoy all the moments, fast or slow.

So I sat on my chair and dug my feet deep into the cooler desert sand beneath and watched as the eastern sky turned pastel purple as the sun set. In the eastern edge of the valley, a peak covered in boulders caught the last rays of sun. How long had those boulders been there? What time had passed in their long and stationary presence? That slow and steady giant stood sentry over the valley as I sat from my diminutive position. The moments passed, I was unconcerned and in the moment. I watched until the first stars began to shine and then the milky way. I finished my beer slowly and crawled back to my tent for some more sleep before the night’s round of work would start. The shrike called one more time from its roost deep in the foliage of the oak tree and I faded to sleep under the dark sky and lost track of time once more.

 

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