When It Is Time
In memory of Elizabeth Cullen
Time. Time. I wanted more time.
She cradled in my hands: fragile, imperfect, diminishing.
Her bubble of being had once encompassed a broad sphere. At some point she became the object of my life, rather than its influence. In the fullness of time she began to shrink, her focus narrowed, her view spare.
As with such certainties, it's easy to ascribe them to an undefined future: the inevitable that will happen in some comfortably vague tomorrow. I held her as delicately as I could, aware of the looming presence of that inevitability. It was time, and I wanted more of it.
More delicate spheres floated about, but this one remained gently resting in my hands, shaking ever so slightly. Surfaces turned and swirled around us. I heard water falling and felt something wet on my cheek. Beyond the edge it got sharp and dark. Neither of us knew what was out there. We seemed to be alone on this precipice together, clinging to one another in the hopes that time could somehow continue as it had. We had cast that moment of change from our minds for years and years. It would happen someday.
Finally, someday had arrived. Someday was now.
Then everything ceased. Slowly she deflated until she was gone. Time stopped. Not a crack of thunder, a cosmic scream, or even a pop. Like pushing on a wall that suddenly disappeared - nothing more to lever against - I was in a void and completely alone. It was so very quiet. Other spheres kept spinning, water ebbed and flowed, wind moved the leaves. It was noiseless and distant to me. I was numb.
We had gone so high, so long. I was without her for the first time in my life, and so near the edge. Where did it lead? How was I supposed to go from here? Would there ever be time again?
My questions became more personal. Had I loved her for who she was, and not who I would have liked for her to be? Had I said everything that I meant to say - the truths of forever that move beyond frustrations of now? Had she known all of that - any of it?
I stood, recognizing that I could not stay here in this silent, timeless moment forever. I had no idea of how to continue. Everywhere I looked was an edge to a nothingness. I was afraid. Perhaps it would be easier to stay caught in this forever where nothing changed, nothing spoke: a perpetual intake of breath that never exhaled.
But that's not life. That's not living. That's not what she taught me so long ago when she made silly jokes at the kitchen table; when she grabbed my sleeve on a Sunday morning excited there was no line at the theme park ride; when she said, "things can never be so bleak that you can't manage some ice cream." I would have to face the precipice and whatever cataclysm waited there. There were no preconceptions or expectations. This was all new territory. Everything seemed to spin as I walked to the edge, and a faint click sounded in the distance.
My toes reached the edge, and I was greeted by a lazy purple turtle. It was something I had not seen before. In fact the land was filling with details that I had been blind to before: falling waters, flowers, lights, creatures of many kinds. And there were words too - words of love, little things said over decades: "please, thank you, love you, my daughter."
The turtle was a guide, a marker to a sparkling path away from the height. It had not been an end but a pause with a whole universe of the possible waiting around it for when the time was right to move on. As I stepped carefully down, I heard the tinkling of moving water. Then the rush of a gusting breeze joined in, the many sounds of life, and the ticking of clocks gently greeted my ears.
It all unfolded for me: time always in motion, life in progress, the ever presence of "being." I had stopped. Time had not. Now I faced a choice: remain lost to time, or step back into life with all its known-unknowables, and certain-uncertainties.
I looked down the path. It wasn't straight or even. It might not have even been solid. I stepped forward anyway. I stepped back into time and began a new journey on an unfamiliar path. Somewhere, somehow along the way I knew . . . there would be ice cream.
(written for recent events, and for Fantasy Faire 2020)