It’s hard to beat a Northwest sunset, especially when most of eastern Washington and good portions of Oregon and Idaho are ablaze. The particulate matter in the atmosphere from the smoke of a raging forest fire scatters light in a way that can be spectacular… sensuous… seductive.
We had some stunning sunsets throughout the opening months of 2009. The troposphere was contaminated with fallout from the ongoing detonation of the global economy and the dust kicked up by a marital dissolution nearby that continued to unfold with the slow-motion violence of a Peckinpah western. The little bubble of total focus that Diana and I had wrapped ourselves in for half a year was buffeted by storms and squalls of angst and anxiety.
In an effort to protect the air quality within the bubble, I started to spend more time outside of it. The challenge for me in addressing these external issues was how to engage without becoming entangled, how to remain detached from any particular outcome and not just disinterested in the process because, frankly, it would’ve been easier to not care.
I had learned enough about how energy flows around and through me to know to pay attention to the effects of that exchange rather than the emotional pull of who-did-what-to-whom or why the world was going to collapse in financial ruin. I had also learned something about perspective: since I’d already had the world collapse once, a second time is really not that big of a deal. What I hadn’t learned about was time. Every equation of production, progress, or profitability is dependent upon some limiting resource. Money. Material. Manpower. Or Time—a commodity, the sand in the hourglass. Every minute outside the bubble was one less minute inside with Diana.
By April the tiny seed of a blot that had appeared on Diana’s scan the summer before and had remained unchanged throughout Autumn and Winter had apparently germinated and was on its way to full bloom. Why? That’s a reasonable question for which any stab at an answer is only slightly more useless. The most worthless of those impossible answers—and the one I’ll admit to entertaining briefly—had to do with my time outside the bubble and how I spent it.
Time isn’t really a discrete entity. According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity time is inextricably wrapped up with the notion of space. Big deal. For that to matter to me, I’d have to be traveling at near-light speed. But the perception of time is surprisingly flexible even at the pace of normal life. It flies when I’m doing something I shouldn’t and it comes to a dead stop if Trigonometry is the period right after lunch. I can also make time, take time, and give time as if it were really up to me. So why isn’t it? If I treat time as a limiting quantity it’s not because it is, but because I let it be.
My Uncle Harmon had somewhere around a quarter of a million great-grandchildren. When Diana asked him how it was even remotely possible to have enough love to spread around to so many, he just smiled and replied: “They each bring their own love into the world.” If that’s how it works with love, then I suspect there’s a way for each promise and problem and every delight and dilemma to also appear on the scene with its own measure of time. That’s hard to imagine if I just see the sand slipping through the funnel of a 3-minute timer. But when I think of the endless sun-baked beaches and wind-blown dunes on seven continents and the suspended grains circulating the seven seas, the idea of a limited quantity of time becomes absurd.
Time only matters in the context of trying to accomplish something within (usually) self-imposed constraints. I can do one thing in a given amount of time, or I can do another thing, or maybe I can do several things concurrently or in sequence but I will eventually run up against a limit—not of time, but of doing. That’s because time constricts with doing. That’s the bad news. The good news is time unfolds with being—and that’s when it becomes an available resource, not a limiting one.
Diana’s tumor started to grow again in 2009 because…because it did. We weren’t particularly surprised by this development, and we weren’t in a rush to do anything about it. First we had to sit with it. To be with it. To just be.