Time is a mystery: at least, shall I say, how I experience time can, to my unpredicting (even if by now familiarised) amazement, vary from the slurring of a murky runnel or the snaking of a languid stream, to the bubbling of a busy brook and the racing of a riotous torrent. Imagine kayaking on all of these waters (frustrated or contented or excited or exhilerated): around each bend of landscape you can never quite predict the width or depth or speed of the water. Isn't that how time plays with us in real life?
It feels like a long lonnnnnnng time since the beginning of June, when I became aware that I had a choice: to be simply sad about the imminent expulsion from this wonderful, temporarily adopted homeland (that would have been a glass half empty), or to make sure I practiced being glad about all the months we have loved living here while reluctantly acknowledging the need to take leave (my glass half full). Or – and this has been my practice, day in day out - to relish every single day that I had left, every moment possible, knowing that for the last 619 days of our life I have been given a richer life than I ever predicted, and that most people who would love to live in New York or in any new place never get 4 weeks, 3 weeks, 2 weeks … (you get the picture): to which I have to say my cup runneth over!!! (sorry about the lisp, the quote just felt better in the KJV translation).
But since sometime in the middle of last week the pace of it all has increased so fast that I can’t tell you where the last 7 days have gone: it feels like I have barely breathed in a week and already tomorrow the packers are coming to take all our things away … and I have been busy busy busy. There is no stopping this homeward flow now! In fact, if I am sitting in that kayak, this stretch of river is a tidal bore propelling me forward: strong, awesome, exultant.
Busy meeting friends for a last coffee, lunch, chat, hug, tear, laugh, mutual appreciation moment; a last ‘I love you’.
Busy tying up responsibilities with pastoral work, handing over administrative responsibilities to colleagues or other volunteers, ending my own spiritual direction or therapy sessions, closing medical records with a last blood test or last visit to the Orthopaedist, the last Alexander lesson.
Busy relishing the last saunter round Central Park, or the last sight of that pig in the park, or the last city thunderstorm clattering hot rain onto our rooflights. The last morning meditation group, last church visit, last opportunity to offer personal prayer at the end of the service. Busy with last chances too, things off the bucket list: taking the Roosevelt island aerial tramway, a round-Manhattan ferry trip, playing the oboe in Mass at Epiphany, visiting the UN Dag Hammarskjold meditation room, being a life model at the art school (yes! Really!!).
All these things and many more, everything that I have loved about Manhattan and will miss. Will miss so much.
So much that I have loved and must now let go of.
Doesn’t it feel like time expands and contracts around our experiences? My watch tells me that time is a rigidly measured and inflexible entity. But I experience time variously as a laughing and loving open space or a practically-stuck-on-the-mudflat. An easy companion or tricksy whimster. (Is that a good word? I just made it up.)
I don't much like the perception of time past as a line receding behind me into the murky depths of what once was. If trees can carry the marks of the passage of time as ever-expanding rings inside its body, why can't I?
There will be time ahead to reflect and write, I am sure, and I want to make sure I remember and relish every drop of sap-joy that has been released in and around me in this time away.
Whatever else might be said, I have actually learned to trust that my times are in safe hands, and that is a good place to let them rest. Especially as I go to bed tonight; end of a long day.