Sunday, July 16, 2006

Telescoping Time

It was partly that we'd done so much in such a short amount of time, and it was partly jet-lag. Time seemed like a telescope. Somtimes I was looking through the end that magnified. The here-and-now seemed like all there was; I was concentrating on the moment at hand, and the future and past were out of view. At other times I was looking though the end that makes everything look smaller. I still had little concept of the passing of time, but the past, present and future all merged into the same image.

First we'd traveled to Armenia --- a twelve hour time change, and a different culture. Since the Armenian language has its own alphabet, I was also denied the kind of orientation one gets by reading. Then we celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary with week and a half in Norway with the kids and grandkids. It was an physically demanding time with hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, archery, horse-back riding and other camp activities. Plus, constant interaction with four bright and active boys, aged 5--8. Never a dull moment! The other disorienting factor was the long period of daylight. It was light until 11:00 pm, and light again a few hours later, with only a brief period of twilight to mark the night.

By the time we got to our flat in Oxford, I was ready to vegetate for awhile. I had the luxury of being by myself for three days. For the first 24 hours, I slept till I awoke, did routine tasks, like laundry for two or three hours, then slept again. (The positive aspect of routine, domestic chores, usually performed by women.) By the time we left for home, I'd caught up on sleep, and adjusting to another time change of only eight hours, didn't seem so difficult. Now time seems to pass in a normal way.

I think as we age, time seems to pass more quickly, possibly because we're less acutely aware of daily events, or remember them less easily. With gaps in memory, time is telescoped. Elderly people with severe memory loss must feel almost completely outside of time, even to the extent of not knowing whether it's night or day, even with the dirunal cycle of light and darkness.

When my oldest grandson was a small boy, he used the word "soon" in a strange way. His mother asked him to tell her what the word, "soon" meant. He replied, "It means a long, long time." It was what his parents told him when he asked how long until some anticipated activity. Even though time can be viewed through either end of the telescope, fortunately we all have exactly the same amount.


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