if we could hold time in our hands

We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake.

~ Francis Bacon

baconstarsOnce in a supermarket checkout line I was asked by the bagging clerk, If you could have any superpower, what would it be?  Flummoxed by the question, he offered me some choices his previous customers had mentioned.  Would I want bionic vision and the power to see through anything?  I looked around at the grocery carts in line behind me and decided I was grateful for clothes and walls thank you very much.  Would I prefer invisibility then?  The power to walk about or slip secretly into any room unnoticed?  Again, not interested.  I mean, I love to eavesdrop as much as the next guy and would certainly entertain the thought of being able to trail behind my girls during their high school years, knowing that they knew I could be right there, Invisible Mom, following them at all times at any given moment, but something about that power is fundamentally creepy to me.  And besides, what would I do without mystery in my life?  So what superpower would I want?  And this is when I said something that surprised him because he hadn’t heard it before.  I said, I would want to step outside time.  Not to stop it, but to just move aside.  Maybe find a park bench under a leafy tree and just put my feet up, sipping a latté and reading a book.  Smiling.

Now I don’t mean I want to sit back and watch life go by or anything like that.  It’s not that sort of thing.  It’s not that I want time to stop so my children will never grow up or I will never grow old.  I don’t want to go back to a simpler time either nor do I want to fast forward to some better time.  It’s nothing like that at all.  Here’s the deal as best as I can explain it.

I have never worn a watch, except maybe if you count that one Timex glow in the dark waterproof watch my dad bought for me at Thrifty’s Drugstore when I first learned how to tell time and that I really just wore so I could put on my goggles and watch its second hand circle around as I counted how long I could hold my breath underwater.  It had a velcro strap that eventually gave me some kind of skin rot rash and then that was it for me.  No more watches.  Many years later when someone asked me why I never wore a watch, all I could think to say was, I guess I’m philosophically opposed to them.  The thought of strapping time to my body makes me anxious.  The idea that these shackles are even remotely fashionable let alone high-end luxury items, astounds me, too.  As my closest companions will be quick to tell you, time is just something I don’t keep well.  It’s not that I don’t respect it.  It’s not that I don’t respect the way others respect it (and organize their lives around it, said with absolutely no judgment whatsover).  It’s just I resent it is all.  I resent the way it makes us feel: panicked, rushed, impatient, sentimental, old.  Maybe its the romantic in me, but I want this superpower, to live timelessly like trees or stars.

And yet isn’t it always this time of year when the calendar pages fly by, when the countdowns begin and like leaves dropping from trees the clock on the wall tick tick ticks.  Yes, right on schedule, right about now I’m starting to get a little grumpy with time.  I start to get short with her for barging in like this, and I want to call her nasty names in front of my children but settle for single letters instead.  F U, B!  See that park bench over there?  Do you?  Well, I’m going to go grab my books and a blanket.  See you in February, sister!  But time, she holds my coat and snickers, hear those sleigh bells jingling?  Ring ting tingling?  Damn her!

And so it goes, every November.  Whether I’m wearing a watch or not no longer matters.  I’m tangled up — despite my denial and protest — in the race against time — in the maddening holiday rush against the ticking clock.  And I wonder each year how can I possibly step outside of it?  How can I just move aside?  Because you and I both know I’ve already got two rolls of adorable “sheet music” wrapping paper in my trunk and am already hunting down the perfect velvet red ribbon to go with it, not to mention some complimentary red paper to make that perfect splash of color under my as of yet purchased but certain to be ten foot tall tree I complain about never having time to decorate.  And the catalogs are pouring in.  I’m picking out gifts and creasing pages and panicking because I know that as each second ticks by, one more item in the size and color I want is getting loaded onto a truck bound for someone else’s house which means I’ll have to go to the mall and then there’s the traffic and . . . .  Is it possible to truly enjoy this time of year?  I mean, can one actually have a happy holiday when there’s this little drummer boy reminding you to bake, shop, wrap, write, repeat?

One of the ways I try to maintain my philosophical opposition to time is to spend it as joyfully as I can.  I try to read a beautiful book like Marilynne Robinson’s Lila.  More candles come out around the house.  If I’m in the kitchen baking treats for my friends, there’s music and dancing.  If I’ve got to go out and face the shopping mall, there’s got to be a stop for pastries and a latté somewhere where they’ll trace a heart in the froth.  I smile at the clerks and get out of the way of that lady rushing ahead of me.  Spend a day in San Francisco, wandering through the de Young or walking in the park before taking the long way home down Highway 1 at sunset.  Sure, I notice everyone looking at their watches, wondering where I’ve found the time.  It’s not that I ever lost her.  No.  It’s not like that at all.  I’ve simply stepped aside.

Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.
~ Jorge Luis Borges

I’m curious to know . . . how do you make time for JOY during the holidays?


Creativity occurs in the moment, and in the moment we are timeless.
~ Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.
~ Eckhart Tolle

Clocks slay time . . . time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.
~ William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.
~ Brian Andreas

Another glorious day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.
~ John Muir


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holding hands


Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve been traveling.  By car.  Many miles of open road and wide sky.  And of all the images flooding my mind as I try to conjure up stories to tell, I keep coming back to this man I met on a passenger train between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.  Not that kind of man, silly.  I know it’s summer, but perhaps you’ve been reading too many romance novels — or not enough.  This particular man could have been my father and he was traveling with a fidgety middle-aged man bearing the distinct characteristics of Down’s Syndrome.  I had taken an open seat a few rows ahead of them and when I initially glanced down the center aisle of the train I couldn’t help noticing the Down’s man tossing his head back and breaking open in laughter with the man beside him and another man in a well-worn cowboy hat who sat facing him across from a table.  Sometimes a story presents itself in unexpected ways.

My traveling companions had selected the four seats opposite this motley posse, and with a sigh of relief my brother and I took our seats a few rows away from our children.  As luck would have it, just as my little nephew began to make mischief the two aisle seats across from them became available and my brother was suddenly sitting next to the Down’s man.  I’d like to say I remained where I was because I fancy myself a practical person who makes moves only when absolutely necessary, but we all know that’s not true.  The truth is I didn’t want to find myself in such intimate space, on a train, facing a middle-aged man with Down’s Syndrome with only a flimsy formica tray table between us.  What an awkward situation to find myself in.  The insincere effort to not look away.  The patronizing conversation I’d force upon all of us.  Then the silence sure to follow.  Then the looking away.  I’ll just stay put and make it easy on all of us thank you.

My brother motioned me over soon enough, though, and I quickly surmised it would be more awkward to remain rooted where I was than to take that empty seat with my family.  And so it was that I found myself on a train sitting next to this man wrinkled by time and the desert sun no dusty cowboy hat could shade him from and across from his giggly companion.

I have been told that God’s grace takes us by surprise when we’re least expecting it, but when you listen to people talk about their encounters with the divine, their stories always seem to involve emergency vehicles, hospital rooms or sensations of light.  They’re swept up by a swoosh of wind, a clash of thunder, or a dramatic hush after hours of moaning misery.  They feel God’s presence in a community’s outpouring of support in times of tragedy — in candles, casseroles, a comforting hug through tears.  If you’re waiting for those big moments, though, I think you’re missing so much.

I took my seat and the man next to me gradually began a conversation typical while traveling.  Most people have some connection to where I’m from, and he was no different.  We talked about my recent sprint through the Mojave Desert, where he had lived once when his son — the Down’s man sitting across from me — was born at a Kaiser Hospital.  They were so advanced back then, that Kaiser there in California.  Look at him . . . most doctors told us he would never live this long.  Tell them how old you are.  The Down’s man turned to look at us quickly and said he was 45, the same age as my adopted brother and me, each of us born the same year, 1969, in different parts of California.  While we agreed there wasn’t much else out there in the Mojave but tumbling weeds, abandoned single-wide trailers and State prisons, his son returned his gaze toward the window and resumed his fidgeted smiling in his seat.  But at one moment during his conversation with me, the man took his son’s pale hand in his and held it gently, patting him softly with his other hand.  Their fingers seemed worn smooth with familiarity and they playfully intertwined as the man continued in his quiet way to tell me about visiting his brother one time in the prison I had passed just outside Bakersfield.  It was a seamless gesture of affection, but I noticed it, and I can’t seem to get the image out of my mind.  The way his son rested peacefully with his touch.  The love between this elderly father and his adult son traveling together on a train to spend the day in Santa Fe.


Miss Morstan and I stood together, and her hand was in mine. A wondrous subtle thing is love, for here were we two, who had never seen each other until that day, between whom no word or even look of affection had ever passed, and yet now in an hour of trouble our hands instinctively sought for each other. I have marveled at it since, but at the time it seemed the most natural thing that I would go out to her so, and, as she has often told me, there was in her also the instinct to turn to me for comfort and protection. So we stood hand in hand like two children, and there was peace in our hearts for all the dark things that surrounded us.

~ Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Stories

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the secret

On a recent morning’s wandering I trawled through the Netflix documentary offerings and stumbled across a title so captivating I dropped my bowl full of candy and my jaw along with it.  It was called The Secret, and as I pondered the title and corresponding graphic on the television screen before me, I caught this tagline like a ten-pound trout in a mountain lake:  The Secret has traveled through centuries . . . to reach you.  

Ooohh, what could that be? I thought and immediately clicked the remote.  The 2006 Australian film promised to reveal “The Secret” that utterly transformed the lives of every person who ever knew it . . . Plato, Newton, Carnegie, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Einstein.  This secret wisdom, the film storyline told me, has been passed down throughout the ages, traveling through centuries.  It’s the secret to obtaining everything you desire– the secret to unlimited joy, health, money, relationships, love, youth: everything you have ever wanted.  All the resources you will ever need to understand and live “The Secret” divulged in ninety minutes right there in your own living room.  Not since I read The Da Vinci Code several years ago had I been handed such an exclusive invitation into the mysteries of the universe.  Well, forget that bowl of candy and tell me already!  What could it be!!??

Ten minutes into the film “The Secret” was revealed and I was so thankful not to have to sit through the “world’s leading” scientists, psychologists and metaphysicians any longer because as it turned out, I knew this secret all along!  Let me save you those ten minutes, too, with the big reveal here at Two or Three Little Birds:  It seems “The Secret” is The Law of Attraction, or to unpack if for you in more familiar terms, The Power of Positive Thinking.  Of Hope.  Of Faith.  Of Patience and Endurance.  Of dreaming and drawing into your life what you desire, whatever that is.  You see, The Law of Attraction as described in this documentary, “The BIG Secret,” is really just imagining the life you want to live and possessing a positive attitude, along with measures of hope and faith and perseverance and patience that what you most desire will come to you.  Your ideas — your dreams and ambitions — live within you like a powerful magnet.  The key to living out this secret is to never cease imagining their reality — no matter how long it may take.  Be patient.  Hope.  Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.


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