Time cannot be perceived. It must be reconstructed by the brain. So, the perception of time is subjective and variable. There are some psychologists who believe that you can describe personalities by the way time is perceived.
In a faraway time, I traveled with my mother, father and sister to Europe. I was 8 years old. The plane ride took forever but, eventually, we did land—in Oslo, a magical city where colors were brighter, buildings had sharper corners, cars were square and the sun gave off light that bent at odd angles. From Oslo, we traveled north by boat. I felt feverish as we glided past massive mountains that jutted into the sky and held fishing villages at their green bases. Fifty miles within the Aortic Circle, we arrived at my father’s childhood home.
I couldn’t communicate with my grandparents who spoke only Norwegian. My ability with the language was childhood basic. My father preferred to speak in Norwegian although most of my other relatives spoke English. I was jettisoned into a “children are seen but not heard” mode which suited me fine. I was left free to take in all that was around me with no distractions.
My father had timed our arrival to coincide with the first day of summer and so we all trooped out at midnight to view the Midnight Sun. The light was eerie—like mesh filtered it and I looked directly at the sun which was preposterously high in the sky. It, too, was covered in a soft haze that made it viewable without pain. The mountains were lit in a gun metal gray and the fjord was a yellow and blue fluid. More magic.
The first full day of Spring is gloomy. The sky has been the color of dirty snow all day and the snow flurries of this morning have turned to a steady snow fall. This morning, walking Thor at the usual 6:00AM hour in a very murky dawn, I heard lots of birds whistling, singing, calling. Just a few days ago the sound of one lone bird at that hour was cause for happiness and great anticipation of the soon to arrive Spring. Now, like a tsunami gathering strength, the season is changing. There still may be freezing temperatures and snow flurries but green stalks are appearing in the flower beds, crocuses have already bloomed, winter is over.
My birthday, at the very beginning of March, heralds the Spring. I can feel the change in weather those last few days of winter. First, there is daylight peaking through the dark eastern sky. That first, brave bird sings. The wind smells like damp soil ready to be tilled. Now that I have only about a quarter of my life left, I have a melancholy feeling that arrives with Spring. The change of seasons, once so delightful, is relentless, cruelly hurrying on and on. I find that this snowy day is welcome in a way. Winter has not completely gone.
At 3:00AM on Sunday I woke up to a wall of darkness—to a flat world of gray flannel with pockets of dim light, illusory light that, like liquid, moved around on the surface. I thought of diving into the surf and opening my eyes under water to a curtain of blue green filtered light. I thought of sharks. Do they sleep? I thought of whales and blubber and krill.
Hours have gone by and it is still dark when I hear a bird whistle and whistle again. Then nothing. I strain my ears concentrating but all I hear is a whispering swoosh so constant it must be the sound of the earth spinning in space.
I conjure up a one dimensional rose like wallpaper on the back of my mind. Such a disappointment, I was hoping for some beauty.
Finally, when I open my eyes, there is a faint hint of yellow on the eastern horizon.
I am starting a new blog–The Sunset Chronicles–next week. The new blog will be dedicated to essays–both written and photographic, opinions and memories. This blog will be reserved for poems and short, short stories. Here is a one poem.
One spark from a far-away fire,
unleashed from its bond by heated
reaction, escaped the smoldering log
and soared with heft and determination
into the updraft. Caught by a breeze
it flew—a red hot comet with smoking
tail—landing in a golden clump
of withered grass—the perfect carcass
to combust and fuel a flame that crept
along the field gathering strength and speed
from all that once grew, until, to live,
it had to leap into the forest and consume
the trees. One spark at the right moment.
I have the urge to record. Not just a written record but a photographic one too. I want to write about experiences, memories, feelings, people, culture–and I could keep going. I want to photographic the world’s beauty and its seamy side, tender moments caught in a flash and horrific senseless sights that make us want to turn away.
So, I opened The New York Times Magazine of 3-3-2013 with excitement. Here was the “Voyages” issue, a special issue of travel and culture. The cover featured a picture of Brazil by Massimo Vitali. Inside were more of his works. Here was someone I could learn from! I kept turning pages hungry for more and then it hit me. “God’s Light Show–The Magical Realism of Norwegian Nights.” The above photo is taken from the article.
When I was eight years old, I traveled with my father, mother and sister to my father’s childhood home fifty miles within the Arctic Circle in Norway. The timing of the visit was meant to coincide with the first day of summer–the longest day of the year–which in Norway is about twenty-four hours. I was still trying to make sense of the wild terrain so different from the environs of New York City where we lived when my mother woke my sister and me up and took us outside to witness the midnight sun. There was nothing to say. The sight was magical. I was living a dream. It was at that moment (I am sure of it) that I realized what amazing things this world had to offer. From then on, there was no contentment in the status quo for me. I had to experience as much as possible.
Of course, at eight years old, the time to do this was infinite or so it seemed. Not so now. Now I must make up for the lost time spent being a productive (typical) member of society–working, raising a family, taking two week vacations all of which were worthwhile. But, now its time to explore.
Time is such a basic element of the human condition. We are ruled by it before all other governments. And, the day is such a basic unit of time—the measurement of the earth’s orbit around the sun and its spinning around itself.
I am out at 6:00AM this mid-February morning as per usual walking the dog. It is winter’s last frigid stand, I think. The air temperature is 17 degrees but the wind gusts make it seem like 1 degree above zero. I am dressed for the cold; still, I can feel it seeping through my sheepskin boots and cashmere hat. It is usually quiet at this hour. Today I hear birds singing clear and loud through the dry air. I notice there is more daylight than I have seen in months. Yes, the day is growing longer. Spring is on the way. I can smell it, earthy through the crispness. My pulse quickens and I can’t help but smile. Rebirth.
Yet, I must admit that I do love the winter mornings, when I am out walking as the sun rises. The delicate light creeps into the eastern sky and bursts into pink and purple swaths that grow brighter until the yellow rays rise to take over the sky. Those fragile first moments of the day are so promising, so new. I do believe of all the day’s hours, I love dawn the most. It signals another beginning and I am grateful for that.
Of course, dusk is splendid, also. When the time of light is limited, we can look to the sky for the display of deep reds and oranges that fade as the light dims and darkness takes over. Sometimes, I think the sunset is bearable because the sunrise will follow.