The Tilt Towards Eternity
Normally at this time – the inexorable demise of summer – I begin to feel sad. The most verdant part of the year has peaked and we’re slowly tumbling towards whatever surges the sea or sky may have in store, plus a deep freeze or two.
New York will suffer its annual de-greening as it’s stripped of its natural garments, until the Empire State has no clothes.
As a result, our muscles and minds will constrict and contract even more beneath microfiber and goose down.
There’ve been times at this turning I’ve felt it all the more so because this slow decent corresponds far too well with my own: I’d like to hold onto whatever’s left of my summer, but I know it’s my fall.
Patients enter the office and note where we are in the cycle: “Summer’s almost over; it’s sad!” But from where I sit, I’ve seen so many summers and winters come and go that lately I feel I’m observing more of an annual swirl than a cycle of seasons. (Is time speeding up because I’m slowing down? Or because, at 64, a year = only 1/64th of my life?) I almost feel like I’m bidding my patients a Happy Valentine’s Easter of July. Enjoy your Labor High Holy Day, and a Happy ThanksChristmas to ya!
So actually, from over here, summer’s ending isn’t throwing me so much this year. I know how fast even a NYC winter will pass.
Another such way time is playing with me is when something I thought happened last week happened a month ago. And something I’m sure happened a little ways back happened way back.
I blink and suddenly I’m Rip Van Winkle waking to another world gone by. A small example is yesterday (or was that last week?) I read a piece online mentioning Rosie O’Donnell, and how her daytime show ended…back in 2002. Nah. I know I saw a promo for the show just a year or two ago. Another time my wife showed me a photo on Facebook of her niece’s kid, who’s now…five?! That can’t be him. He was just born!
I can peg whether a song is from 1966 vs. 1967, but music after that, and especially past the 70’s, is another matter. I recognize a great new Madonna song and then learn it’s not new at all. I take my eye off the road or the rear view mirror a moment, and that scene I thought I was just passing is now far out of sight.
I think that thing inside that’s observing all I see and do and all the time I move through is called my spirit. It resides in a fixed location inside me, like a camera posted on the back of the inside of my skull. It records holographic images which depict my whole life: I’m 5, 18, 64 and 84 all at once. But the man it resides in and observes — he’s a seasoned personality with an ageing body. This is one reason I hang with younger people: not just to feel younger, but because, from my spirit’s POV, I am younger. I’m young and I’m old and long gone. I’m between incarnations (almost wrote, “between incarcerations”) and busy choosing the next one as we speak.
But when the mirror shows me what time it is from my body’s perspective, I sometimes get startled into a sense of existential urgency. Exactly how many good days have I left? (Without physical pain or debilitating stresses, I mean.)
Fats Waller’s tagline pops to mind…
ONE NEVER KNOWS, DO ONE?
That’s when I attend to the tilt towards eternity. Towards the growing mound at the bottom of the hourglass. Towards having known, soon, more people who have gone than are still here. I think of my first love Debby, and of Andy and my slightly odd and remarkable psychic friend Gerri Leigh, and Irv Elias, my old neighbor on West 72nd Street, and my old comrades with whom I shared the time and the times — Abbie and Jerry and Allen and John (not to mention Albert, Tim and Terrence) and my parents, aunts and uncles and the ever-increasing number of stories only I can tell.
I was six years old when I read a children’s book about a kid who is visited by another kid from outer space somewhere, who lands right in his backyard one night. No one else would know, as they instantly swear a lifelong friendship. Soon the space traveler has to leave for home, promising he’ll return one day. But in his planet’s years, this could be so long, and will they ever see each other again?
And the kid on earth, he grows up, and old, and lives his life feeling like he never really belonged here. The knowledge that he has one true eternal friend out there brings him such solace. And he faithfully waits for his compadre to return.
Every night when the sky is clear, straight through to the end of his life, he peers up through the folds of sky, back to the mouth of the river.