We all gathered this weekend to remember Melissa. So many people asked me what I wanted Saturday to be like; and later if I was happy with how it turned out. The first question was difficult to answer, so let’s set it aside for a few moments. To the second question. Yes, I am absolutely happy how it came together. There was such an outpouring of love and family that I will be living off of it for months. This would be so much harder without the genuine sense of belonging that we all feel for each other. I do feel alone at times, we all do. But I cannot imagine feeling alone for long when I am surrounded by such friends.
Back to the first question. I did not know what I wanted for Saturday evening until about two hours in. While we were together it occurred to me that I wanted it to be like a birthday party. Which is what it felt like it turned in to as the night progressed. When I picture Jill and Chuck’s place, I picture Melissa and their dogs playing in a field. A timeless expanse with unlimited squirrels to chase and no particular place to get to.
There was a moment after we all said our remembrances when Jill and Chuck let their dogs out and all the kids went to play in the back field. Seeing ten kids and four golden retrievers chase tennis balls is something that warmed my heart. That right there. That is what I wanted for Saturday.
We were surrounded by pictures of Melissa from her earliest days on up. Looking at all those images, and hearing all the stories put me in a mood to think about the nature of time.
I am experiencing time the way a dog might. Without reference to a clock you begin to mark your time through change. The light of the day and night as your minute hand. The small rearrangements to your physical world as your hour hand. The big additions and subtractions as your calendar. Losing Mel was a change of season. Maybe not quite autumn, but possibly late summer.
I have been reading a lot about quantum physics lately. I can’t quite say why. Some people turn to God at times like this. I have not been able to do that. At least not yet. Maybe not ever. I have some serious bones to pick with God and we are not exactly on speaking terms right now. Things said and done, things we probably both have to answer for. I have no issue with people finding peace through religion, generally speaking. I am just not there for now. In place of dogma my mind has turned towards thoughts about the nature of existence and reality. To the nature of the unseen universe(s) around us.
Within this realm I have been considering general relativity and perspective. I am not a physics scholar, nor can a I claim even a rudimentary expertise. Here's what I can speak to. General relativity is the study of time and distance, or more precisely time and space. It is the interplay of location at a precise point in time, and how that location changes with time forward and back. As we either encounter objects with greater mass, or if we approach the speed of light, time stretches or compresses. From our point of view time appears to stays the same but to outside observers time will appear to slow or speed up. Time therefore becomes a matter of perspective relative to one’s frame of reference. If you are close to a blackhole you may only experience one minute whereas to me it may feel like a lifetime.
Here is where I diverge from physics and enter in to the realm of psychology. What I can claim is that the world has seemed slower to me. Simple things seem to carry more ‘gravity’ in the dramatic sense. Every event, conversation, song, and book I have read over the past five weeks feels heavy. Portents of my mortality. The center of this high gravity is the home Melissa and I built together.
It is home, it will always be home, but the closer I get to it the slower time seems to move. This can be excruciating. Especially when you realize that the outside world is moving on. By getting away from this existential black hole, even briefly, I can alleviate the pain. The clock speeds back up so to speak. It makes me realize how much I may be missing by living solely in my grief and not allowing myself to be present in each new moment as it occurs.
The more I think on this the more I realize that the passage of time has been at the forefront of all of my thoughts. This theme has been both conscious, like helping teach my nephew learn about the speed of light and sound by counting the seconds between lightning and thunder; and unconscious, like the my Hirshhorn museum visit this weekend pictured above.
A brief while back it was suggested that this is a ‘new phase’ in my life. To call something a phase in the context of time is to give it more credit than it possibly deserves. Are we talking about a phase in terms of the Mesozoic? Or are we talking about it in terms of “our little Jimmy is ‘going through a phase’ right now”? All I know is that I am hyper-aware that life is way too short to dwell on such things.
This weekend was the Perseid meteor shower. I was able to spend part of Thursday and Friday nights stargazing. By looking up at the stars you are actually looking back in time. As I was on the porch with Melissa’s family our discussions turned to how nice it was to be in one place together.
If we measure time as distance then we are all closer together than we think. Last night I witnessed people who haven't seen each other since 1985 talk as though they had lunch last week. That is how you defeat time, by ignoring it. By pretending none has passed. A few hours on an airplane is such small price to pay to defeat such a cruel taskmaster.