Sunday, February 27, 2011

Einstein's Dreams/The center of time

There is a place where time stands still. Raindrops hang motionless in air. Pendulums of clocks float mid-swing. Dogs raise their muzzles in silent howls. Pedestrians are frozen on the dusty streets, their legs cocked as if held by strings. The aromas of dates, mangoes, coriander, cumin are suspended in space.
As a traveler approaches this place from any direction, he moves more and more slowly. His heartbeats grow farther apart, his breathing slackens, his temperature drops, his thoughts diminish, until he reaches dead center and stops. For this is the center of time. From this place, time travels outward in concentric circles–at rest at the center, slowly picking up speed at greater diameters.
Who would make pilgrimage to the center of time? Parents with children, and lovers.
And so, at the place where time stands still, one sees parents clutching their children, in a frozen embrace that will never let go. The beautiful young daughter with blue eyes and blond hair will never stop smiling the smile she smiles now, will never lose this soft pink glow on her cheeks, will never grow wrinkled or tired, will never get injured, will never unlearn what her parents have taught her, will never think thoughts that her parents don’t know, will never know evil, will never tell her parents that she does not love them, will never leave her room with the view of the ocean, will never stop touching her parents as she does now.
And at the place where time stands still, one sees lovers kissing in the shadows of buildings, in a frozen embrace that will never let go. The loved one will never take his arms from where they are now, will never give back the bracelet of memories, will never journey far from his lover, will never place himself in danger of self-sacrifice, will never fail to show his love, will never become jealous, will never fall in love with someone else, will never lose the passion of this instant in time.
One must consider that these statues are illuminated by only the most feeble red light, for light is diminished almost to nothing at the center of time, its vibrations slowed to echoes in vast canyons, its intensity reduced to the faint glow of fireflies.
Those not quite at dead center do indeed move, but at the pace of glaciers. A brush of the hair might take a year, a kiss might take a thousand. While a smile is returned, seasons pass in the outer world. While a child is hugged, bridges rise. While a goodbye is said, cities crumble and are forgotten.
And those who return to the outer world…Children grow rapidly, forget the centuries-long embrace from their parents, which to them lasted but seconds. Children become adults, live far from their parents, live in their own houses, learn ways of their own, suffer pain, grow old. Children curse their parents for trying to hold them forever, curse time for their own wrinkled skin and hoarse voices. These now old children also want to stop time, but at another time. They want to freeze their own children at the center of time.
Lover who return find their friends are long gone. After all, lifetimes have passed. They move in a world they do not recognize. Lovers who return still embrace in the shadow of buildings, but now their embraces seem empty and alone. Soon they forget centuries-long promises, which to them lasted only seconds. They become jealous even among strangers, say hateful things to each other, lose passion, drift apart, grow old and alone in a world they do not know.
Some say it is best not to go near the center of time. Life is a vessel of sadness, but it is noble to live life, and without time there is no life. Others disagree. They would rather have an eternity of contentment, even if that eternity were fixed and frozen, like a butterfly mounted in a case.

Alan Lightman
Einstein's Dreams (The center of time.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


When I was a little girl my mom told me that using body cream was very important. I don't remember how old I was; I must have been six or seven. I have a clear memory of watching her slather it on her legs, then hold the open jar in front of me so that I would do the same. Putting on cream is something I do every day right after I get out of the shower. All these years I've never questioned if I need to do it or if my skin is dry. It's automatic, like brushing my teeth or pulling the sheets up over my ears.

It was my father who taught me the importance of drying my feet thoroughly and running the corner of the bath towel back and forth between my toes after every shower. I remember him declaring, in that inarguable way of his, that water between my toes was bad for me. (He explained it could cause the skin to split, which to this day makes me wince). When I get out of the shower, I indeed take the corner of the towel and run it back and forth between each toe (somewhat obsessively - I wonder where that came from?), even when I'm in a mad hurry. I can guarantee it: no residue of humidity on my feet, ever.

It's odd, the bits of programming our parents leave in us. 

It occurred to me recently that these two rituals ensure I start each day with the omnipresence of the two people who love me most in the world.

A gift of deep caring, all wrapped and handed to me every morning before I even make it out of my house, and I only just realized it. 

And you wonder why I'm grateful.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I will always take care of you I will never this is forever this is constant under control I am alone nobody would understand this is unequivocal absolute unsolvable unforgivable that is impossible this is a principle a cornerstone The Truth my Truth there are two sides to every story (two sides couldn’t quite cover any story)

I prefer now I prefer you a room with a view (not just any view) a walk in the rain (which was a cliché until you were holding the umbrella) help taking my boots off at the end of that long walk

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The luckiest person in the world

I am not afraid to say that I believe I am one of the luckiest people in the world.

Well, OK. I am afraid.

In fact, the concept kind of freaks me out.

The thoughts that race through my head are: Why me? Whatever did I do to deserve such a huge amount of blissful blessings? And, perhaps more importantly, when is the other shoe going to drop, in the manifestation of some calamity? Will my luck run out? Will my fortune change course? (For a while there I believed it had. I don’t wish hopelessness on anyone.)

I've decided that I have a choice. I can torture myself with the thoughts in the paragraph above. Take in my luck and react to it with panic, with a sense that I might lose everything I have at any moment (which is always possible). And in doing so, successfully jeopardize the delight derived in what is bestowed on me.

But, wouldn’t this be the clear opposite of gratitude? In other words, wouldn’t this diminish me, make me an ungrateful person?

Or, (gasp) I can assume that there is a reason I have what I do, and that someone somewhere determined that I deserve it. (To whom it may concern: thank you.)

That I believe every being on the planet deserves abundance and good fortune, so why should I be the exception?

So today (and every day) I make the decision to not allow myself to be stressed by what life gives me. Instead, I will let this enormous feeling of gratitude that I carry with me wash over me, in a ritual at least as frequent as my twice-daily shower.

And relish every gift that comes my way, and honor the bestower by doing so with a thankful, awed, open heart.