Being On Time

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Working on my painting “Further and Further Away from Nowhere”

I couldn’t find my grandfather’s grave. I thought I would remember from the funeral. But when I finally reached the cemetery, I was at a loss. It was bigger than I remembered. I should have realized that in grief, I would not note which pathways led where and which stone would mark where my grandparents remained.

I asked Stan to drive up and down the lanes that criss-crossed the graveyard. Maybe we’d see it from the car — or suddenly I would remember. Stan pointed out large markers that read “Peyton.” No, we’re looking for something smaller, I said. There’s something about reading your name on a headstone . . .

I finally gave in and stopped by the small office in the back of the cemetery. A man walked up and said he might be able to help me. How long ago did he pass? he asked me. I said, about a year ago actually. I hadn’t realized that much time had gone by. About a year, actually.

Lately, I have been fixated on how quickly the years pass. The holidays do this to me — I think about where I was last Halloween, last Thanksgiving, last Christmas, last New Year, last birthday. It scares me that all of those days simultaneously feel like yesterday and like a gulf of change separates them from me.

When I was at the Art Farm, the days lingered. I felt like I accomplished so much in 24 hours. I wrote my morning journal, I worked on the farm for four hours a day, I wrote an article for the newspaper, I painted until evening. We had communal meals, every meal. We had happy hours. We had evenings candlelit and full of laughter. We had time to make it to the lake for a swim, and I had time to fit in my run as well.

Now, back in reality, I feel like I’m lucky to fit in two or three things a day. Like a run and work feels good — and I’m fortunate if I still have time to paint. Why did time speed up so much? Why are my hours so fleeting now? How do I slow them down?

“We swim in time; it is the medium of our living,” Peter London writes in “No More Secondhand Art.” “Duration alone creates heroes and cowards, victory and defeat.”

Having more time to do what I actually want to do seems like the ultimate luxury — and it is, also, in fact my immediate goal. Instead of feeling like I don’t have time to draw, or that I can only squeeze in an hour to paint, I want to live a life around art.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” Annie Dillard said.

 

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