It’s the end of July and a surprisingly sunny day for the Northwest. A light breeze carries the sweet smells of summer, a hint of salt in the air from the Sound. I went for my usual morning walk, which takes me past a retirement home, but not one of those institutional looking ones. This one was an old house with a wrap-around porch… something you might see in the Southeast.
A few elderly people were sitting on the porch rocking in their chairs, taking it slow. At least that’s what one might think watching them as they swayed forward and backward, seemingly staring into space, removed from the headlines, the hammering news of the world. Maybe they’re not taking it slow. Maybe it just seems that way to us because to them they’re going so fast.
Last week I turned to my partner and said, “Saturday night, already? Wow, the days are sure flying by!”
He turned to me and replied, “That’s three Saturday’s in a row you’ve said the same thing!”
It made me wonder. Each Saturday was arriving more quickly than the last. In fact, I could swear it was Saturday just a few days before. If this keeps up, tomorrow will be Sunday, the next day will be Monday, and the day after that will be Saturday… again! It’s as if there’s some strange mathematical formula for the passage of time… maybe an algorithm yet to be discovered?
As one gets older, time does not pass at an arithmetic progression, but at a geometric one. Perhaps this acceleration prompts the elderly to seek out places to retire that are peaceful and quiet thinking they can slow time down and focus more easily on the details of life: the breeze that brushes the skin of the cheek, the buzzing of a fly, the wisp of a cloud high above, and the sun that squints the eye.
Do you remember when you first experienced ego-death on an acid trip? When you surrendered to all that your mind was conjuring and simply gave up trying to maintain, trying to stop yourself from thinking? And then, when finally you stopped all thought, there was no mind. No thought, no mind. No mind, never matter. In an instant, you were reborn and everything was for the first time. You were part of everything. You were everything! And everything was beautiful.
Time stopped. The Eternal Now. Suspended animation. You could trace the locus of points your hand made as you reached for a pillow or twirled in a dance. The music struck your ears with patterns and colors. The colors became smells you could touch. You’d reached synesthesia where the senses trade places. The auras of good friends preceded them by a foot, and you could feel them before they reached out to touch you. And when you reached out to touch them, the feeling of love was overwhelming. And when you made love it was at an atomic and galactic level all at the same time. Everything and everyone was excruciatingly beautiful. The Now was the place to be.
Then you started to come down… that nice slow ride down. Thoughts re-emerged. The Mind returned. You noticed a clock. Nine hours had gone by. You said in astonishment, “It was nine hours ago since we dropped that acid?” Time returned. Slowly, things began to matter. That was the worst part. You were back in the world of Matter… of sheltering, clothing and feeding yourself and those dependent on you.
You were lucky enough to have a job. Time to get ready for the workweek ahead. There’s so much to do… so much you wanted to do and couldn’t. You had to prioritize. You’re not a kid anymore. You’re an adult. You got married. You had children. They had children. You’ve gone from acidhead to adult to parent to grandparent. That was fast! We’d better leave it there for the time being!
I know the clock ticks at the same rate. Yet it seems that I celebrated New Year’s just a few months ago. It’s the end of July, and I will be celebrating New Year’s again before I know it. So when I see an elderly person rocking in a chair on the porch, I think “They haven’t slowed down. They just know their Time is going faster than the clock’s. The world swirls around them at a dizzying pace. But they choose to focus on the breeze brushing their cheek and the buzzing fly and the smells of summer.
The old man rocking in his chair, tips an imaginary hat to me and says, “A lovely day to you.”
His words strike my ears with bursts of yellow. As the passerby, I look at him and attribute all kinds of thoughts he might be having… about the past… about what future may be left. I think how nice he’s been able to slow down. For all I know, he is merely rocking to a different clock than the one hanging on the wall. He is having his own kind of acid trip, his own kind of suspended animation. His mind is filled with galaxies. He is experiencing both inner and outer space simultaneously. Soon, Time, for him, will stop altogether. It will be of no Matter.
I returned his greeting and tipped my imaginary hat in return. I said, “Good morning… how’s life today?”
He motioned for me to come closer. He started to sing a song. I listened attentively to make out the words of his gravelly, off-key voice.“I see the light Shining before me, Shining so brightly, Guiding me home. And I feel the love Rising inside of me, While all around me, The world slips away.”
We just looked at each other for a minute or two. He gently smiled and closed his eyes. The smile broke into a chuckle. The chuckle became a soft laugh. He laughed for so long, I thought he had gone somewhere else and forgot I was there.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
He opened his eyes and looked surprised to see me standing there. He gently shooed me away with his hand and said with a smile on his face, “You’ll find out soon enough.”
As I walked away, all I could hear was the creaking of the rockers and the humming of a folksy strain. The sidewalk passed effortlessly under my feet. I felt a breeze brushing my cheek, heard the buzzing of a fly, and smelled the heady aromas of a seaside summer.
The Unapologetic Hippie(Want to leave a comment? Click “Reply” at the top of the article!)