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Friday, November 25, 2022

Time: The Environment of Life -- Change: The Only Constant

Time looms large over our lives!


It’s a generational divide, that between the digital generation and “those of us who were brought up among clocks with old fashioned dials,” writes Nancy Willard, in an essay entitled (from a poem by e.e. cummings) “When By Now and Tree By Leaf.” She goes on: 


For us, time is space. An hour is as round and friendly as the full moon, which often peeps through a tiny window on the dials of grandfather clocks. A quarter of an hour is a quarter of a pie, wherein the minutes nestle as closely knit as cells in a comb, and if they are joyful, every cell is filled with honey, and if they are dull, they stand empty and flavorless as wax. To the digital generation, I suppose time is linear. The minutes fall away, never to be heard from again. There is no record of the past and no promise of the future, only the swiftly vanishing present. 


-      From her collection Telling Time: Angels, Ancestors and Stories (Essays on Writing)


Two pages later, Willard tells of her childhood living room, with three electric appliances – toaster, radio, clock -- and only one electric outlet. (I pause, bemused, at the idea of a toaster in the living room.) “You could have news or you could have time or you could have toast,” she tells us, but not all at once, and then she recounts how a gift of homemade elderberry jam from a neighbor had the family choosing toast over news and time until their bread supply ran out, whereupon they started out for town, ostensibly to buy bread, but with bread really only the excuse for a day-long adventure --  over a lake, across a pasture, along the highway until sidewalks were reached. Time (without the electric clock plugged in) was expansive and stretched to make room for ice cream and for browsing dime store toy counters. It was, she says (time, that is), “not so much measured as observed.” Those six words seem worth lingering over. Maybe you want to look away from your screen for a while now, get up and walk to the door, look out at the world and see what there is to see, even go for a walk….


…Since childhood I have been obsessed with time, and that all-consuming subject for thought and reflection has only grown as my decades have accumulated. I am fascinated by material traces of the past that survive into my own present, whether back in historically youthful Michigan or here in the arid and older SouthwestHere in Dos Cabezas, Arizona, crumbling adobe and rusted metal attest to the passing of time. The mountains, by contrast, feel permanent. And yet, we know even they are not, that violent, prehistoric earth forces brought them into being, and that there is no reason whatsoever to believe them eternal. As my high school earth science teacher told us on the first day of class, the only constant in the universe is change. 

The Artist, my love, at Chiricahua National Monument


Ah, but when iconic placeholders in our personal landscapes are swept away by sudden change, something of our own, oh-so-brief individual life history erased, the shock is akin to a death in the family. In fact, it adds to the losses death has already visited upon us, because now we can no longer take our leisure in a place that feels so much like home that we still feel the presence of departed friends and loved ones there. After Leland’s Bluebird is razed to the ground, sometime soon, a new Bird will arise, phoenix-like, the old name (along with the family owners) providing some kind of continuity, but the old bar, the old tables, everything familiar where so many now gone once gathered will also be gone, as are they, the atmosphere of past years forever banished. When this news was followed by an announcement that Fischer’s Happy Hour Tavern will close permanently at the end of the current year, my northern Michigan neighborhood reeled in disbelief. Far from home, I felt the tremors as if on-site. How could it be true?  

We were always happy there.

"Someone left the cake out in the rain...."

What, I wondered, would a Cochise County, Arizona, equivalent be? In Railroad Park I saw, with a shock, that the old, giant Arizona ash tree had died and been felled, and where once it offered shade, now it lies on the ground and serves as playground equipment. -- A friend questioned the safety of the arrangement, but after all, local toddlers ride horseback almost before they are old enough to talk….

How it was, only last year --


How it is now.

It is time, however, to change my tune, or at least to modulate into another, brighter key, because not all change involves loss. Whatever did we do in Northport before the advent of the New Bohemian Café? 

Back in northern Michigan, New Bo welcomes.

Saxon House, home of Source of Coffee in Willcox, AZ

And how did the Artist and I get along in Willcox until Source of Coffee opened two years ago in the beautiful old historic bungalow, Saxon House, on Haskell Avenue? I was at the coffee house the other day and saw the tribute to my love in his old, favorite corner, but although I took time to photograph his hat, the sight affected me too much just then to linger, and only on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (the day Source of Coffee was celebrating its second anniversary, by the way) did I look more closely and see that there was more to the tribute than the hat. A photomontage of the Artist at work was overlaid with a quotation from him, and in front of that and his hat was a statement by the custom hatmakers who had done so much to memorialize him, without ever having made his acquaintance. 

A young woman at a nearby table, working on her laptop, looked up as I moved away from the display, so I said, to explain photographing the corner, “That was my husband.” She, it turned out, was the very Teresa who with her husband, Josh, had been responsible for turning David’s hat into a memorial to him! How lovely to meet her in person! 

Teresa of Dusty Desert Hat Co.

She and Josh will be opening a hat shop and art studio (Teresa is a painter) on Railroad Avenue in the spring. Meanwhile, they are in the Air B&B business, and Josh gave me a tour of the lovely short-term rental in the remodeled casita behind the coffee house: three large, beautifully appointed rooms.

The coffee shop made a huge positive change in the Artist’s and my winter life in Arizona, and I know that his friendship was a positive change in the lives of Bear, Dana, Deb, Ben, and others. David Grath, the Artist, is part of the history of Source of Coffee in Willcox, Arizona! 

Life is a continual gaining of experiences, even experiences of loss, and an accumulation of memories. Although in the great cosmic sweep of All Time, memories and history will no doubt someday all be lost, for now, at least, while I am here (mantra: I am here now), I am happy to see my love so well remembered in Cochise County, Arizona.

Making friends wherever he went -


Betsy Braun said...

What a beautiful and poignant post. It was nice to wake up and have coffee with you this morning - that's what reading this felt like. I am very sad to hear that the Happy Hour is closing.
Lovely tribute to David at the Source of Coffee. What a year you have had. Enjoy your time in the desert, Ms Cowgirl. Happy Holidays to you.

P. J. Grath said...

Betsy! I am so glad you joined me for coffee! And dear girl, what great, unforgettable times we had at the old Bluebird, eh? Much love and holiday wishes to you, too!

Betsy Braun said...

Thank you Pamela! I am yet again in new (ish) city but love it so far. Living in Evanston, just an inch north of Chicago. I'm much closer to Michigan now and hope to see you this summer. Take care - so nice to think of you with your pretty Sunny J!

P. J. Grath said...

Betsy, if you have a chance to get to this bookstore in Evanston, I'd love to hear what you think of it. If you're working, it could be difficult, though, as they are closed Sat.-Sun. and only open 11-4 on weekdays.
Other good bookstores nearby, also --

P. J. Grath said...

Irony of cruel ironies: Source of Coffee is no more, and I alternate between heartbreak and anger.