Friday, February 3, 2017

Found: On Fragility and Time

It was a bright but freezing day. My little beach was completely empty, so I walked alone, with my hood up and my head full of worries about the recent headlines. Politics, injustice, dissent, and prejudice ricocheted through my mind. I kicked stones and muttered angrily. I couldn't write. I didn't want to. It was high tide. The water was calm in contrast with my thoughts.



When the water's high, there's usually nothing much to find. After all, it's the waves that leave treasure. People usually just leave trash.

Nevertheless, as is often the case, it felt like the universe chose to drop me a sign. A few of them. All strange and troubling in their own ways.
The first was a pair of scuffed and sea-washed sunglasses that read "Seattle" on one side and "Storm" on the other.



This might have been a positive signal. The Seattle Storm are a women's basketball team and a damn fine one at that. But something about the glasses bothered me. I put them on. The world was immediately veiled in a thick fog, darkened and obscured by the wear and tear on the cheap plastic lenses. I stuffed them in my pocket.

The next object spoke for itself. A hypodermic needle.



I was careful. I picked it up and put it in my empty coffee cup. Some things shouldn't be left for children to find.

Then a little further down the beach, I found this.



I resigned myself to the fact it was a grim day for beachcombing. Nothing like that magical day when I'd found the pocket watch and the windchimes and the rainbow. No, these new objects seemed to be more sour and frightening symbols: items related to our fragile minds and bodies, the ways we try to numb pain, feel less, see nothing.

And then, because Nature and Fate are mischievous in their own ways, I looked down and found this:

 

A silver watch. A man's watch. Not a pocket watch, but still, a watch. A second watch? I couldn't believe my luck. The tide had turned during my walk so the watch had only just been revealed by the falling water. It's blue face shone out, wet and and glistening among the stones, the time stopped at 4:10. Thick rust in its joints told me it had been in the water for a while, but the smaller dials on its face had stopped on Wednesday the first. In fact, the previous day had been Wednesday the first of February, but I realzed that this watch must have been lost some other month. Some other time. Curious. It was sheer dumb luck that I'd found it. And odd, since I'd been resigned to my frustrations and to the realities of human weakness.

To be clear, I didn't suddenly feel the same sublime joy as the day of the pocketwatch. This new watch reminded me too much of the men who wear such things, and the troubles that some of them are causing in our world. Plus, the other objects seemed to echo in its shape and weight in my hand.


Time is also fragile. Our perspective can transform hours, days, even eras. What we see, what we feel, what we choose to do, these experiences comprise our short lives.

I would never presume to understand the workings of time, as I would never pretend to know how the sea brought me these things on this particular day. But I knew, as I walked back to my car, that I wanted to write again.