A Day Outside of Time

Tuesday July 21, as I was leaving Las Cruces, one of those big highway signs with electronic lettering said “7/21/21 Time Begins.” It looked ominous. Usually, they say things like “get vaccinated and you could win the lottery,” or “construction at exit such and such.” After that strange announcement, I was happy to get a Day Outside of Time. The opening prompt in my online writers’ group the following Sunday said July 25 is an extra day in the Mayan calendar. There are thirteen moons, so the 365th day is outside of time.

I literally ran with that idea, alone in the beauty of the desert, allowing my mind to be unconstrained by past or future, by any sense of time pressing on me from one side or the other. Nothing impending or demanding. To be free, I didn’t have to run off on some great adventure, because the moment was the adventure.

When I got home, I realized I hadn’t walked down to the Rio Grande lately. The river looked like a long, fast-flowing mud puddle after recent monsoons. I stood at the edge. Strands and wreaths of desert willow branches floated past, green and flexible, torn off by wind and water. Time and thought are the branches. The present moment is the river. Beyond that, the mountain. Steady. Tadasana.

I walked home past the “cat house,” a trailer that houses a cat colony—at least in the yard. (I don’t know if they have indoor access.) Someone feeds them. Among them are two unusual and beautiful cats I plan to use as feline characters in a future book. They were snuggling and sunbathing with their friends. Animals always have all days outside of time.

 

Uncertainty

It’s Tuesday night as I write this, 11:30 p.m. Mountain time. I turned off the election updates over an hour ago and focused on critiquing a fellow author’s historical mystery. I didn’t listen to news all day, but did my every-three-week grocery run to Natural Grocers in Las Cruces. I did housework and yoga, took a brisk walk after dark, listened briefly to the election results trickling in, and let it go. Not that I don’t care how it turns out. I do. I did everything I could to assist the outcome I believe is best. But I can’t know it yet.

We humans are so attached to prognosticating. Augury has changed from the interpretation of entrails and other enigmatic patterns to a science that originated with 18th century gamblers. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that uncertainty is real, and if I can’t tolerate it, I have a hard time ahead. The questions keep coming. But all I have is the present moment. Within that moment, I’m aware of my home, my physical aliveness, the sensation of touching the keyboard, the tiny clicks and thunks of typing, the hum of the refrigerator, and the greater silence beyond. This is it.

As I walked home under the stars, the silhouettes of small animals appeared up ahead. Four skunks crossing the street. Above them Mars and Venus were bright. I crossed to the other side, just in case.

White Tile Floor

 It makes the rooms seem larger and brighter.

It shows every grain of desert sand, every drop of spilled tea.

I was doing my housework and noticed how cluttered my mind was, how full of random inner chatter of no importance, and how un-restful that was, like listening to a radio station that fades in and out mingled with another equally unclear one. While I was on my hands and knees washing the white tile floor, I turned off the noise and focused on the moment. The swish of the rag. The movement of my arm. The small crawl to the next stretch of floor. It won’t stay spotless, floor or mind. But imagine my state of home or head without the effort!

 

Recycling Another Old Calendar

I use a paper calendar, not an electronic device, for planning, and I can flip back through the pages and see the things I had to keep track of before I took early retirement and moved, finally, back to New Mexico. I can see the to-do list of the transition, too, and the schedules and plans in my new life. The year was significant, but the days more significant. Each of those little squares was life lived. Interactions, connections, experiences. Each of those little squares was a day when I kept certain commitments no matter what else was going on: yoga, meditation, and writing. My life has felt more circular than linear, and since I have occasional precognitive dreams, I question the perception of time as a step-by-step passage, with clear lines between past, present and future like those little squares that organized 2017.

There are many New Year’s rituals in which people let go of their past habits or troubles and embrace something new and positive. One such ritual is an interactive art installation in the ladies’ room at the T or C Brewery. The one before it used maps, and invited the women passing through the space to add notes about where they had been and places that affected them. The one for the New Year is a figure with messages accumulating on her, letting-go and turning-toward intentions. She will be burned, like Zozobra, in February.

A small spaceship full of hopes and wishes will go up on New Year’s Eve from Healing Waters Plaza at the time of the Ascent of the Turtle, T or C’s uplifting variation on dropping the ball in Times Square. (I have no idea what this little spaceship is—I’ll find out and report back.)  I like the imagery of both these rituals, and yet I can’t think of anything to add to them, not a message to set afire or one to send out to the universe.

Though I’ve I learned from my past, I seldom think about it. There’s more behind me than in front of me, but what’s ahead is more important. And what’s now is most important of all.

A book I’ve read a few times and no doubt will read again is No Word for Time by Evan Pritchard. The author, of Micmac descent, visits a tribal elder in Canada to study his ancestral culture and language. He asks the words for various things, and of course, asks the word for time. How would you react to the answer, there is no word for time?