Time, An Upside Down Mystery

Am I as old as I am?
Maybe not. Time is a mystery
that can tip us upside down.
Yesterday I was seven in the woods,
a bandage covering my blind eye,
in a bedroll Mother made me
so I could sleep out in the woods
far from people. A garter snake glided by
without noticing me. A chickadee
landed on my bare toe, so light
she wasn’t believable. The night
had been long and the treetops
thick with a trillion stars. Who
was I, half-blind on the forest floor
who was I at age seven? Sixty-eight
years later I can still inhabit that boy’s
body without thinking of the time between.
It is the burden of life to be many ages
without seeing the end of time.
~Jim Harrison, “Seven in the Woods” from The Essential Poems.

just within the gate I saw a child,— 
       A stranger-child, yet to my heart most dear,—
Who held his hands to me, and softly smiled   
       With eyes that knew no shade of sin or fear:    
“Come in,” he said, “and play awhile with me; 
I am the little child you used to be.”

~Henry van Dyke, from The Poems of Henry van Dyke

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

When we drive the country roads where I grew up,
though the trees are taller,
it looks just as I remembered.
The scattered houses on farms still stand, a bit more worn,
the fields open and flowing as always,
the turns and bends, the ups and downs of the asphalt lanes unchanged
where once I sped with bicycle tires and sneakered feet.

My own childhood home is now a different color
but so familiar as we drive slowly by,
filling me with memories of laughter and games,
long winter days and longer summer evenings
with its share of angry words and weeping
and eventual forgiveness.

Back then my child’s heart tried to imagine itself decades hence,
what fears and joys would pass through like pumping blood,
what wounds would I bear and bleed,
what love and tears might trace my face?

I have not forgotten that girl I was.
No, I have never forgotten –
I am still that girl
and will be until the end.


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3 thoughts on “Time, An Upside Down Mystery

  1. I love this post. For whatever reason it reminded me to get out my copy of Dandelion Wine and read it. That’s such a wonderful childhood story. And you look so beautiful in the yellow dress with the yellow ribbon in your hair. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that picture of you before. That would be a very nice one to have painted as a portrait.

    Thank you for including your childhood home. I’m so glad you’re able to go back. I love going passed mine as well, even though it’s different ( new owners added a second story). But just little things, like the way the sunlight hits the side porch, makes me remember things. Once I read that the angle of the sun is what allows animals to find their way back home when they are thousands of miles away. I can definitely understand that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So many of these make me cry anymore, hug Emily. There is a sadness and a sweetness. Layers and layers of feeling, most of them unnamed. Sunday is my first Mother’s Day of being motherless. I know so many have passed this day ahead of me, my grief is hardly new. My mom was one of those rare people that was just goodness in her BE-ing. Not much else. Just goodness. So when she left it feels like a light went out. Emily, these posts are light. I hope you know that every single day.

    Liked by 1 person

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