… for history is a pattern / Of timeless moments.
– T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
The kids and I are reading the Little House books. One chapter each night. We began with Farmer Boy and a fire in the old stone hearth. Now we are in the big woods of Wisconsin, and there is birdsong through our open window.
It is also haying time in the fields west of this house. When we drive in that direction, to buy chicken feed from the feed and lumber store or flats of annuals from a greenhouse, we watch teams of muscled, shaggy horses at work in every field. They look as if they have been plowing the same red-clay soil for two hundred years. Day in, day out.
Sometimes there is a young boy holding the reins. He wears suspenders and a straw hat, and together we wriggle to keep from pointing and shout “Look! Farmer Boy!”
In this place, when the breeze carries the bracing smell of hay, just-cut, I am able to understand something about time that is normally hidden from me.
Time is not a line carrying us always farther from the past. Time is not a thread, and we are not simply biding it until the day ours is cut.
These days, in Lancaster County, I can see that time is a spring. Past and present and future bubble up together, and the sound is like music. Like the clip-clop of horses’ hooves. Like birdsong through an open window.
But my children appear to be lines racing, racing away from me. Willowy is the word that comes to mind when I observe my firstborn girl. For nearly two years, I’ve seen her baby face when I look at my youngest, my second girl, but that face is now lost. Elsa Spring has grown into herself. There is a family resemblance, yes, but more and more she looks only like Elsa. Something has been shed, and the lines of her eyes and chin are now hers alone. No longer her older sister’s.
And thus, two baby girls vanish from every place but memory.
I don’t really know if I am living in a country of lost things or a kingdom of restoration and everything made new. I look around, I read the news, and I find both. Hopelessly jumbled.
We lose babies and grandmothers. We lose marriages and homes. We lose our younger selves and friendships and health and peace between nations and on and on forever, it seems.
But every new season is also a return, and the month of May, this pivot between spring and summer, reminds me that it is possible to root myself in that bubbling spring. To live sure of what I cannot always see: that time is not linear but rhythmic. It is a song where every note returns and every note is new.
And this is the living water that sustains me. This is the living water I hold out. To my racing children. To my thirsty neighbor.
Maybe eternity begins when I read a favorite story for the third, fourth, fifth time.
Maybe eternity begins here. Now.