Time is a funny thing.
This afternoon, Abbi and pointed the rental car east on Madaket Road towards town for all our favorite Nantucket things (Cape Cod Salt & Vinegar Chips, Whale’s Tale Pale Ale, Bartlett Farm’s Blueberry Pie). Nearing our turn near the old cemetery on on Milk Road, I said to her, “I know in my head that a year has passed, but I feel like I never left.”
The scenery is unchanged. There are no traffic lights, no strip malls or fast food joints. My muscle memory guides me here. I am on autopilot, gliding over the thistle and sage.
At the same time, everything is temporal. Hurricane Bill blew through last night. The ocean looked like it was boiling, the western shoreline of the island stacked four-deep with white-capped waves. The dunes held no sway against the relentless rush of water. Entire swaths of beach grass and pine were swept away before my eyes. Soon, there will nothing here but blue sea.
In “Cat’s Eye,” Margaret Atwood writes, “Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space … if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in two places at once.”
“But I began then to think of time as having a shape, something you could see,” she continues. “Like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another.”
I have been visiting my mother (and, twice upon-a-time Mister Rogers) here in Nantucket for ten years. It is a welcome respite from the relentless march forward of Manhattan.
Out here on the edge of the continent, perhaps I can finally begin to, as Henry David Thoreau wrote, “improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.”
Out here on the edge of the continent, I am twentyfive-years-old, seeing it all for the first time. Still, the waves weather the dunes, the sun follows the moon, and the night is an inky, hushed black; if you watch closely enough, you can see it pass.
I’m not sure how I’m doing with this thing called the present, or whether it even travels well. But I am trying.