Trees grow in time

Time passes. This is an obvious statement, and yet fundamental to the terrifying and promising nature of time. All time passes. Good, bad. Any time you can think of in the future will eventually be here.

September always carries with it a sense of this time passing. It is a time of new starts as the seasons change, and so I tend to remember past new starts that are now long gone. Nineteen years ago today I was a few months into my post-college internship at USA Today. We watched the Pentagon burn out the window. In that moment, it was hard to imagine what the future would be like. And here we are, nineteen years into that future, with all the ups and downs that have ensued.

Thinking of these decades gone is unnerving. The days are sands through an hourglass. Nineteen more years from now, I will be in my 60s, which is a mind-boggling thought. I shudder at how many hours I have wished away. The hours wish themselves away. They don’t need my help.

But this constant forward march has its benefits too. All time passes. When I’m up with a fussy baby in the night, I know it will eventually be morning. This morning during my follow-up root canal (yep) I knew that soon enough those drills would be out of my mouth.

As time passes, new things can come to be. The winter of 2013-2014 was uncommonly cold here in Pennsylvania, with several days lingering below zero. We have two crepe myrtle trees in the backyard — trees that are marginal for this zone in any case, and definitely not equipped to handle arctic blasts. One died, mostly, down to the stump, where a few tiny shoots came up that summer. My husband decided he could handle this tree chopping job himself, and he did, mostly, except for the chain saw accident right at the end that sent him to the ER for 11 stitches (the doctor said it was the least bad chain saw injury she’d seen).

The little crepe myrtle grew, bit by bit, alongside its bigger sibling. For years, it really looked small. But this summer — which stretches into September for these blooms — it is tall enough that I can see the pink blossoms from the back porch and the kitchen and living room. It is a beautiful reminder, every morning, that time does pass. Trees grow. Lives change. Children arrive. They grow. While the hourglass sands slip past, they aren’t nothing, and the future sands won’t be nothing either. Time always contains possibility.


10 thoughts on “Trees grow in time

  1. This is really beautiful writing, Laura. I think I will print this out, so I can refer to it when I need to hear the message again. And sorry to hear about the second root canal!

  2. My daughter was born in early September of 2018, so in addition to the back-to-school feeling I still get (I’m not a teacher or academic), I’m now flooded with memories of the end of my pregnancy and the early days of motherhood at this time of year. It was an especially stark contrast this year as she is no longer a baby at all but a full-on toddler. When she’s up in the middle of the night or struggling to go to sleep I too think that it won’t last forever, and there’s nice aspects (cuddling my little one) to be found in tough moments and sad realizations (this won’t last forever) to be noticed in good ones.

  3. “When I’m up with a fussy baby in the night, I know it will eventually be morning.” As a fellow working mother to a baby (and toddler), this sentence really stuck with me. A beautiful sentiment that I need to remember when my nights have more feedings than I’d like.

  4. I’m staring out my window in Northern California at the almost zero visibility, knowing these wildfires will pass, though new ones will come. It’s a scary time. Still, I love your reflective pieces like this one, Laura. Thank you.

  5. Good luck on the root canal! I’ve been through one myself, and while they’re not exactly a joy, dentistry and oral care have come SUCH a long way over the past few decades that they’re really not much more than mild discomfort. Like you, though, that is basically how I get through experiences like root canals, a big solo presentation in front of the entire company, my annual women’s exam — anything that requires harnessing all the courage and mental equilibrium I can muster: I think about how they represent points in time that will pass just like all the others. It does provide some comfort, and in some cases even makes me feel melancholy, emotionally conflicted with the idea of trying to will time to move faster, when all that means is that I’m willing life to pass me by more quickly. I’m a few years ahead of you in terms of reaching my 60s (specifically, 12!!), and I’m with you in staring that milestone with more than a little trepidation. Not because the age itself is scary, but it reinforces just how quickly time passes, how fast trees grow from saplings to their full maturity.

    This is a lovely meditation on time and life. Thanks for sharing it!

  6. Comforting yet bittersweet thoughts as I watch my 2 year old and 4 month old grow up and also reflect on how much has happened since 9/11. Many thanks for sharing!

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