Changing Time

The passing of time—and my befuddlement with it—has increased each day since my return from Italy. There is no adequate way to express my disbelief that I’ve been back for a month as of today.

In Civita, there was a sense of eternalness in an hour. It was possible to pull each minute long and wide, like warm, pastel pink taffy stretching between your fingers. Pull by pull, one sweet day could go on for weeks, as if time itself was a physical entity—as much as I was, or the home in which I lived. There was such an abundance of it that I actually felt sated, even drunk, with time.

This week, the iridescent bubble of those memories thinned in so many places that I could finally see what’s around me. What’s troubling is the fractured realities that stand crystal clear now: life in Seattle moves so quickly that my body does not respond in the ways it once did. My sleep cycle hasn’t found a rhythm, my muscles are sore from every workout, and food rarely tastes delicious.

My experience with time in the States has been akin to my rediscovery of American food: large plates of filler served quickly with paper napkins. Even when it looks good, the taste is thin, weak. A colleague pointed out that, during his years in Paris, tomatoes never looked perfect like the ones in stores here, but they tasted ten times better.

As difficult to find as the oddly shaped—but deliciously complex—tomatoes from Tony’s garden, it’s been a challenge to find golden pockets of sweet, long-lasting moments here. The dulcet wells where time does stretch exist only in my rich reunions with friends and in working on my book, which brings me back to Civita, naturally.

Last night during drinks with Erin at Bathtub Gin, I met the owner of Fontana Ristorante. I couldn’t help myself from jumping into his conversation in order to speak Italian. Somehow, forming simple words like “piacere” or “sono ritornata dall’ Italia in Ottobre” restored a shred of normalcy for me.

Realizing that speaking Italian has become a part of what I consider normal sets the stage for how strange life in Seattle has felt. There are too many errands and appointments, tasks to check off, specific times that drive where I’m supposed to be. Time moves so fast that, even though places seem familiar because I’m physically present day to day, there is no opportunity to mentally or spiritually anchor after-images of myself there. I’m distracted by my PDA, my mobile phone, text messages, Outlook, Twitter, Gmail, Facebook, LinkedIn, my iPod, magazines, shopping, work, and season three of True Blood.

Except for those rich moments of connection with friends, it’s occurred to me that I’m not really here. Or, more aptly, that I’ve prevented my own return.

This weekend, as our clocks turn back, I’m considering the symbolism of turning back time. We rarely are afforded the opportunity for second chances, but the ability to use the past to inform the future is always with us. We’re so busy that we forget that, I think.

Taking a two-month pause allowed me to step outside time—to stop it, really—something that most humans seemingly don’t have the power to do. As a nation, we have collectively resigned that ability; we traded it for mass production, technological advances, and speed in all its forms.

My muscles, my stomach, and my body clock have resisted against drowning in that world again, which is why I’ve found it so difficult to be back. I’m physically present, but refusing to participate. My mind, heart, and spirit have declined to acknowledge that any Seattle constructs are relevant, leaving my body to fend for itself. My essential parts have become divided.

As I come to understand how time works and how I managed to bend it, the more I see that what I experienced in Civita was not magic; it’s living intentionally. Yet, if I ever intend to do so again, I cannot be fractile, as I’ve made myself through my resistance.

Similar to the definition of home as something that one creates, I think that the richness of time is something that we can define and shape—if we possess the inner stability to stand against the waves of speed and forgetfulness. This weekend’s temporal reclamation is a long moment in which I’ll call upon what I learned in Civita to give intentional form to what I’m doing in the present, no matter where I am.

I don’t see it so much as gaining or losing time when we roll the clocks back tonight, but as an offering: the gift of one hour as a seed for a multitude of sweet, golden moments that I hope to stretch long, one by one, intentionally.

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3 thoughts on “Changing Time

  1. i know how you feel. something that helped me re-assimilate was reading novels/ mysteries set in italy. i kept trying to extend that feeling of being wrapped in a golden time warp.

  2. I think it must be possible – essential even – to create that eddy in time anywhere you are. My hunch is you must start upstream from the kitchen…at the market. Let’s try!

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