Weeds: Pick a minute and save it
Time goes by. Sometimes it flies by. I decided I would grab it as it went past. I mean a minute of it. 4:48 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021 to be exact.
I don’t mean stopping time. It’s silly to imagine I could do that. But I wanted to take a moment and put it in my mind. Like pickling it in a jar so it would keep for a while. Writing this is sealing the jar.
Let’s say you are blessed to live to be 80. It’s an impossible number to comprehend, but that’s around 42 million minutes above the ground. Most of those minutes are forgotten immediately after their passing. Some, a relative few, are saved in our personal mental museum. The museum is otherwise known as our memory.
I’m soon to be 65. That’s come to be an important birthday. Medicare, Social Security, retirement: all happen around then, give or take. Friends and I talk about how time goes by faster as you get older. That isn’t strictly true, and it doesn’t make sense. But we all agree. Time goes by faster as you get older.
All the more reason to grab a moment. The particular 4:48 that I picked, I was walking the long driveway by the Schoenstatt Shrine west of Sleepy Eye. That place is a gem, a favorite place. Today, I wasn’t going to pray in the beautiful chapel. Rather, I was interested in the bare driveway.
It had snowed, and I was looking for a clear place to walk. I’ve begun walking after my Achilles tendon surgery. At 4:48, I was about halfway out the driveway. It was 12 degrees, but pleasant enough, almost calm, with a setting sun gamely trying to warm things before falling below the horizon.
My immediate task was putting one foot ahead of the other while watching for icy patches. Walking is not taken for granted after a month being on one foot. In the minute I was claiming for posterity, my head was filled with the usual clutter. I was thinking of chores I needed to do, people in my life, and events of the world.
I am a speck in Creation, so my thoughts went out. How were others spending this moment that I plucked out of eternity? I had a fairly good idea Pam was watching the show she was watching when I left the house. Our three kids are in places east, west, and south of me. Knowing something of their lives, I could make a ballpark guess as to what they were doing. Same for my sister and brother.
Once I got to nephews and nieces and cousins, it was more a scattershot guess as to what they were doing at that exact moment. I thought of two newborns, Pam’s grandniece and my great grandniece. Willa and Raelynn are a few weeks old. They won’t remember this moment or any other for a while. But their little minds are gushing forth with new cells and synapses. That’s exciting, as I cling to the ones I have left.
There was a football game on; I figured some friends were watching that. If not for the virus, I might have been watching with some of them. Off to my left was Sleepy Eye. I could see a handful of houses, some other buildings, the empty Del Monte plant prominent among them, and trees. In my view if not exact eyesight, there were Sleepy Eye’s 3,401 people, plus some on farm sites as I looked around.
Given the time of day, I assume some were preparing food, some watching TV, some reading, maybe cleaning up. Kids were playing. In a rural town like mine, there are a lot of elderly, some of them maybe napping before supper. Being a Sunday, not a lot were working. A few were at places that were open: grocery store, convenience stores, the couple bars. There were probably more people home then than at 4:48, January 24, 2020. A year ago, we were just becoming aware of the virus that would alter our lives.
Of course, it was only 4:48 p.m. in this time zone. I thought of friends on the East coast where it was 5:48, close to dinner time, maybe happy hour. I thought of a friend in Arizona, 3:48, probably on the golf course.
It was this time of day in this longitude, going back to my junior high geography. I saw from fooling around with the clock on my phone that it was 4:48 in Mexico City, although the sun was higher there closer to the equator. We share a time zone with people in Canada, Mexico, and down into Central America. Otherwise, it’s the Arctic to the north and Pacific Ocean to the south.
There’s 7.6 billion of us humans living right now, so a rough guess might be a couple hundred million were living my moment at 4:48. Other places, people were early in their day, some in the middle of their night. Light to the west, dark to the east. In the words of the song writer John Prine, “That’s the way that the world goes round.”
When I tried to think about sharing this moment with all those fellow travelers on this planet it was a bit boggling. Who knows what we were all doing right then around the globe? A lot of mundane things no doubt. A few billion probably sleeping. A few billion working in factories, fields, roads, hospitals.
If I could see far enough and through the planet below my feet, there were likely loving and kind things going on. And I suppose some bad things. There are multiple armed conflicts around the globe, so it was possible right then, somebody somewhere was trying to kill someone.
A mischievous thought entered my mind. I wondered right then how many people were, well, you know. Those 7.6 billion people had to come from somewhere.
Then, just like that, it was 4:49. My minute was past. On to a new one, one I would soon forget. My pickled and jarred minute will probably fade, too. Maybe I’ll read this in ten years, and it will come back.
Thirty minutes later, it was 5:18, the sun had set, and I’d turned into the breeze. I was cold and didn’t really want to save that minute.
Here at soon-65, I’m as aware as ever that each of these moments is a gift: the forgettable ones and the few remembered. Feel free to grab one of your own. They’re going by fast.