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The Conch Shell Caught in a Gyre

The spiral of time

My grandmother was born in the 19th century, 1889. My granddaughter was born in the 21st century, 2020, and may live into the 22nd century. That’s a long span of time.

It is difficult to project what life might be like in 2101. Although I could pretend to know what life was like in 1889, I don’t. We can read stories.

The dystopian years seem to be fading. I’ve lost interest in dystopian novels, as the news feed has been enough.

I wonder how my mother and father felt, just starting adult life, to face the horrors of World War II. Maybe they handled it the way we have handled recent events. They put one foot in front of the other, trying to walk a straight line like a horse with blinders yoked to a plow.

They still watched the sun go down in a beautiful cherry-glow sky. They still went to the movies on Saturday and sang hymns on Sunday.

They may have wept silently.

Climate change will continue. Threats to democracy will rear their fire-snorting heads, from time to time. Heroes will rise up. Tyrants will fall.

Two years ago we watched our televisions in shock as rioters attempted a coup at the Capitol. They used flagpoles, fluttering with the American flag at one end, as weapons, as jousting sticks.

I practiced duck-and-cover drills under school desks in case of a nuclear attack. We have lived with the threats of annihilation — viruses, insurrection, war, extinction— for a long time. We have lived with stark contradictions for a long time.

There were times over the recent past I lost hope. Or almost lost hope, I can’t remember.

My grandmother was born in 1889. The James Webb telescope peered into our past and into our future in 2022. We are just seeing the light that stars emitted thousands of years ago. We sing “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” with a child just as someone sang it with us.

We see spiral constellations, like spiral weather systems on a radar map, like spiral shells cast up on a beach strand. We read W.B. Yeats and fear “the widening gyre” of The Second Coming, we read Lewis Carroll and laugh “to gyre and gimble in the wabe” of Jabberwocky.

We are always on the cusp. We hold up a conch shell to hear the ocean in its spiraling depths, but we only hear ambient noise echoing in its pink chambers. A different sort of chamber music, which sounds like the ocean.

My grandmother was born in 1889. My granddaughter was born in 2020.

That is a long span of time.

It is nothing, we still have starlight to see.

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2 Responses

  1. SingingFrogPress
    | Reply

    Ah yes! beautiful!

  2. jane
    | Reply

    Sharon, this is gorgeous. This captures the way I have thought about time and our times and what will come for our grandchildren, so briefly and clearly. Thank you.

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