There is a stream near where I grew up that I used to visit often as a young boy. I used to ride my bike there and sit on the edge of the wooden bridge and stare off into the winding water as it rushed towards me. It was like sliding down the back of a giant snake. An infinite creature that came from deep in the forest, approaching, passing beneath, and then slithering swiftly off into the woods behind. The only sound a soft sigh as it brushed past my dangling toes. It was a magical place. A place were you could press your face up against the universe and view time as if through a window. I was mesmerized by the experience of closing my eyes and holding my breath, feeling completely still, while simultaneously feeling the sensation of sliding and sliding down towards the tail of this great river that never ended. It was here that I first realized that we are never truly motionless. It is impossible to stop. And once the water has passed under us and beyond we can never climb back up to those moments again.
Time is a slippery serpent.
My life took me to other places. I traveled. Fell in love. Had children. And finally, after several decades away, I took my young girls to this bridge and introduced them to this place of my youth. We sat quietly dropping leaves into the water and watched as they were caught by the tiny waves and pulled along behind us in our constant free fall. I talked to them then about the magic of the place. How the water moved and flowed, persistent, determined, every hour of every day, all night long, all year. It never stopped. Every moment that I was away, this wild unrestrained creature had been here, under this bridge, moving and moving and moving and moving. We could look away, but it would never stop. We pass from moment to moment to moment. I told them this. Holding them tight to my shoulders. Every moment is here, and then it is lost.
My daughter Lydia, not yet 3 at the time, looked deep into the bend of the river, like I had so many times before as a child, and said with true curiosity, “But, where are we here?”
It was a nonsensical question to which I still don’t know her real meaning. Where are we? Are we here? Where is here? What is now? I simply do not know. All of my reflection on the past and my busy preparations for the future as we fall chaotically headlong into it, and I had no answer for the most important question of all, “What is happening right now? What is going on right in front of our eyes? Where are we here?”
This statement has become a mantra of sorts for myself as a young father. A reminder that this moment, every moment, is just a trickle of water rounding a bend in the river, and in just a few heartbeats it will pass beneath us all and be gone. So, what are we going to do with this moment? I drop a leaf to mark my place and moments later it is gone, swallowed by the forest of seemingly identical leaves.
My children are older now, already, and as I type this they are somewhere, experiencing life, discovering new things, sliding joyously down the back of this wicked snake. They are downstairs, in the yard, in the next room, at the library, at home while I’m working. They are changing and growing, and I want to preserve those moments of change. I want to dip a bottle into the stream and collect a small glimpse of life as the moment goes by to commemorate its passing. To memorialize who we all are, right now, and will never be again.
So, this page was started as a place to store this collection of moments. It is an old wooden fence with a line of bottles containing 10 seconds of time each, brought to the eye and examined, held up to the sun and left to glow, brought to the lips and sipped at slowly, and then replaced.∗