Eliza Wing
Apr 13, 2019 · 5 min read

Time is Probably Not on Your Side

Since when did sunsets become theater?

I remember sitting shoulder to shoulder on our front porch with my parents and siblings when we lived on a farm in Southwest Ohio.

The sunsets took place in Indiana, just to the west and the joke was that they were just a little gaudy. A little too much. We watched and joked and spit watermelon seeds at the dog who had a great knack for catching the seeds midair. The sun set slowly in those days, spreading its light across the sky, lingering far into the night. Giving us room and space to be together under the darkening sky and to watch the rise of the fireflies in response.

So, yes, theater. But one in which our attention (other than dog, watermelon seeds and the occasional slap at a mosquito) was directed at the enormity of sky; the comfort of family; the inevitability of a sunset; the closure of another day lived.

Now, and I know I’m going to sound old but apparently, I AM old — this is what happens now. Sunsets are now a backdrop for people to pose and post against. How many hands does the glowing, setting sun rest on? How many leaps and cartwheels and back lit kisses does it frame? #sunsetlovers #sunsetinmyhands #sunsethandstands

We just returned from a stay on the pacific side of Costa Rica my oldest dearest friend and our husbands. She and I have been friends since we were two — so more than 56 years. Each night in the Costa Rican dusk we’d gather in Adirondack chairs to watch yet another glorious sunset. And each night there was a (different) glorious young woman posing against the backdrop of the glowing sky. The first night, a woman knelt in the far-off sand and arched her back and thrust her chest forward and… her bottom out. Also, taking selfies at the same time. I don’t know how you do all that but she was good at it. The following night it was a different young woman performing acrobatic yoga poses against the backdrop of the red sky. Again, with a camera and a tripod to capture the images. It went on night after night — a new dance for social media and probably for the rest of us sipping our cocktails and wondering where simple sunsets had gone? Maybe they are still in Southern Ohio… I like to think so.

And then one night there was a young woman who just ran to the edge of the sea. The golden sun was beginning its quick, rhapsodic descent. And she danced. She twirled and leapt — arms thrust out to the sky. I witnessed ecstasy for its own wild sake. No cameras. I saw raw beauty and a clumsy whirl and not a care that we were all witnesses. She was in communion with herself, her body, the sun’s body. She was in the throes of her own spontaneous choreography.

Which brings me to my utter lack of spontaneous joy or even bare happiness when it comes to my body. Sometimes I glance at my hands on the steering wheel and I tell you they cannot be mine. They belong to an old woman with crepey skin. When I look at mirrors as I pass I am invariably surprised. Where’s the slender face? The cheekbones? The pretty lip-line? Who’s this reflected back?

Costa Rica beaches are nowhere to be if you are struggling with your aging body.

“You’re not in competition with anyone,” my sweet husband said. True. But hard to drop after years of living in the confines of beauty and youth.

Last night, I had a dream about turning back time. It was important to save everyone I loved. I won’t bore you with the details but it starred a ravaging grizzly bear, an empty castle whose rooms the bear roamed and a careless gesture that set everything in motion.

What is more careless than conception and all that springs forth, lives and dies?

My sons are dealing with one of the nastier tricks of time — the early mental decline of their father who is suffering from dementia and living in a nursing home. We continue to sort through his things and I suggested to the “boys” bring him some cds to play. My older son looked at me impatiently from across the room: “mom, he can’t read anymore and he says he doesn’t want to listen to music when I ask.” This from a man whose record collection number far over 10,000 and whose cd collection is near that.

“I wonder,” said my oldest son, “how many cds could you even listen to in your life?”

Depends on how long you expect to live. Are music collections barriers against the inevitable? (I can’t die yet, I haven’t listened to _____)?

This is heavy stuff for anyone, let along young men who should be focusing on beginning their adult lives — looking ahead to an unknown but compelling future. Instead, they are caught up in the ravages of their father’s disintegration.

I went to the grocery store yesterday. A simple routine — everything in its place. A young father walked in with his happy four-year old in his arms; a mother walked by, her six-year old son preoccupied with a slice of cheese the lady behind the deli counter had given him. So simple and sweet. I teared up of course. I’ve become that lady — nostalgic for her babies, for a simpler time, wishing her children had smaller problems — like how fast they ate the cheese and can’t they have another slice please?

It is weeks away from our trip to Costa Rica and my struggle of comparing my body to the nymphs by the sea. My old dog of Ohio summer sunsets has long since gone — his antics a dear memory. But time, of course, has come right back home with me, relentlessly forcing me to see and see again just how precious our days are.

Sometimes a dream is just a dream — a mental clearing of the throat. Sometimes a dream is a witty pun. My bear dream? Time is bearing down, roaming the halls of your mind, ravaging whatever is in its path. In the face of that we can choose to retreat, try to save ourselves and our loves from the inevitable. Or we can open our eyes, banish the grizzly to the darker corners of our minds and look in the mirror — bear witness to our own ever changing faces.

Eliza Wing

Written by

Insight Meditation teacher, trained in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). More on www.soarmindfulness.com or @soarmindfulness

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