Suszynski: Dear, 2020
I suppose you might find it strange that I talk to you about time. Because in a few days, you will be gone, a distant memory. That might be unfair of me to say. In your passing, the people that have lived alongside you might rejoice. I find myself dressed in black, mourning the ends. Just like the seasons, I will shed these crow feathers to emerge a new person. Even if we have not changed, the beginning of a year is still a beginning.
Time has a funny way of bringing us to our knees. I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately, as many authors have in front of me, and many writers will after me. It is difficult to think of something like time without comparison. I feel that this year, which is very close to over, we must do away with comparisons.
You may know this about me now, after all, we have almost spent an entire year together: I read a lot. I have trained myself to pick up a book instead of my phone. To wake up in the morning to a turning page and fall asleep to closing the cover. A few books I have written about this year have said something profound about time. In fact, one could argue that every book is preoccupied with time. Time passes as we turn pages and every book, every life, has its own pacing.
In Jennifer Egen’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad”: “‘Time’s a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?’”
In Ruth Ozeki’s “Tale for the Time Being”: “Do not think that time simply flies away. Do not understand ‘flying’ as the only function of time. If time simply flew away, a separation would exist between you and time. So if you understand time as only passing, then you do not understand the time being. To grasp this truly, every being that exists in the entire world is linked together as moments in time, and at the same time they exist as individual moments of time. Because all moments are the time being, they are your time being.”
And you, 2020, had a very unique approach to pacing. January and February moved as they always move. Time was standard and we almost needed that base line to understand what happened afterward. March sped up and slowed down just like when my dad and brothers taught me how to drive stick shift in college. I avoided every hill and slammed into second getting off the highway. It was difficult lurching around like that, but I learned. I once pulled the stick out of the car. I guess it was a good lesson on how to keep moving.
This summer felt as if the world had stepped back in time. I walked a lot, with all my old friends. We hiked mountains together and laid in the grass as the moon stood over the sky. But if I were to really listen to “The Tale of the Time Being,” these moments were not a step back but linked to every moment I will ever experience. They have relationships, these moments. Just like you and I. Just like you and the loved ones sitting around you. Even if they are not there physically, since we are time beings, we are linked by the infinite loopholes of moments.
Perhaps my favorite concept of time is in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five”: “It is just an illusion here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever.”
It goes without saying that this fall was chaotic. I was glued to the news, glued to the awful things people were doing, and subsumed by the wonderful things people were doing to balance the scales. While each of us probably wants to shake that fall filth, the ash of the wildfires of late summer, the political stench, these moments will linger. So while I would love to write you off, 2020, I suppose these smells will forever linger on my clothes.
And the beginning of winter marks time spent closely with my family. We are huddled together. We ski fast down the mountain. I know these people so well that I can tell an approaching shadow on the snow to be my youngest brother. We plan elaborate meals. As I write this, my dad is cooking down the sofrito, his mother’s recipe, that will flavor our Christmas paella. This smell, too, will linger on my clothes.
“Slaughterhouse-Five” and “The Tale for the Time Being” share a similar approach to defining time: “All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber,” Vonnegut says.
For someone who is most certainly nostalgic, I don’t like to be. Nostalgia implies that the good times are past. It implies that time is linear, that the clock on your wall is always correct. 2020, I think we do have this in common. Although, you seem to have a tenuous relationship with what was and what shall be. But I suppose, we all do. Like bugs caught in amber. Like fellow time beings. Time’s a goon, right?
Anna Suszynski is a staff editor at the Vail Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Instagram at annasuszynski or on Twitter at anna_suszynski.
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