My sister-in-law and her husband came from Chicago to visit us last week. We spent a glorious day Thursday at the Avenue of the Giants, in the presence of the ancient redwoods. On Friday evening, after a long leisurely dinner, I went to my study for but a minute to check my email. Three steps into the room I slipped in cat vomit. I hopped into the laundry room, donned cleaning gloves, washed my flip-flop off in the utility sink, grabbed a roll of toilet paper, transferred the cat’s artwork to the toilet, and sprayed the rug with carpet cleaner. Then I thought, how rude of me to disappear like that, better go explain. So, while waiting for the carpet cleaner to sink in, I returned to the kitchen for the explainin’. I barely got five words out of my mouth before Ron-and-family busted out laughing at the vision of me in my bright yellow rubber gloves.
Never mind. I returned to the study to scrub away at the spot in question and promptly slipped in cat vomit again. I had previously failed to notice that the cat had two episodes of indigestion on my carpet. That’s when I opened the throttle and got out my binoculars, magnifying glass, sponge mop, vacuum cleaner, garden hose, pneumatic scrub brush, and Lysol spray. My brief minute of absence from visiting with my houseguests stretched into half an hour. When I finally finished cleaning up the kitty-cat’s re-dinner, I discovered that the internet was down and I couldn’t check email anyway. Mission fail. I took the episode as a reminder that “but a minute” is all relative because anything can (and does) happen.
Last week, an acquaintance of mine, let’s call her Mary, went to play a round of golf. On the second fairway, an errant golf ball escaped from the nearby driving range and hit Mary in the head. She was taken by ambulance to the trauma center and treated for hematoma and concussion. She also managed to acquire ten staples in her head (because she had lacerations), a whopping headache, and a souvenir golf ball. Afternoon and evening plans were canceled. We plan how to use our time and the minutes pile onto a hayride and head for the meadow.
I have often witnessed my husband stretching a minute into an hour. The worst situation to befall his efforts at keeping to a schedule is the need to find something. Anything. A shoelace, lab order, jacket, camera, CD. Why would he be looking for his water-aerobic-shoes in the garden? Or for his flash drive under the sink in the guest bathroom? Or for soap under the couch? Last week I watched him open a drawer to remove a prescription so he could phone the pharmacy for a refill and instead of picking up the prescription, he plucked a stray receipt out of the drawer and pondered it. So I said, “Slowly put the receipt down and pick up the prescription, then step away from the drawer.” If distraction were an Olympic sport, he would have a gold medal. So I often think we are leaving the house in a minute and I wind up reading half of Cloud Atlas before he is ready to get in the car.
Sometimes but a minute takes us the long way around. Sometimes the long way around goes by in but a minute.
I wasn’t sure I would even write a blog post this week, with violence devouring my country, and the news so sad, so hard to absorb, so disturbing, so full of death and grief. I try to write humor on the blog, to give my readers a break from all that stuff going on outside. But this week was un-funny. This week the news was so bad that it made my cat throw up. Twice. Current events have me reflecting on how all of life is but a minute. I am thinking back on my life in the context of time. Dinner will be on the table in a minute, kids. Just give me a minute to change into my swimsuit and I’ll take you to the pool. One minute for me to make popcorn and then we can start the movie. Then, in but a minute, the kids are grown and gone. I put on my sturdy sneakers, take my walking stick, and do my daily hike behind the lake to gather my thoughts so I can face the day. It seems like a minute ago that I had three children hopping along beside me wherever I went, but now I am a solitary walker. In but a minute my life will be finished. Life is fragile and brief, filled with precious minutes. Stay safe out there. Cherish the moment.
Lovely visit with my in-laws. Here we are amidst the ancient redwoods.
They are by the overturned tree and I am in the background looking up and up and up,
out of myself, out of the strife in the world, into the beauty and peace of the trees.
(Photo by Ron Reed)