Hiking the peaks in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, it’s easy to see how glaciers and rock and time have shaped the northern landscape where my family lives, once-upon-a-time channeling immense grooves into the earth and strewing the territory with boulders. Clear, deep lakes – tantalizing for swimming – lie in these cuts.
Maybe it takes the sweeping vista of a mountaintop view over immense valleys, coupled with the immediacy of childhood, to place time in that perspective of distance juxtaposed against the immediacy of the here-and-now: our world was shaped and formed by ancient movements, and yet we go about our day-to-day lives as though the past was merely story, an anecdote over lunch’s cheese and mesclun sandwiches.
Yesterday, my 11-year-old, dutifully and non-too-cheerfully starting out on yet another hike, came around a wooded bend to the base of an immense boulder where she gasped with pleasure. Scrambling up the rock, she found herself stranded at a steep pitch on crumbling lichen. Afraid, she edged to the trail again, summited, then later feared again, seeing stormy clouds rolling in from a distant horizon, foreboding lightning and thunder.
I can’t help but think that’s an encapsulation of time: the radiant pleasure of a child swimming in a lake and discovering one tiny shell on the sandy bottom and the real presence of an electrical storm moving in. All that in one day: and then the journey back home again.
Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.
– Cormac McCarthy