My husband and I visited an elderly friend recently, and it was wonderful to catch up with him after a year apart. As we chatted we touched on the effects of the pandemic on travel, and our collective delayed vacations. He’s had to cancel – twice – a much-anticipated trip to Italy with a friend, and it looks like next spring is their best bet. How great that you’ll still be able to have this adventure, we said. To which he replied, “Two years lost means a lot more to us with much less time on our side.”
Time waits for no-one
Time is the most valuable thing man can spend
Lost time is never found againProverb, Theophrastus, Benjamin Franklin
I’ve been looking back at these 18+ pandemic months as if into an abyss. Those first 6 months, for me as for many, were an endless series of Groundhog Days, weekends and workdays melding together in an unending succession of anxious hours. Time seemed to grind to a standstill. Even recently, as the world has been lurching unevenly towards a fragile normalcy, time still seems suspended, as if neither here nor there.
Ironically it’s also true that I’ve felt, acutely, the passage of time, and of time lost. I realized this weekend as my nephew turned nine that the last birthday party I’d attended was back in the fall of 2019. He’s nine now, all gangly limbs and jack-o’-lantern smiles, both sweet and cunning, the transition from little kid to boy realized in the lost months of Covid.
While my conducting schedule has been filling up (my spring looks to be pretty epic), it occurred to me that part of why I’m so booked up is that so many upcoming concerts were meant to have taken place months and months (or a year, or more) ago. January of 2022 will see me performing in Cologne, a show originally slated for May of 2020. Even simply thinking about this concert, and the work I did for it before the lockdowns, slingshots me into some warp of the space-time continuum as the past morphs into the future. Time feels fluid.
Back in the before-Covid-times when I was locked in the seemingly unending cycle of travel, work, and a few exhausted days at home, time was all about not being late for a flight, about putting in the requisite hours to learn new music, about counting down the minutes on a hotel treadmill. It was something to be gotten through. It felt endless.
And suddenly somehow it’s not. I, like so many others over these many months, have had the wherewithal (and the hours!) to reflect on my cavalier attitude towards time, and how it’s so precious and finite. So this afternoon, I closed the score I’d been working on all morning and piled into the car with my husband and Pinkerton and some blankets and bottles to watch the 20-foot swell that was pounding Ocean Beach. And as the three of us gazed through the salty mist to the beautiful violence of the sea until the sun was hugging the horizon, time was both inexorably passing, and gloriously still. And for those hours it was neither waiting nor lost, but without doubt the most valuable thing I could spend.