Getting Past August

August thirty- first is a day of celebration for many Chilean seniors; small towns and senior clubs throw parties; congratulations are in order; our dinner guests last night joked to each other: “Well, we made it past another August.” The reason? Here in the Southern Hemisphere the worst days of winter are past, and we survived, not succumbing to pneumonia, still alive and kicking!

I asked our Chilean friends last night: “Do you know where the saying ‘Pasando Agosto’ comes from? No one knew. Everyone repeats it but has no idea how the custom originated.

From Internet this curious gringa investigator learned that the saying originated in colonial times when the Spanish, particularly in Chile’s rainy southern latitudes, faced the severe winter cold and damp with no means, other than fires, for heating their modest homes. For those getting on in years to have survived the winter months was reason for celebration.

A few days ago my husband said to me, “I’ve been thinking…I probably only have about twenty years left….And the last twenty went by so fast.”

“I know,” I said. “I often think about that, too.”

When you’re in your seventies, time is often on the mind. Perspectives change. Concepts like the past, the present, and the future take on new significance.

Author Gretel Ehrlich claims that time includes every moment. I reread her comments about time and space, trying to wrap my mind around them, letting her ideas expand my mind and push it beyond its previous limited concepts. She talks about ‘abandoning time-bound thinking, the use of tenses, the temporally related emotions of impatience, expectation, hope and fear.’ But says that she can’t.

Nor can I. My culture has ingrained in me the need to check the clock, the calendar, my cell phone, or, if out in the wilderness, the movement of the sun, the moon and planets in the heavens. What time it? What’s the date?

What is time? It doesn’t go anywhere, yet we’re so concerned with how we use time, referring to limited time and “time and tide wait for no man”. Though I’d like to embrace a cosmic idea of time, stiffening joints and the mounting numbers of birthdays stand in my way.

Now, however, I enjoy a priceless advantage – time on my hands. I linger over the minute signs of the changing seasons, that wondrous cycle that repeats itself over and over, no known end in sight. I find it comforting to know that, after I’m gone, the freesias will continue blooming in spring, apricots will still ripen in summer sun, the red fall berries will continue to delight the robins and the wild canaries will return to feed on winter seeds.

Ehrlich refers to ‘spacetimes’, time being indecipherable from space, ‘overlapping, interfering.’ The word space conjures up images of air, the space around me or the location of a city on the landscape. Now there’s an evocative, precious word – landscape. It encompasses all geography, city and country, though I like to think that it refers to the natural landscape. The word brings forth images of places I have lived or visited and loved, places which I felt connected to my inner core. The variety of landscapes is limitless, each with its unique scent, climate, light, colors, landforms, vegetation and wealth of living things.

Within Chile, a country of extremes, I cannot say which landscape attracts me more – the endless skies spread over the terracotta hues of the Atacama Desert or the lush forests and fjords of Patagonia. And every space stretching between those north-south extremes – rolling brown hills to stark mountain ridges – possesses the power to fill me with awe.

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