Memorial Day weekends, when my young granddaughter visited at our Hood Canal cottage, we attended the Quilcene Garden Club plant sale, where Greta had twenty-five cents to buy a tiny, unnamed seedling we would plant together. Last week I texted her a photo of the eighteen-foot chain tree in full yellow bloom.
“Nana,” she said, “It seems like just yesterday.”
“Greta,” I replied, “At 21, you are now old enough to understand perspective.” Experienced time is not linear, but layered. I cannot attend that yearly sale without feeling my granddaughter at my elbow pointing to twenty-five cent seedlings.
Often, people talk of time as a Time Line, as if yesterday is gone, today present, and tomorrow projected. Recently, I heard a neologism: B.C. and A.C., as Before Covid-19 and After Covid-19. In fact, these sequestered times will remain in our experienced time, just as the Great Depression remained a daily reality for my mother who reheated left-overs until the day she died. Our layers of experienced time shape how we see our world.
Layered time, that presence of yesterday within us, feels most valued in my church community. Sitting near the back of the congregation, I can see Winnie Coleman, who passed years ago, sitting on the left-side pews. I cannot walk into the balcony without noticing where we sat with our daughter, her thin, ten-year-old shins covered with soft down. I even wrote a poem about that image.
After Easter our pastors retell the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. As the disciples walk, they share their grief at the crucifixion, when they are joined by the corporal Christ who discusses their loss with them. Perhaps Christ did appear in body, but I understand this story as layered time. Because Christ was so significant in their lives, everywhere the disciples travel, they will feel his presence in their “current” moment. No moment is entirely current without the immediacy of the past and an imagination of the future. Once Christ sat beside me in this church, I know he remains at my table. Between us, we can have conversations as if we last talked, “just yesterday.”