echoes in time


I didn’t photograph them. They were just ordinary houses, with unremarkable front and back gardens – not unlike the suburban house I grew up in. Without photos, I hold them in my mind, determined not to lose the images of what the houses across the road looked like before land values rocketed and the developers stepped in.

‘When a thing is gone it is gone,’ said Jack stubbornly. ‘When a house is knocked down and another built in its place, why the first house is gone forever.’

‘Even that is not so simple as you would believe,’ said the Dragon, ‘for whatever has stood in the world leave behind an imprint, an echo, a scent, a spirit. What is destroyed is also reclaimed. What has been lost waits to be found.’

Jack was out of his depth, like a swimmer who can hardly see the land. Dragons talk in riddles, yes, in riddles …

‘Time passes,’ said the Dragon, ‘the clock chimes, men are born, grow old, and die, the world changes. All that is true, Jack, but that is not the sum of truth. You are young, but your deepest mind is as old as the mind of the first man who ever was, and what he saw, you can see, and what he knew, you can know, and what he feared, you fear too. You are many Jacks, many minds, many lives, but you live this one now, and that is what you see, like a man in a great house who confines himself to a single room and a single view.

‘And I, I am older even than mankind, and I have seen much.’

Jack thought of the Thames, and how his mother had told him that the Romans had rowed up the river and how in those days, so far away, the banks were thickly wooded and mammoths roamed the land. And how there were rich houses along the banks of the Thames, and the mammoths were all gone, but the river still ran its course. It was the same river. Perhaps his mind was like that river.’

Taking a long range view of human history helps put things in a refreshingly different perspective compared to the short term thinking and planning of politicians with an eye to the next election.

I like the poetic way Jeanette Winterson writes about time - that tricky, slippery dimension that is so abstract, so difficult to understand, yet permeates our experiences and identities.

For a long time Silver sat reading and trying to read the book. Then she noticed that it was getting dark, and that the whole day must have passed. A short day, she thought, but then she knew from past experience that some days are shorter than others, that time is not what it seems to be by the sun and the clock…

The quotes are from Jeanette Winterson’s novel, The Battle of the Sun, published by Bloomsbury in 2009.


Comments

  1. Great post! I love the part about "a man in a great house who confines himself to a single room and a single view". Thought provoking book. I need to read it!Thank you!

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  2. Well defintely food for thought especially when I may have my own close to blank canvas to begin my dream garden.

    Look forward to picking your brain for ideas.

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  3. And the 'new' house has just a tiny patch of green tucked in, where they ran out of ideas? Same thing happened to the house we left behind.

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  4. Dear Catmint, Such a beautifully written posting! Gosh...what a shock...not a blade of grass to be seen near the new house. This is happening all over England as building space is at a premium and people no longer seem to want the 'work' of a garden. What will the future be like...wall to wall concrete?!!

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  5. New House - Oh, Dear!
    Such a lack of imagination.

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  6. New House - Oh, Dear!
    Such a lack of imagination.

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  7. I really enjoyed this post - as I enjoy all your posts. Your thoughts on time as a "tricky..." is well said!

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  8. We need to have a big capacity for memories. Whether documented or not, the old/history is always remembered. We are 'history makers' ;-)

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  9. Thanks for the comments. Such interesting and varied responses.

    Dear Tatyana, the book is a children's book but I think it's still deep and complex.

    Dear Kas, your canvas isn't blank now it contains a beautiful maroon and yellow iris.

    Hi Diana, Bitter lol - they didn't run out of ideas, it is part of the profit making formula to have a little 'low maintenace' patch consisting of a few fashionable plants and usually white pebbles.

    Dear Edith, hopefully things will change ???????????

    Hi Denis, thanks for your sympathy.

    Hi Wendy, thanks for the compliment. I enjoy your blog too.

    Hi Steph, interesting comment - I suppose the internet has given us all more power to influence history??????? I'm thinking of memes and how they work.

    cheers, catmint

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  10. I also have a house only in my memories. It was my house from when I was a kid, we moved 20 years ago, but i have never gone back. I hope is still as great as in my mind

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  11. Hi Fer, probably best not to check, just keep it in your mind ...
    cheers, catmint

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  12. There is no understanding the mind that would rather have so much interior over a lush garden with a smaller home. Totally insane to me. Lovely book with thought provoking prose. Beautiful post Catmint.

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  13. Hi Carol, thanks for the comment. I don't understand those people either. They inhabit a different cultural universe. That is why we are preaching to the converted I suppose. cheers, catmint

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