Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | February 24, 2013

The Mirage of Time


We’re aging, all of us following a timeline toward we-all-know-where.  Yet at the same time, nature keeps cycling through the seasons, enfolding us in its endless looping of springs and summers and Christmases.  This sense of living in both our memories and in the present simultaneously seems to me to be one of life’s great paradoxes.  Those of us with grown children feel our children at multiple ages all around us, through photographs and memories that are so real we’d swear they happened yesterday.  And maybe they did.  More and more, science is bearing out that time and space are not fixed notions.

dog waiting at doorRupert Sheldrake, biologist and author of Science Set Free, believes in a fluidity of time and space that allows for more inter-connectedness between us and our pasts. . .and between us and others.  It’s ESP of a sort, if you will — that which enables people to sense the pain of a loved one from across the country, or to envision with clarity a place he or she has never been.  Studies have proven decisively that people can often “sense” who a telephone caller will be, or that a dog often knows when its master is nearing home, even when no patterns of either have been established.  Sheldrake calls this “morphic resonance,” a theory of collective memory from which all organisms draw.  Rather than our memories being stored in brain compartments, Sheldrake theorizes that they enter the cosmos where all organisms can all tap into them.  In animals, we call it instinct.  In humans, we become skeptical.


The unseen webbing around us – whether one calls it atoms, energy, spiritual connectedness, or God – is undeniable.  There are just certain images and stories that affect us deeply, in ways we can’t explain.  Carl Jung suggested this theory with his study of archetypes; Joseph Campbell took the idea even further, suggesting that humans intuitively respond to particular cycles and narratives, no matter where and when we live in history.  And this concept is an essential element in poetry.  As I look back through poems I’ve written in the last ten years, I see a huge variety of topics, styles and themes, but one constant in nearly all of my poems is the human response to life’s cycles and time’s passing.

pink sweater

Today I’m working on a poem that focuses on a magazine clipping I made at age 19, a photograph of a fashion model in a bright pink sweater whose hairstyle struck my fancy in 1979. That summer, before I left for college, I was suffering from anorexia and hid in my room, envisioning a perfect world where I had total control and everything was beautiful.  This was the only thing that gave me comfort at a time when life was so uncertain.  I bought issue after issue of magazines like Glamour and House Beautiful, clipping photographs I liked and gluing them into a scrapbook.  I still have this scrapbook, and even though I hadn’t looked at it in years, I remembered in detail the pretty model in the pink sweater.  Opening to that page this afternoon was like zooming through a portal back to 1979 in my little childhood bedroom, birds chirping through the open windows.

mythic life

Why did I attach such importance to a clothing ad?  How does this photo still serve to connect me to my younger self, and why is that important?  It’s hard to put into words the feelings of longing, dreaming, and uncertainty that I felt at age 19, but it’s my job as a poet to try.  If my poem is successful, readers will not only understand how I felt, but they’ll remember feeling that way at 19, too.  Hopefully, the experience of remembering such a feeling will deepen their understanding of themselves and their appreciation of life – even if just a tiny bit.  I believe that’s a noble quest for a poet.  Sheldrake, Jung and Campbell would call it mythic.

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