Valley Views is a column by Margaret Miller, a longtime Creston Valley resident
Watching the clock, turning the pages of a calendar, celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and the start of a new year. Counting days in social isolation. Saying good riddance to 2020. It’s all about time.
Like many others, I developed a new appreciation of the strange elasticity of time this past year. It’s true that every hour in a day is 60 minutes long and every week of the year has seven days. But it doesn’t always feel like that. Time seems to slow down when we’re anxious, lonely or bored. And it gallops by when we’re doing something we love. As writer Alice Walker wisely said, “Time moves slowly and passes quickly.”
During the low-cloud days of a pandemic-impacted December, Father Time, the age-old tease, toyed with me. One week, he instructed every clock in my home to slow down, making the grey afternoons stretch out endlessly. The Christmas season would be quieter than usual for me, stubborn COVID had no plans to shuffle off any time soon, so time felt like an anchor. Tick…. Tock …. Tick….. Tock.
Fortunately, Mother Nature came to the rescue. She summoned milder temperatures and precipitation. Presto! The channels, ponds and streams near my West Creston home gurgled with new energy and, just a short drive away in the mountains, powder snow piled up for snowshoeing or skiing. I counted myself fortunate to live in the beautiful Creston Valley.
One mild afternoon a few days before Christmas, I accepted an invitation from a friend to walk in the Wildlife Management Area. We met at Summit Creek Park and headed north in search of Williams Creek Falls. My family enjoyed walking there years ago for simple picnics and I wondered why I’d waited so long to revisit it.
We wandered through old cedar trees on a snow-free trail, meandered over rocky slopes for about an hour and looked down onto the large ponds of shallow Leach Lake. At the edge of one pond floated about 20 snowy-white swans, a much more impressive collection than the meagre “seven swans a-swimming” of the popular Christmas carol.
Close to the falls, the trail descended to the valley floor. We wound down on soft dark earth to see the falls of Williams Creek putting on a fine show after the December rains. We felt we’d arrived in Hobbit Land and witnessed natural beauty created by the long passage of time — water-carved rock, thick layers of moss, broad tree trunks and aged, rotting wood. The magic of nature; the magic of time.
We perched on granite slabs, sipped warm tea from our thermoses and munched on homemade muffins and dried local cherries as water knifed over ancient rocks. Time fell away and I thought of others who had stopped here, some perhaps days or weeks before. Some decades or centuries ago.
Time often feels elastic, but one thing is certain. It never stands still. Winters come and go, some more difficult than others. Months become years; years become decades. And in our busy human world, pandemics can happen. And linger over time. And pass.
The philosophers among us may reflect on the value of time as life’s best teacher and nature’s greatest instrument. Sounds sensible. On the other hand, I prefer Albert Einstein’s rather mind-bending and amusing explanation. To quote the great man: “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Good one Albert!