Creativity and the Race Against Time

From Christian Marclay’s “The Clock.” Source: New York Times

I always envied artists able to sketch on trains or while waiting at a restaurant. Creating is more hard-earned for me. It takes time to gear up beforehand, to settle into it, and finally get into a groove. A whole day of  this process and I may be in that “zone” for two or three hours.

Likewise, I knew that a three-week trip home to the United States on a recent visit would mean losing at least a month. There was the week beforehand, with all the preparations, cleaning, and packing. Then, when I got home, I had to readjust from the jet lag, play catch up, and finally get back into my routine. So much time gone.

I would not trade it, though. I went home to attend my grandmother’s funeral. Her passing brought together a scattered family that has suffered a good deal of loss and tragedy over time. I believe this was her final act of grace. We remembered and celebrated her life.

And then we decided to scan all the old slides!

Looking at all these old pictures got me thinking about the nature of time and how it speeds by and slows down simultaneously. The years seem to hurry by when we look back at them, but important moments and events stand still in our minds, somehow both immune to time and eroded by it. I feel connected to the past through older relatives. Often, I imagine the chronology of my own life mirroring theirs. I look at a picture of my mother or my grandmother at about my age and take note of the differences in our lives.

Mom, 1969, with her favorite coffee mug. (She's much younger that I am now)
My mom, in 1969, with her favorite coffee mug. (She’s much younger that I am now)
My mom, in her thirties.
Mom in her thirties. I remember that shirt and her sunglasses.
My grandparents, exactly as I remember them.
My grandparents, exactly as I remember them. They were once much younger than this, though I only know it from pictures.
My other grandmother, with my father on the right.
My other grandmother, the artist, with my father on the right.

My life runs on at least three temporal tracks. Week-to-week, there are errands to run, tasks to perform, a calendar of busywork. That is one measure of time. On another track, time is measured by love. Will I ever get enough time with the people I love? The third track is the time I spend in solitude, painting, writing, and considering art. On this track, the hours yawn before me and then seem to compress suddenly, snapping like a rubber band stretched too far. On a bad day, the hours are like the beads of a broken necklace tumbling across the floor. Will I ever get enough time to paint?

A month lost when it comes to painting and creating, but gained in terms of time spent with loved ones…

Whatever form time takes, there is never enough of it.

Me, in about 1983.
1983
Advertisements

One thought on “Creativity and the Race Against Time

  1. …”the hours are like the beads of a broken necklace tumbling across the floor” — what a wonderful image — the frustration of time getting away! I really like the way you put that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s