“Time is the substance from which I am made.  Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.”

— Jorge Luis Borges

Today I will stroke my long gray beard —  you know the one — and see whether I can stop time long enough to give it some consideration.

Monday will be the first day of school.  Everywhere I go, I see children performing the age-old ritual of fitting one last bit of every summer memory into the few days that remain before they return to the classroom.  Children embrace time, all at once wishing for longer days and dancing through their lives, mindless of its passing.  Childhood is the age of eternity when we know for certain that our tomorrows are limitless and that we are the masters of our own destinies.  Time is our playmate, and we sit on his shoulders as he whisks us along, all the time squealing with delight as the world unfolds before our eyes.  On Monday, the children will return to school and suddenly realize that they have move ’round the sun for another year and magically become a whole year older.  They marvel and they celebrate at the way time carries them along.

As childhood passes and hands over the reins to adulthood, we find that we want to pull back a bit against the momentum and try to slow things down.  There are things to do and things to see that seem to elude our grasp as we fly along the trail, riding a wild horse who is not quite comfortable with his bridle.  We know that we must hold on tight, because any attempt to dismount would leave us battered and bruised, or worse.  The best we can do is to learn the rhythm as time forges ahead, marches on, waits for no man.  We learn to match our own rhythm to that of our mount, and soon we discover that we have become one.  Hair flying, arms reaching to embrace what comes our way, we become our own time masters, aware that becoming the very ride itself means we have a hand in our journey toward the end of time.

Now that my beard has grown long and gray, the horse that is time — that is me — has slowed his gait.  We trot and walk and notice that time lies all around us.  We stop by the stream where the children play and time drinks in the cool, sweet water of youth.  We take a moment here and there to marvel at the accomplishments of adults that bear testimony to the ways they have spent their minutes and hours and days.  We feel the splendor of the setting sun as it warms our faces and draws us along to a distant horizon, and we cherish the cool rays of the next sunrise that reminds us not to miss a minute of each of the precious days that remain for us to travel.  Like the children of summer, we pack each day as full as we can.  We retrieve the memories of all we have done and try them on once again to see whether they still fit as well as they did in days gone by.  We call the children to us and show them what we have brought on our ride and speak the magical words, “once upon a time,” and tell them of our own days playing beside the stream.

For twenty-five minutes, I have paused to stroke by long gray beard.  Now I climb aboard my trusted steed and stroke his long gray mane.  “Come on, old fellow,” I say.  “We still have some ground to cover before nightfall.”  I breathe in the sun and the sweetness of dew, will him to walk, and begin my day.