How we experience the inexorable march of time remains variable, hinged on the distinctiveness and particularities of the situation. If anticipation or dread elongate our perception of the passage of time—for our experiences of and in time are tethered precisely to the passage of each moment—then enjoyment abbreviates time. I do not and cannot write that experience itself accelerates our perception of the passage of time, as inclined as we may be to believe it. For the bedside experience of listening to a loved one’s labored breathing as death gradually and inextricably claims a life prolongs our perception of time, the same way that the hours between death and burial assert their presence in painfully slow motion, even if our memories of those hours become compressed (usually as a blur) over time.
Autumn, the calendar tells us, is coeval with spring, summer, and winter. Yet the heat of summer and the frigidities of winter partially devour autumn, thus leaving precious little time for the moderating pleasures that it offers between its bookend extremities. Winter’s palpable wrestling with autumn comes in the form of cooler nights, the precipitous decline in daytime average highs, and the now omnipresent threat of frost in northern Delaware. Many of the surrounding areas have experienced at least 1 if not 3 frosts, but my neighborhood has not. Urban gardens remain protected; the still green canopy of my Norwegian maple shelters the shade garden below, while the radiating heat from the pavements and bricks exude even a marginal warmth that stays the hand of frost, and offers respite to the front sun garden.
But the 30.7 degrees this morning nearly claimed the life of Pineapple Sage, which I decided to commit to the passing of the season. Its ruby red tubular flowers mock its impending death, but also seem a parody of themselves. And the threat of frost—the warnings, the watches—continues to haunt.
My perception is that time has decelerated these last few days as I await the inevitable death of the 2010 garden and the close of the active gardening season. The dahlias appear more robust each day, and I find myself glancing longingly at them. The chrysanthemums cheerily embrace their fate; we can always count on the Asteraceaes to uplift in the only way they know how: vaingloriously.
But the frost, too, shall be fleeting, for the sun melts that crystalline splendor, and then the "long" winter really sets in…