Monday, May 11, 2015

Flight Time

Am back home safe and sound on the farm after two weeks in Monaco at the EPT Grand Final. Have already gotten busy mowing some of that grass that relentlessly has been growing on all sides of us for the last six weeks or so.

Wrote about the grass last spring, right about this same time, in fact. Sometimes I find myself looking out and imagining I’m actually seeing it growing. Think sometimes of that Stephen King short story “Weeds,” made into an episode in George Romero’s Creepshow anthology titled “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” (in which King starred).

Speaking of movies, I didn’t watch any on the way out and almost didn’t on the way back. Searching through the selections of mostly new titles, I had little desire to see anything, particularly on a small screen and in a cut version (as is the case with some of them).

It was a nine-hour flight home, and traveling back through six time zones I almost felt like I was getting some time back. But after frittering away the first half of it doing nothing much, I realized I could use some way to make the rest of it go by more quickly. I finally decided to dial up the almost three-hour (and not edited) Interstellar, the sci-fi one starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway.

Was a little skeptical at first, although I was drawn in by the rural farm setting where the film begins. I’d been gone nearly two weeks and was feeling some serious longing to get back not just to Vera, our horses, and cats, but to the pastures, the sky, the barn, the fences, and yes, even that grass growing up all around.

I’ve written here before about being the son of a physicist who nurtured within me curiosity about various physical phenomena, as well as about space. Not enough to have made it an academic pursuit (beyond just a few classes), but enough to make me interested in some of the questions raised by some “hard SF.” Or by movies like Interstellar that take on some tough concepts and ideas and try to fit them into a plot most of us can follow with characters to whom we can relate.

I won’t get into the story too much other than to say after getting over those initial doubts it drew me in quite well. At one point characters having to negotiate passage near a supermassive black hole introduces the idea of gravitational time dilation -- i.e., some characters age just a few minutes while others age many years -- something that subsequently creates some very affecting pathos when a father realizes he’s suddenly missed 23 years of a daughter’s life.

I couldn’t help but think of being away from home for those two weeks and missing everything happening during that time I was gone. From there it isn’t hard to think as well of even longer gaps between meetings with friends and family.

Later on in the film comes a scene with an elderly woman in a hospital near the end of her life, and that, too, brought on some personal memories reminding me of how even though life seems so edge along so gradually, so slowly, it only seems that way because of our lack of attention to what’s happening.

In reality, it’s flying. Faster than we can imagine. Blink and two weeks are gone. Or two months or two years. Or a lifetime. I can’t really see the grass growing. But if I look away for long enough and then look back, it seems like it has.

I’m a complete sucker for time-lapse photography, partially because of the way it foregrounds that theme of time -- our lives -- slipping away from us. I become oddly moved by it, even emotional. I think how we haven’t got long. I think, worriedly... slow down!

Here’s an example of what I mean, an inspired video matched with a track from an album I’ve been listening to a lot lately, Robert Fripp’s A Blessing of Tears (a record expressly intended as a memorial for the artist’s late mother). The music isn’t unlike some of Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for Interstellar, actually, at least in terms of the mood it evokes:

Slow down clouds, sky, grass. Slow down Earth.

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