Of Time And Space

A 1999 Highway Trip through Germany by Irma Walter Bags and toys everywhere. Sleeping bags, pillows, shoes and jackets strewn over the hallway.The children upstairs, arguing over who is to do what. My oldest is making smart remarks such as: ”We never seem to leave on time. You told them on the phone that we would take off at two p.m.!” My nerves are getting raw and my voice takes on the shrill pitch that is a clear signal of impending doom. I shout some threats using about 95 decibels and all of a sudden, things fall into place. Everyone picks up their bags, stacks them into the van. The children find a worthy occupation in examining the food basket (ooh, aah, look what she got for the trip...) and Mr. Smart busies himself with his cassette collection and Walkman that he takes along on every trip. (those were the days, my friend....) It is common sense to the gang that a hysterical mother can’t safely drive. ”Have you all used the bathroom?” I ask as I give the tyres a scrutinising look. ”Oh, no, I forgot” pipes up little Jessica. Her older brother Gabe mumbles something about a sling shot he meant to take along. Sonya offers to take little sis to the bathroom and they all are gone again. I heave a sigh of relief, because we are ready to go and screen my mind: ”Anything we forgot, I got to remember now. It’s no use later!” The kids and big bro all return and scramble into the van and now it's my turn to do a last round, checking on all the windows, doors, switches and ... you know, ... picking up a last few things that might come in handy on the trip. I get a few comments on ”all the stuff you have to take along in the last minute” from the co-driver’s seat, but I choose to ignore them. We set off. It'll be about ten minutes before little Jessica feels the need for a treat from the food basket. My mind is still focused on

Of Time And Space

© Irma Walter

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what we have left behind, still scanning my mind for anything we might have forgot. Meanwhile the children have a squabble about the seating arrangement and big bro is trying to sort out the details. Then we reach the highway. Perhaps it is the sight of the trucks rumbling by or the fact that I've taught the kids to keep quiet as we enter the highway - we settle into the rhythm of the traffic. The children lean back and a hush comes over all of us. I love driving. The first forty years of my life I didn’t have a licence, and my life was radically changed when I got it. After a few kilometres a feeling of peace comes over me. Why do I always feel that moving is the true mode of life? The children argue on the back seat as Sonya is trying to fairly divide a package of chewing gum. I decide to exert my rights to a strip of gum, just because that makes five people to a pack of five. Problems settled. We are leaving the mountains behind and are reaching areas that don’t hold personal memories for me. You know, like: ”This is the tree I kissed Frank under” or ”there is the road I walked with Peter when we had got the news that his brother had died in an accident”. Life seems to be a road and we remember stations of significance. But when staying in one place, the feeling of moving ahead gets lost, perhaps for the reason that our memories are with us: remember, that tree ... and that road ... and time seems to stand still, or move at a pace too slow for us to notice. But now that we have left ”home” behind, it seems to me that time and space have fallen into proper relation. At 60 km/h a minute means a kilometre and two at 120. The distance between a bath­ room break and the next may be counted either in kilometres, or in minutes (wait a minute, folks, don’t you drink that much juice, we don’t want to stop every half an hour). Time and space have become one. I wish everything in life was as simple and clear. Driving along the highway I suddenly have this feeling that I chanced upon a precious gem, a mystical bit of knowledge and my inner mind takes pleasure in meditaiting on it, while my natural senses keep up the driving part. I have no more ears for the children’s disagreements and big bro looks at me with despair, because I leave it to him to get involved, to make more mileage.
Of Time And Space © Irma Walter 3

He’s doing a good job at growing up. I remember way back then in science, I heard something about the subject, but all I remember now is that Albert Einstein was fond of the subject. Time is really only seen in the changes around us and those changes do become more visible when moving at a speed. Now, follow me if you will: If at a 120 down the highway I get the feeling that I have a grasp on reality, I could come to the conclusion: Leaving things behind might be life in its very essence. We reach a section of the highway that badly needs repairing, as it is still the very old kind that was laid in sections of concrete. The joints make our van jump in rhythmic jolts. It’s a game: higher speed faster rhythm, slower speed - slower rhythm. The kids have fun bouncing on the back seats. Then the road is smooth again and newly-painted, evenly-spaced white lines divide the pavement into perfectly equal lanes. I notice in the corner of my eyes that they appear like flashes that set at a speed, also creating a rhythm. A clock ticking, a tap dripping, the sound of someone’s foot steps down the lane, our own heart beat: rhythm is in and around us showing us that the passing of time is inevitable. The flashes in the corner of my eye seem hypnotising, but somehow their visible rhythm is not as perfect as the sound of the bumpy road. My mind is jolted back to reality when we approach a traffic jam. For ten minutes or so we crawl at walking speed and the children get so restless that I willingly give in to their request for a break ... once we get out of this jam. We pull over and stretch our limbs, fill our stomachs and I rest my spinning head for a few minutes. Through the bushes separating the parking lot from the highway, I can see the trucks roaring by, sleazy Porsches overtaking sturdy VW’s, Mercedeses elegantly cruising down the highway ... the familiar pulse of the traffic seems so strange now, frightening, almost senseless, when viewed from this parking lot. With a sudden shudder the realisation dawns on me that going at this speed could be perilous and I would far more prefer to take the country roads. ”No chance, Mother,” I mumble to myself. ”We won’t get anywhere and the children will drive you crazy in the meantime.”

Of Time And Space

© Irma Walter

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”Let’s go”, I call my children, they rush back to the van and take their seats without much further ado. Oops, Jessica forgot a toy outside and I do remember to check the water in the cooler. Grins my big boy: ”Mom, you are not a woman driver, but a lady driver!” ”Let’s go”, I say again, as though there was a magic in those words that help me overcome the inertia of the parking lot. I thread our van back into the traffic musing over how the outlook on life depends on whether one is moving or stationary. We reach the vicinity of Frankfurt Airport, and I remind the children to be on the lookout for Jumbo jets. My mind takes to wings imagining our little van from above. If I were flying high I could span the distance of our trip in one glimpse. Isn’t it strange how rising above our human space, the few metres above the ground that make our everyday world, gives us a timeless feeling? Being in or out of time and eternity might merely be a matter of altitude, life a matter of moving and stopping at the right time. ”There, I can see one”. Gabe points out the big metal bird that descends elegantly onto the runway. ”Where, where?” shouts Jessica, but she misses it. We discuss the frequency of the air traffic, that within minutes there would be another landing. Now Jessica is attentively perked by the window and to her satisfaction she is the first one to spot the next plane. A few minutes later we are driving past the Frankfurt skyline. The highrisers make me feel uneasy. Is it admiration for man’s accomp­ lishments or disbelief at man’s audacity? We realise that we are temporal and therefore attempt to rise high above time. As we leave Frankfurt behind, dusk is setting on us. The children make the back seats into beds and find their pillows and covers to snuggle up together. The highway turns into strings of lights and in the fading day light I try to take in the beauty of the landscape. We wind our way through the hills and mountains of central Germany reminding me of the agitated waves of the sea and finally we reach the peace of the northern plains where our friends live and have eagerly anticipated our arrival. I feel like we have been in a bubble travelling through time and space, until we reached our destination.

Of Time And Space

© Irma Walter

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