We like to think we can control time. We schedule everything down to the minute, with alarm clocks and watches and cell phones that prompt us with beeps to move on to the next task. We pride ourselves with being able to calculate the precise moment when the apparent path of the sun crosses over the equator and signals that time of year we designate as Spring.
And when it suits us, we change time, going forward and backward an hour as the mood strikes us. We call this Daylight Savings Time, as if we can bank the extra hour and as if we can control time.
We control nothing.
Time rampages forward as it damn well pleases. As if we could build a wall or an embankment to stop or slow, or funnel time to a place we'd find more useful or pleasing. But time is unstoppable, unchangeable.
We recently set our clocks forward in this annual ritual. On the Friday prior, I had left the FEMA Travel Trailer in dawn's early light. But on Monday, I emerged from our boxy abode to the darkness of my still recovering neighborhood. All around me was illuminated by the yellow glow of the trailer porch light. A little beyond was visible under the glare of street lights.
Now that my house is gone, and the houses that used to stand on either side of my house, and several other houses through the immediate area, I can see much more of Vista Park than I could see before the flooding. Which is to say, I can see farther because there is much less to see in this part of New Orleans.
The house is gone, but a little strip of walkway remains. The nice folks who installed the Emergency Housing Unit here made sure to line up the trailer steps with the walkway, so it almost looks like it belongs there. But this concrete walk goes about 12 feet, and then ends. At nothing.
Sometimes I look down as I walk this path. I look down and imagine that Katrina never happened, that the floodwalls are still standing, that our blond brick house is still there. I focus on the concrete walk and shut out the recent images of my city, instead pretending that the past was present, allowing my mind to trip momentarily into the images of what used to be.
But inevitably, I reach the end of that walkway, and the house is not there, the daydream bursts and the reality of the situation floods back in. I look up, and I look around at the empty lots, at the mix of repaired and empty houses around me.
Yes, we made the dawn come later and delayed nightfall, but who are we really fooling?
Time rushes forward and sweeps us along with it. We control nothing.
The sooner we figure that out, the better.