The Poet was Right: Time is a Jet Plane
From Where I SitOpinion

The Poet was Right: Time is a Jet Plane

Dave recognizes that, as the years go by, his perspective on time changes.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Dave Schechter
Dave Schechter

I was inspecting the backyard crops when I stopped to take in my surroundings; not just the greenery, but also the call and response by various species of birds and the voices of the neighbors’ children playing outside, while trying to ignore the whine from the highway a mile away and the roar of engines of jets that fly from a general aviation field.

In that moment — and it was no longer than a moment — anxieties, worries, and mental to-do lists receded. Then, all too quickly, the elastic of time snapped back, and life’s pressing issues came hurtling to the fore.

A line from a Bob Dylan song came to mind: “Time is a jet plane; it moves too fast.” When you’re young, the years pass slowly. As you age, they roll by quicker. It just depends where you are on the timeline.

We recently attended a party for a husband and wife celebrating their 60th birthdays and their 30th wedding anniversary.

One after another, guests took turns at a microphone feting the couple, a common refrain being wonderment at the number of years since they first met. At picnic tables decorated for the evening, parents showed off pictures of children, now grown and making their way in the world; children who, just yesterday were our own children’s classmates.

Back at home, as the Sisyphean quest to clean up my office continues, I have found photographs randomly stuffed into boxes, tucked into drawers, and stacked on shelves.

In several instances, rather than tossing them out, I mailed them to the people in those pictures. I’ve had little or no contact with most of them for some years but thought that they might value these reminders of their younger selves. The photos dating back to high school and college I apparently purloined from the offices of school newspapers I worked on. I have no recollection how others came into my possession.

During the pandemic, I re-established contact with a few friends, picking up with relative ease from where our conversations lapsed years earlier. After filling in the broad outlines of the intervening time, we shared condolences on the passing of parents we remembered meeting and spoke with gratitude about those still with us.

We updated each other on work and personal projects, and our children, spouses and partners. We discussed the health challenges that, to varying degrees, have circumscribed our lives, but which also have reinforced the importance of focusing on the present.

We’re not old, but we’re not young, and our perspectives on time have changed.

I hear it in my conversations with a reporter in another city, a young man I’ve mentored for several months as part of a journalism institute for early career professionals. I’ve tried to pass along hard-earned lessons about balancing work and life, the kind of knowledge that comes from recognizing where you are now and looking back at the road traveled to get there.

If I’d known then what I know how, I’ve more than once said to him ruefully.

Back in the garden, when that moment passed, I resumed my inspection and stretched the hose to water the crops. The tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in the garden box are coming along nicely, likewise with the single rows of blackberry canes, blueberry bushes, and raspberry vines elsewhere in the yard. The kiwi vines that claimed possession of the basketball stanchion and backboard continue to defy efforts to control their spread.

The plum tree in the middle of the back yard — a gift last summer from the woman whose birthday/anniversary party I mentioned earlier — has nearly doubled in height. The sapling was a condolence gift following the death of my father-in-law. The tiny persimmon we planted in the front yard, which looked so forlorn during the winter months, is showing leaves where we feared there would be none.

After a couple of disappointing years growing sunflowers, this year that space at the back of the driveway and in front of the house has been given over to planting elephant ears. There are photographs of me sitting among elephant ears that grew alongside the side of a house I lived in as a little boy. Our small plants are a reminder of my connection to that child.

The poet was right: Time is a jet plane; it moves too fast. So, when they happen, hold onto those moments, however fleeting.

read more: