I just returned from a much needed three day get-away with my husband. We traveled “up north” to the north shore of Lake Superior to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary and my (49th – ouch) birthday. It’s territory we’ve traveled before – as a couple, with family, and with friends. Over the past 25 years many memories have been made along the trails, lakes, and shores of the territory between Two Harbors and the Gunflint Trail. And while the pictures of Gooseberry Falls, birch trees, and the great lake don’t seem to change much, many things have.
Each day as we hiked and explored the various state parks and hiking trails, I found myself turning a bend or approaching a waterfall and having a flashback. The place was the same, but the time different. These flashbacks were accompanied by stories; stories of people who’ve been meaningful in our lives and each was situated within some season of our life. There was the one trip we made with friends before we were married; there was the trip with extended family; there was the canoe trip cut short because the bear ate our food the first night; there were the trips when our girls were small and we made them explore the trails; and there were the times we’d come alone with friends.
Over the three days, there was only one trail we hiked that we hadn’t been on before. But this trip was not a repeat of the past, it was unique. Yes, in some ways the trip mirrored past trips. Yet, even as the stories of days gone by echoed in our heads, this trip was filled with its own shape and character. How can that be? It’s an issue of time and space.
These days away reminded me how space holds our story. Driving past the outfitter of the last canoe trip we took (the one where the bear ate our food), I swear I could see our kids and the families we traveled with running around the parking lot as we drove by. Years have passed since that trip, but seeing that space brought me back to that time in seconds. There was a church we attended, a bakery we ate at, or a beach we’d stopped at to throw a rock or two.
In the same way, hiking the trail we first hiked with our friends the year before we were married reminded me of how today, two decades later, we are not the same. Much has happened in our lives – we’ve experienced many things, our bodies are older, and our relationship more mature. And that reflection caused me to pause. Time signifies movement and journey. And traveling across time, at least placing snapshots of one’s life next to each other, calls forth gratitude and appreciation in a way ordinary life often misses.
And then we return home. To the familiar, similar yet changed. Yes, I’m refreshed, but it is more than that. Like the rivers we hiked along, it’s the same river…but it’s not the same time for the river. I’m not the same person returning home as when I left. I left tired, and return renewed with a different perspective.
So tonight, I prepare to reengage with my familiar routine, conscious of time and space. Wondering how this renewed perspective can offer insights into my world at home. How am I letting space, this space, hold aspects of my story? And how am I appreciating the precious gift this moment in time offers?
Tonight I created an experience. I traveled back in time. I took my 17 year old out cruising in my parents convertible, something I did regularly as a 17 year old. No, it was not the same…but in some ways it was. The lakes were the same, the streets were the same, but I was not. Time had changed me. I shared a bit about being 17 with my daughter, but mostly I drove and listened, as she talked. Tonight, the car held my story, our story. We were making memories.
How might you, as we celebrate Father’s Day, honor time and space? How might you make memories, memories which ground your life in the present time in concrete places? How might you create memories with family and friends this summer? And how might you see anew the precious gift this moment, ordinary or not, gives us?
I agree so much that being present in time is integrative to the past! Coincidentally, being present in time is a great asset for a leader!