Wednesday, November 26

Time Traveling with Colleen

Time travel, 2014

~by Colleen O’Brien
I generally get to leave Iowa before sock-weather hits. The very act of pulling on the socks because of cold toes goes against the grain.
This year I didn’t get outta Dodge in time.
The morning I left Jefferson for southern climes I had to put on socks because as I loaded the last bag into my car at 5 am, trudging through a foot of fallen leaves, my toes turned blue. The argyle, over-the-calf socks I found in a drawer looked silly with my flipflops and knee-length striped skirt. It was a curious fashion statement, but when I’m cold I lose any sense or care of how it all looks.
By the time I arrived at my first overnight, in St. Louis, I had shed the socks. It was warm there, the trees just on the turn. It was the picture of Iowa two weeks prior.
Next stop, Cincinnati, which is about the same latitude as St. Louis, so it was balmy, the trees just beginning their show, the roses still blooming along the Ohio. This trip was all a lovely, lengthy autumn, and again – still — I was able to watch emerald leaves transform themselves to crimson and gold.
My mistake was lingering in Cincinnati too long; it was not south enough for a three-week stay at this time of year. The morning I left my daughter’s, the frost was on the pumpkin – 20 degrees. This time it wasn’t just the socks, it was the coat, hat, gloves and scarf, plus a car warmed up by my son-in-law and toasty enough he said that I would be rewarded once I dashed from porch to driver’s seat.
Driving south quickly turned into a treat because with each mile I traveled away from early winter and back into autumn – the golden oaks and flaming maples set against the deep green piney woods warmed my heart as well as my toes. It was a visual feast in lovely weather; not a cold breeze from any direction. My second day out, it snowed three inches in the frigid and gloomy Cincinnati I’d left behind. Lucky escape, thought I.
And the weird phenom of backward journey, returning to warmth and beauty from cold and ugly, struck me as a form of time travel worthy of contemplation.
I’d wanted to time travel since I read Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court when I was in high school.
Twain wrote this in 1889.
But long before this, in 1843, Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, in which Ebeneezer traveled all over the place – backward and forward in time – if only in his dreams.
I went on to read H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) and eventually to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (2000s), all the while intrigued by the notion of time travel. Time is weird to begin with – some minutes lasting way too long and some days disappearing as if they never happened.
I never really thought I’d ever time travel, however much it appealed to me and however many fantasies I’d dreamt up in idle moments. But in my own 21st-century time machine — my trusty 2006 Honda — I found myself going backward in weather while I traveled forward in hours and days. The timing was just right, the climates I passed through all doing the same thing I’d witnessed in Jefferson – a spectacular autumn of warmth and color that went on and on and on, mile after gorgeous mile.
What a good trip.
Even the eerie phenom that I suffer through all the time – when I awake I have to figure out where I am – way too many strange rooms and almost-familiar sleeping platforms: my bed in my bedroom in Jefferson? My futon in my office in Jefferson? My sofa in my living room in Jefferson? My girlfriend’s guest room in St. Louis? My daughter’s “Mom’s room” in Cinci? A motel room in Georgia? Or am I already in Florida and in one of those beds there? It takes a minute, but this is my normal awakening, a somewhat unnerving but quickly resolved pattern of too many beds for one aging dame.
When I return in the spring, my time travel can’t reverse itself – no backward movement from subtropical hibiscus to hyacinth peeking out of the snow. It takes a special combination of time – the autumn of the year; weather – winter moving slowly southward; and luck . . . to time travel if one lives in real life rather than in a novel.

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