Time in Shapes and Patterns

Leading up to this past weekend, I had been seeing life in patterns. In the abstract. I like to structure my days through Google Calendar, which defaults for me on the desktop to a big 16x9 rectangle, filled with squares. When I reduce the calendar to a week, it becomes an elongated rectangle, and when I want to look at a given day, it becomes one long vertical scrollable rectangle. Throughout, I fill up two dimensional "blocks" with scheduled time, for personal errands, professional commitments, and opportunities for spontaneity.

I try not to visualize too much when I imagine what will fill these blocks of time. If there is anything I have realized with the passage of time, most moments don't go as planned. I think visualization is wonderful with repeatable tasks: steps to the jitterbug, or breaking a sprint record, or reciting a tongue-twister in front of a rapt audience. But imagining an appointment with a new client, or celebrating a momentous occasion with an old friend only results in comparing the visualized before with the actualized after.

This past weekend was kind of different, though. I tried hard not to imagine how it would go, but I was excited. My parents were going to watch our kids, we were attending an old friend's wedding upstate New York, and there were scheduled activities for a good portion of the weekend. But still, I tried not to anticipate too much. I would see my friend experience the happiest day of his life. Maybe I would meet interesting people I had never known before and learn something new. Maybe my wife and I would have a dozen hours to talk deep. But I didn't imagine anything specific. So those days remained rectangles and squares in my mind.

We were slow going getting up the New York Thruway, and I was a little concerned we would be late. The sun shone bright off the chrome Honda CRV in front of me, and I noticed the white stripes along the shoulder of the highway. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I was seeing those stripes to my right, even when they weren't there. I was seeing life in the abstract, in patterns.

I started to wonder if I was experiencing something that required medical attention. I really didn't want to miss this trip, and I especially didn't want to go to a hospital somewhere in Dutchess County. I called my Dad, and he assured me I was having a migraine. Probably due to stress over my anticipation for the weekend. Devra took over the driving for a couple of hours, and we didn't have many conversations.

This wedding was more magical than I could capture in a photograph or even a video. The woods and creek that surrounded us made us forget the world outside. And I did get to see friends I hadn't seen in almost 30 years. I heard a live band do an epic version of Toto's "Africa," along with pretty great covers of Van Halen's "Jump," and The Pointer Sisters' "Jump."

But on top of that, I learned a whole lot that weekend. I learned about people's interests. I learned about the complete absence of DUI in Belarus. I conversed about face transplants (apparently there have been 9 performed). The next day, walking around a town, I experienced the taste of the ancient Middle eastern spice Za'atar. I learned that cocoa comes from cacao pods, which can come in every color of the rainbow, and saw a lilac-shaded one the size of my fist in person. In fact, I got to taste the chocolate of a Peruvian albino cacao pod, and, while I couldn't tell the difference in taste, I was assured that this was a rare treat. Speaking of rare, I tried the bread made of another rare ancient spice, Eikorn, and, while it was dry, it actually tastes great with peanut butter.

I had never imagined the weekend quite like this. My wife and I did have hours of conversations, but none were planned. We danced, and I made sure to take a video clip of her jumping around, because I realized I had never video recorded her fast dancing. I captured a little here, a little there, and, when I returned to my desktop, ready for a new workday, I snuck a peek at the past weekend calendar. Sure, there were still plenty of squares and triangles. But now I imagined them bursting with dance, music, a flowing creek, trees, mountains, food with esoteric names perfectly marketed towards the curious. And faces. So many smiling faces.