Julie Lyles Carr: "I'm in a Place Called Vertigo"

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"I'm in a Place Called Vertigo"

It's been four decades since the proof of my parents' young love made presence on the planet--and that proof would be me. It gets a girl to thinking, this whole 40 candles on the cake thing. I've been blessed to have walked many years with a Savior who faithfully extends me unending grace. I've spent my youth in maternity clothes and nursing bras with a few intermissions in running shoes and jeans that have zippers instead of elastic tummy panels. I've gone from the radio booth to the front of the camera to behind the microphone. I've lived on all three coasts of the contiguous U.S. of A. with some stops in between. I've been in school, out of school and now home school. And for the last two decades I've been madly in love with the same man who still lights up my world with a simple smile and has been willing to try harder than anyone to figure me out and make me feel loved. 4-0. Wow.

All my girlfriends talk about how gravity begins to work against them after a particular birthday. Things may tend toward chaos, but first they slide down your chest. And I have to admit, I am noticing that downward trend. But there's another element of gravity that I'm actually noticing more as I evaluate the meaning of a marquis birth celebration. It's not one you hear talked about much--but I suppose that it's because there are only so many of us who were raised by literal rocket scientists--and that alone makes a girl have a few unusual twists and turns in the ol' cerebral tissue.

You see, time is not a constant across this little universe of ours. Time is determined by gravitational pull. That's the reason behind the Trivial Pursuit questions on how long a day on Venus is or how long a Jupiter year is in comparison to Earth. It's why we struggle with how to get astronauts to the far outreaches of space but at the same time run the numbers that show they would have only aged a few days in comparison to the generations that would have already passed here.

Gravity is a tricky little thing. We take for granted that our next step will stick like a gentle magnet on solid ground. We know that the sippy cup dropped from a little hand will hit the tile and we expect the pull of the backyard swing to give a thrilling sense of flight before bringing us sensibly back to the scuffed sand of the play yard. We don't really notice gravity, don't contemplate its absolute dictatorship over the march of our days. And yet a dictator it is, dictating Earth's postition in relation to the Sun, thereby dictating how quickly we spin around our central star and thereby setting the cadence for our twenty-four hour days, our three hundred sixty-five day years, our ten year decades, our ten decade centuries, all brought to you by that invisible sponsor, gravity, under the purview of an amazing Creator.

One of my brothers suffers occasion bouts of vertigo, usually at convenient times like holidays. I've asked him what these sessions feel like and he has said that the best way he knows to describe it is that it seems all the sudden he has come in to full realization of the spin of the Earth. As humans, we don't recognize the constant movement of the Earth, to the point that for many eons we actually thought the Sun rose and set around us, moving like a giant spot light upon our earthen stage. It took some brave souls like Copernicus and Galileo to make us face the fact that we were the revolvers, not the revolvee. But our senses still block this out. We don't feel the constant spin of a revolving planet. We feel steady. But my brother's vertigo seems to overcome his ability to ignore the spin. While we decorate the Christmas tree, deck the halls and trim any other available surface, he lies dizzy, acutely aware of the turn of the terrain--at least, that is the reason he's given for getting out of some holiday chores.

And so I find myself in a place of birthday vertigo: all of the sudden, I am acutely aware of the passing of time, of the unfolding of one season into the next. I can almost see individual moments spreading wings and taking flight, catching them out of the corner of my mind's eye, slipping silently into a vast sky of memory. I notice my movements around the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher; cup in the cupboard, five seconds gone. Dish in the sink, two seconds gone. Broom on the tile, dust in the pan, seconds swept from pages of life, flittering, fluttering, taking wing. Mind you, it's not a bad thing, not a depressing thing, this extra-sensory perception of time passage. It's just as if I've felt the larger pull of gravity, not just the smaller pull that is gently yanking my physical attributes into new attitudes like a playground bully tugging on my pigtails. It's when you suddenly notice not just the new month on the calendar, but the seconds that comprised the minutes that comprised the hours that comprised the days that comprised the month, the individual pixels in an enlarged photograph. And what a beautiful thing they are, these small cells of time, the by-product of a powerful gravity, that give substance and musical beat to a mysterious existence orchestrated by a mysterious God. Blessed vertigo.
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