Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Something called not time

"Time. Chopin's piano was made of time. What is time in Ojibwemowin?" asked Damien.

Nanapush misunderstood then, and did not give the word but deeply considered the nature of the thing he was asked to name. When he spoke his thoughts aloud, his voice was slow and contemplative.

"We see seasons pass, the moons fatten and go dark, infants grow to old men, but this is not time. We see the water strike against the shore and with each wave we say that a moment has passed, but this is not time. Inside, we feel our strength go from a baby's weakness to a youth's strength to a man's endurance to the weakness of a baby again, but this is not time, either, nor are your whiteman's clocks and bells, nor the sun rising and the sun going down. These things are not time."

"What is it then?" said Father Damien. "I want to know, myself."

"Time is a fish," said Nanapush slowly, "and all of us are living on the rib of its fin."

Damien stared at him in quizzical fascination and asked what type of fish.

"A moving fish that never stops. Sometimes in swimming through the weeds one or another of us will be shaken off time's fin."

"Into the water?" asked Damien.

"No," said Nanapush, "into something else called not time."

Father Damien waited for Nanapush to explain, but after he'd lighted his pipe and smoked it for awhile, he only said, "Let's find something to eat."

~ Louise Erdrich, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse


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