Josna Rege

336. Time’s Wingèd Chariot

In Childhood, Food, places, poetry, reflections, Stories, travel, writing on June 26, 2015 at 11:37 pm

“But at my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” Andrew Marvell (©Tamlyn Teow at

At seven I believed that I could remember what I had done every single day since I was four. It was probably true, or very nearly so, since I had an excellent memory then. I can still account for just about every month of my life, and certainly every year. For my first fifteen years our family moved around from England to India to Greece and back, finally immigrating to the United States when I was in my teens. Subsequently my movement in space slowed down while my movement in time speeded up, and now I keep track of my life by the decade. My twenties: a decade of activism; thirties, mostly on the farm, were all about baby- and child-raising, and later on, graduate studies; forties: raising (and being raised by) a teenager, completing a PhD, entering a fulltime teaching job; fifties: empty nest, a new job, transitions of all kinds. What will my sixties bring?

At twenty-five I suddenly felt old in a way I hadn’t done at twenty. At 30 I was printing, pregnant, too preoccupied with moving to the farm and preparing for the birth of the baby to care about that milestone. I seem to remember not wanting to celebrate my fortieth birthday because I wasn’t yet done with my PhD. Fifty was a golden birthday, as I awakened on a California beach, rode up the Pacific Coast Highway and was welcomed to the San Francisco Bay Area by my friend Sartaz with a heap of luscious mangoes as numerous as my years. Equally memorable was my sixtieth, during my sabbatical in India, celebrated with my cousin Shubha on the shores of the Arabian Sea.

For our Baby Boomer generation, every birthday, every anniversary, seems to require celebration as some kind of milestone. I remember my mother remarking rather ruefully a decade or so ago, when I was telling her about the surprise party we were planning for my sister-in-law’s fiftieth birthday, that nobody had even remembered her fiftieth birthday. Scanning my memory banks, I realized, to my shame, that she was right. At the time I had been preoccupied with nuclear disaster rather than my dear mother’s well-being, and members of her generation weren’t in the habit of throwing lavish parties for themselves.

I seem to have rather gone off birthdays. Now I’d rather light candles than blow them out. Perhaps I’ll emulate my friend Denise, who, at age 59, took the decision to celebrate her birthday only on odd, alternate years. Perhaps, as my mother did at fifty, I’ll stop coloring my hair and wear my grey locks with quiet pride.

Andrew Marvell told his coy mistress that had they “world enough and time” they could dally with each other for ever and a day; but, given the shortness of life, they needed to wrest their pleasures roughly from life and give Time a run for his money. At my back I too hear “Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near” but, rather than speeding up, it makes me want to slow right down, turn around, and look it in the face; and, as I did at age seven, to count life by the day again, or even by the moment.


Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

  1. Lovely, Jo — I just quoted this poem (humorously) to Jack this morning.

  2. Half the time I can’t remember the exact year of 60 I am.

    • That’s a good thing. It means you’re so engaged in living that you don’t have time to fuss and fret over unimportant things.

  3. As I get closer to my seventies, I am slowing down, I can’t even believe that I will be 70 in 3 years. Only one of my grandparents, uncles & aunts reached 70!
    I want to slow down more, enjoy more of what the world has to offer, but the world is just going too fast & time passing much too quickly.

    • Linda, you have said clearly and straightforwardly what I was sidestepping for most of my post! And yes, those grandparents of ours once seemed impossibly old, and now we are nearing or surpassing their ages. One of my favorite singer-songwriter John Prine’s brilliant lines:

      …but that was a long time
      and no matter how I try
      the years just flow by like a broken-down dam.

      But if your blog is anything to go by, you are living a rich, full life while taking time to both savour it and reflect upon it: a model for your own grandchildren.

  4. I agree with you – we need to fully appreciate each moment and not allow our distractable minds to just run on. It probably takes a commitment to accomplish, but it can be done.
    Each morning I will take a deep breath and calmly do one thing at a time. No more trying to do many things at once.
    I know from past experience that living this way is much more satisfying.
    I have even found that I actually get more done well this way!
    Anyway, there’s your challenge, Jojo!

    • Thank you, Marianne. Yes, I sometimes get so scattered that I can’t concentrate on anything–except Tell Me Another, which isn’t all bad, but nonetheless can serve as a distraction from other tasks that seem too daunting to tackle. One thing at a time: my new mantra. xo J

  5. Fantastic graphic Josna. I could look at its lines for a very long time. And a most poignant poem by Marvell. I note its heroic couplets, eight syllables per line, and often anapaestic rhythm. A clever man and alive so long ago.

    I was at the doctor’s recently. I said to this male GP that I wanted to live to be a 100. “Oh?” he said. “For the telegram you would receive from the Queen?” “No,” I replied. “It just gives me more years to fulfil my potential for happiness, love, productivity and creativity.”

    But I find – at the age of 57 – I am far more interested in trying to look attractive than I have ever been. Not as in going for electrolysis, plastic surgery, having my hair/nails coloured – but just in arraying my still-good-looking body in some decent clothes , an inspirational big hat, and in wearing long earrings!. There is something potent about having some residual sexuality. And even if part of a tooth has just broken off, my skin still glows and my mind is the most powerful it has ever been.

    E x

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