Some years ago I heard a story about the father of a friend of a friend. Once a month, on the same date and at the same time of day, he would walk outdoors to his back deck and take a photograph of his yard. If I remember correctly, he always aimed his lens at one particular tree. Over the years, he created a visual chronology of his yard and the tree. Even more interesting to me now was that he recorded the passage of time, frame by frame with his camera.

Perhaps this notion of having a concrete visual of time passing appeals to me today because of my age. I’m certain that when I first heard this story, I didn’t pay it much heed.

I didn’t get it.

It being how quickly time passes and memories fade.

Back then I was cocooned in the denial of youth. Aging was something that happened to other people – my parents and their friends. I was young and fit, with the wonders of the world on my horizon.

Along with not getting it, I regret to tell you that I was quick to judge. To my way of thinking, this man’s actions were, well, stupid. When there were so many amazing things to photograph, why focus on the same thing day in, day out?

Boring and unimaginative, I thought.

Safe in my cocoon, I had no idea what was ahead of me.

That’s by design, I’m sure.

Fast forward to today.

I want to tell this man I never met that I get it.

At least I think I do.

Time moves at lightning speed.

A bullet train of life hurtling forward.

And I want to put my hand on the throttle, to slow it down.

I want to linger over these delicious days of autumn when the light is so intense it hurts my eyes.

I want to place my grandson in a time warp – a protective bubble, so that selfishly I have more time with him at this age when everything is fresh and new and wondrous.

Of course, I cannot.

I do know this.

When I drive to the pasture each day, I pass a small cottonwood tree. It’s a volunteer that has sprung up in the ditch, taking advantage of the runoff of irrigation water. Cottonwoods have deep roots and a particular fondness for water.

So I notice this little tree through the seasons. And while I rarely photograph it, I feel a kinship with the man I described earlier.

The father of a friend of a friend.

Leaf by leaf, this tree is documenting for me that time is moving. I watch the green turn to gold, knowing that soon enough only bare branches will greet me.

Time.

How do you measure it?

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