This weekend I went home for fall break. Almost five hundred miles, but really only eight hours. Eight hours is close. Distance makes most sense to me in terms of time. They are cousins, you see.
My grandparents’ house in Missouri, for example, is two days away, and that’s as close as Wednesday, but then again, with a plane, it’s as close as tonight.
A mile is short when I drive it and long when I run it and perfect when I walk it, but an hour is always the same. So I prefer the hour.
Distance is usually time to me, but time is often not distance. I mean that nothing, no part of life, seems far to me right now. I feel as if I stand dead center.
When I was one my daddy built a swing on the big tree in our backyard.
When I was two my mama earned her doctorate.
When I was three my friend Danny would let me have his pudding cup at snack time.
When I was four my mom would put my hair up in little fountains on top of my head.
When I was five I prayed for a little brother every night.
When I was six I got one.
When I was seven I showed off to my friends by pouring chocolate milk on my pizza at lunchtime.
When I was eight Mary and I flew to California alone and the stewardess let me pass out peanuts to all the passengers in my cabin.
When I was nine Karen and I made peanut butter fudge by candle light on a snow day.
When I was ten I learned to knit.
When I was eleven I was in such a foul mood when we got to the Grand Canyon that my mother had to order me out of the car.
When I was twelve I was a flower girl for the first and last time.
When I was thirteen I stopped hating boys.
When I was fourteen Noah and I made up my imaginary big brother, Richard.
When I was fifteen I thought I was in love.
When I was sixteen I clocked a friend in the nose one night on a golf course, but she forgave me.
When I was seventeen my grammy died and the tree with the swing fell and I cried myself to sleep.
When I was eighteen I wrote a poem.
When I was nineteen my grandma called to ask how I did the green beans that one time.
And now I am twenty, and none of these things seem distant. Forty, when I will be greying, does not seem too far, and neither does eighty-three, when I plan on being quite white.
Before dinner just now I went and sat in the prayer room and read over the journal there, whose entries date back to before I ever came here. But those people, those friends, those interceding brothers and sisters seem very close indeed. I am intended to feel that way, I think, because they are close—their ink, my hands, our cries to the same living God.
One thing seems far, though. There is a wooden cross in the prayer room. People have laid their burdens upon it. They have written their fears and sins and trespasses on notecards and nailed them to the tree, with a small hammer that lies on the floor. Purple sharpie on the stipes praises Christ for freedom, for distance from sin.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”(Psalm 103:12)
From east to west—why, whenever you get to one the other is still just as far away as it was to begin with. It can’t be done. They’re hours, days, eternities apart, a miraculously impossible distance.