At times I scroll through my Facebook "friends" list or the "people you may know" section, and I'm struck by the sheer variety of the lives hinted at by all the profile pictures. There is a vibrancy to it all, a sort of energy that shimmers just out of reach of my senses. The grand tapestry of humankind is shown in microcosm, a mosaic of faces and forms caught for a fleeting moment. Simple portraits, full-length photos, couples, children, families, old pictures honoring loved ones now lost, sporting events, brief pauses during work, parties, weddings, beach pictures, pets...scrolling through them can make them seem an interconnected whole, a vast web of humanity unknowingly connected. They're all frozen moments, time temporarily halted and encased in amber, instants rendered eternal.
These gossamer-sliced bits of eternity fascinate me. It's an old subject for me, yet still fresh and constant, a through-line for my thoughts from adolescence into adulthood. This time of year brings these thoughts even more into the forefront of my mind. The long rollercoaster climb up the hill of the year finally crests at Halloween, when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, with a pause as we now face Thanksgiving here in the States. And then, of course, the coaster will begin its headlong hurtle down the rest of the year with its holidays and travel and year-ending climax, with fading momentum rolling us into a new year. The pictures, some of them, will change, new moments captured and held until another is more suitable, more indicative of what we want to show the world, what we want to preserve in a momentary forever. The coaster begins its long ascent again, with us hardly noticing, which is a bit of irony given that time-keeping is a construct of our own, built to somehow codify the constant change around us, to try to make sense of it.
The rollercoaster is also part of a vast passenger train system, too. I recall riding the subway in New York City, and watching out the windows as the train rushed along, and seeing other trains, mere brightly-lit windows in the dark, gliding close and then pulling away into the speeding shadows again. More faces, more lives, caught for a moment, all ascending the same temporal hill.
This time of year, from Halloween until New Year's, is when I often reflect upon life, and time, and how the two are really one and the same. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I reflect upon these things more than usual this time of year. It's all the avatars and signposts of life and death that come to the fore: the ending and beginning of Halloween, when the dead and living occupy the same world for a brief time, whether in fiction, folklore, or religion; the past, present and future as shown in the multitude of takes on A Christmas Carol, with the choices we make setting us upon paths we cannot see unless we are made to look; and, of course, the great ending and beginning itself, the end of the Old Year and the arrival of the New, with Father Time himself being made manifest in various forms. But it's the faces that really mark the time, each momentary image a lifetime, all whirling past in a blur while we ride the rollercoaster.