Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Time Travelling

I have just finished reading The Time Travelers Wife by AudreyNiffenegger. It is about the unconventional love story of Clare and Henry.

Clare meets her future husband - Henry - as a six year old, when he, as an adult, time travels and runs into her in a meadow on her family's property.

The story recounts the history of Henry and Clare's relationship; Clare's life offering the reader a lineal anchor as Henry flits here and there into the past, and occasionally into the future.

Henry's time travelling jaunts are dangerous. He disappears with little warning, leaving only a pile of clothing in the last spot he stood, and a bounty of worries for those left behind - namely Clare.

Henry winds up in another time and place, naked, exhausted and nauseous - he then sets about on the daunting quest of finding clothes, or risk the elements, authorities or the real threat of being chased down by angry mobs intent on knocking the be-jeebus out of an assumed pervert...and other fun shenanigans.

Henry mostly comes from the future, but, for the most part, chooses not to impart knowledge of the future onto those he meets - he is clearly a much burdened man. But what of poor Clare? She is loyal to her man, that is for sure. Her attempts at bearing a child, whereby the time travelling gene appears to always be dominant, is heart breaking indeed. And one can certainly sympathise with her as she helplessly wrings her hands at Henry's frequent and often inconvenient vanishing acts.

Clare's character has known Henry all her life - his comings and goings are normal, if not agonising, but I couldn't help feel a smidge annoyed by these characters. When things apparently got stressful or uncomfortable in Henry's life, he did a virtual runner. If I were Clare, I am sure I would grow to become more than a little bit resentful at such behaviour. I am sure Clare wouldn't mind skipping out whenever the going got a bit tough, but instead, Clare is left carrying the proberbial can and the burden of having to explain the whereabouts of her husband and, when he appears, why he is staggering around naked. She never complains. Not only that, Henry (at her urging) tells Clare all the details concerning lifes little surprises, like who her future husband is, and what their future child will look like, along with possible future vocations.

Makes me wonder how convenient claims of time travelling could be. Much evil could be done, couldn't it? As a time traveller, you could claim things were a certain way in the future in order to get your own way... think of all the possibilities for mind games; could be awfully manipulative for the unassuming and trusting.

I don't think I would like to be a physical time traveller myself. I can't really see the point. How did Henry help humanity through his time travelling? Besides, there are enough opportunities in the present to travel through the ages - take photographs, music, movies and even smells.

Photographs offer a concrete record of an actual time, place, and sometimes, mark a stage in one's development. Photographs are the material evidence of being there. Music, movies and smells are richer, personal and more tangible.

Take music for instance. INXS and Icehouse remind me of 1987 and the dreamy summer I spent high and stupefied on first love. I can feel the heat of that summer; a summer I spent with friends at the local pool; eating chips from a paper wrap bought from the corner shop, and Ebony, the tan emhancing cream that my friend and I lathered on our skin, making our skin unnaturally dak and scarily leathery...whatever happened to that product.

The smell of vine ripened tomatoes and Morton Bay Fig trees remind me of my childhood; spending holidays with my Grandparents on their farm on Kangaroo Island. Whenever I smell vine ripened tomatoes I am back in my Gran's veggie garden clutching a plump, sun warmed tomato in my hand. A whiff of a Morton Bay fig sees me transported; swaying on the tyre swing under the dappling leaves of this grand old giant, which was posited in the space that separated the sheds and stockyards from my Grandparents large homestead.

I am ten again whenever I see anything to do with the movie Grease. I am sitting mesmerised with my best friend in her front room, singing the songs and wishing I could be Sandy - the nice dork who snares the hot guy. We don't understand what "sloppy seconds" means, and fast forward the cheesy bits, like when Danny is left high and dry at the drive-in and starts singing "that really boring song", and while we hang out for the carnival scene, when Sandy reinvents herself and does the big reveal - we pretend it doesn't end with Sandy and Danny sailing off in to the sunset in a ridiculous flying car...we never speak of that part.

I don't need to physically time travel when I can do this using my God given senses and memory. So how does that serve humanity? Not sure that it does directly, but these things have served as markers for times of learning in my life - red flags, whether INXS reminds me that over exposure to the sun leads to premature aging and potential melanoma (yeah right) or merely to stop and appreciate the simple things, like fresh tomatoes, ripe and warmed in the sun. This is the kind of time travel I am up for it; first class all the way, baby.

This post has been submitted for the Writers Island prompt - Time Travel.


Rob Kistner said...

This is a wonderful post, and the book, "The Time Travelers Wife" sounds really interesting.

Welcome to Writer's Island -- hope to see you often on the beaches!

jeanie said...

Very interesting perspective. I am not sure I would like the book, I would be getting very angry on the wife's behalf.

Kathleen said...

I most definitely prefer YOUR type of time in which we can all participate. Thanks for sharing your memories.
I don't think I'd like the book either...sounds like a case for major frustration!

Muse said...

Whenever I sit down to the task of sorting photos, I always think it will be a quick and easy task.

Instead hours pass and little is accomplished. I begin looking at photos, and I am transported to a different time and place. I forget the job at hand and find I indeed have spent the afternoon time travelling.

Tracey said...

[Take 2! - I did a comment yesterday and lost it!]

I've read that book! I didn't get as cheesed off as you did. Maybe I was reading it in a more detached manner. I am always interested in the various time travel stories that people come up with, and I found that one quite a fascinating concept. I admire the imagination that I don't have!!

You are very clever to link reminiscing (sp?) to 'time travel'. I don't seem to have the same sort of vivid memories for my childhood. Although muse has made me realise that I do indeed 'time travel' when I look back at photos. Just I never seem to go that far back.

You did transport me back to my Grease days though. (And reminded me I'm older than you!) I was 16. My friends threw me a surprise party... pretending we were going some 50s dance (so we were all dressed up Grease style.)