When Mike was little, he’d tell me he was going to build a time machine. When he didn’t want to wait for something, he’d say, “we need a time machine.” Or “if we had a time machine we wouldn’t have to wait.” I think he’d tell you the Back To the Future films are still among his favorites. As he got older, the desire for a time machine became the hub around which his fantastic sense of humor would sometimes turn.
Mike comes by his imaginative interest in time travel honestly. One of my favorite reads in elementary school was a book called Tunnel Through Time, about a scientist and his son who travel back to when the dinosaurs lived. But my absolute favorite was one I paid forty five cents for from The Arrow Book Club called The Forgotten Door. After all these years, and all this life I’ve lived, it’s still on my shelf. The cover was almost all the way off when I found it last week, and read it again.
The Forgotten Door is about a boy on a distant planet, who, while out watching the stars with his family and community, accidentally falls through a no longer-used space/time machine, hidden in a hole in the ground. He arrives on Earth with a head injury that makes it impossible for him to remember exactly where he came from. His civilization is light years ahead of anything we have accomplished and has abandoned such technology–he lives in a far gentler future world than the one we humans have created. His people are telepathic with both humans and animals, can make their feet “light” almost as if they are flying, don’t eat flesh, and have no use for money, lies or war. The kind humans who try to protect him from the brutality of our world work to find the exact spot he appeared so his people on the other side, who know he’s been in a time/space accident and are looking for him, can help him return.
I still wonder if there are actual places where time takes a different shape than the “line” we assume it is, creating an opening to the past or the future, or both. About a year and a half ago, in my post The Spirit of Thanksgiving Past, I reflected on whether or not my past self would have recognized my future self standing across the street from where Mike and Kelly lived when they were in college, watching the me I was then make her slow way out of their car to Thanksgiving Dinner:
“If time bent back on itself and the present ‘me’ could have stood there, then, five years ago, watching my past self make her deliberate way up the steps to the door, would she have noticed me? Not likely, she had to concentrate so hard in the moment to put one foot in front of the other, locked in effort and pain. But I was “there,” somehow, waiting, having faith in her to find me, somehow, someday. And she did. Even though, like the characters in Mike’s film Space, we had to go in opposite directions first, one in search of the other.”
When I stood across the street from that little house a year and a half ago, it was a kind of pinnacle. I’d never ever walked there before. (If you’d like to read how far I’d come in 5 years of eating a low fat plant-based diet, you can do that by reading The Spirit of Thanksgiving Past in its entirety.) This Spring that pinnacle literally became a portal I walked right through,on the way to what will be my new home in a little less than a month.
The morning I first walked out to what is becoming my new home I had only the sense that a giant magnet was pulling me toward it, and that Romeo and I should walk in this opposite of our usual direction to see if we could get there. We’ll just walk until there’s a hill we can’t get up I told him, and off we went.
I also had an inkling that the way north past where Mike and Kelly once lived was relatively level. And that if I kept walking on that street I would perhaps get to a cross street that would lead me to the street the little house was on. When I passed their old house where I had once stood across the street staring and reflecting, I was in completely new territory. It was as if an invisible glass wall had softened and allowed me to step through it into my future.
I had never walked this way or this far this particular way before, so it was like going into a new world. I didn’t know how far it was or how long it would take to get there, or if there would be any forbidding hills in the way. I had a hunch the high hills were just east of me, and that I might go around them, and if so, i could make it to the house with the magnet in it pulling me toward it.
I was right. When I got there, it was even more cute, more right than the pictures, and I knew I would walk back home and make a call to come see the inside. That afternoon after my nap, Romeo and I were walking back through that portal, bundled up against a Spring rain. Green shoots were emerging all around us from the duff and chaf of old leaves and dead stalks. The beginning of Spring greening was reinforcing this sense of never before-ness and new life. From the moment I stepped over the threshold of the front door, connections were realized that began to coalesce an arrival at a new place in my life, with a new house and garden around me to help me grow into it. By the next afternoon my offer was accepted and I was buying the house.
About a week later I woke up one morning with the distinct feeling that I had literally been in the future for a week. Now I was “back,” with the directions for how to get there. And by that night, I had contacted the woman who is now buying my blue house.
I would walk through this portal on the way to my new house several times before I would notice the crumbling stairs in the photo at the top of this post. I had stood next to them while taking shots of the house for The Spirit of Thanksgiving post but never knew they were there.They lead nowhere these days. Next to a high retaining wall that forms the back end of the corner property, perhaps they once led into a garden at the top of it. They are steep and not easily climbable. But one afternoon Romeo and I went up as far as we could, to the point where they disappear. It was a strange feeling, a lot like the one in the A.A Milne poem “Halfway Down,” which has always been one of my favorites.
Perhaps people falling through forgotten doors is only the stuff of science fiction. But I wonder. Space and time travel does not seem to have to follow a linear sequence, or to require a trip to a distant planet. It opens up in multi-directions in any instant we are willing to follow a hunch that comes from the heart.
I know there’s a lot of debate and disagreement about nature versus nurture when it comes to our health. I truly believe the low fat plant-based way of eating makes it a lot more likely that I’ll have and recognize these ineffable yet decisive turning points I’m trying to render here. But being in a state of self awareness and care that allows for recognizing these moments is also the golden key to healing. The way to the future always involves turning an invisible key that is as ephemeral as a hunch, a feeling, a wisp of knowing, and just trusting it, following the direction it leads until there’ a hill that can’t be climbed. And then even that belief begins to shift. Because it’s open ended. It doesn’t say “climb no hills”; it only says walk until there’s one that can’t be climbed. Kind of like the “maybe I will, maybe I won’t–but maybe I will” theory I mentioned in my post “Better Than It Was.” Those high hills can shape shift and open us into creative possibility, if we let ourselves through an opening to where that can happen. Low fat plant-based eating is one of those shape shifting openings for me.
Even though I’ve read it several times throughout my life, I had forgotten the ending to The Forgotten Door. I had completely failed to remember that not only is the boy Jon able to return, with help from both sides of the “door,” but that he brings the family who has endangered themselves by helping him through the door to his new world. I actually cried when I realized this was the ending I had forgotten. It’s so true that healing is not only about survival, it’s about generosity and expansion and inclusion of those we love and who love us. Sometimes this is something we are meant to discover. I may have taken the first steps through what became a portal, but on both sides of it there have been loving connections helping me at every step of the way. Before I met them, I didn’t know the young couple selling my new house had been in the same collaborative art exhibit I had been in. I didn’t know that the young husband and father knew my son Mike through their experiences in the Sculpture Lab of the Art Department at the University of Idaho, and that he would remember Kelly’s wonderful felt sculptures. I didn’t know I already knew and liked their next door neighbor, and I didn’t yet know it was the same house my friend and her husband lived in and loved 35 years ago when they were first married. I also didn’t yet know that the woman who is buying my house was second in line to buy it, but that I had to buy it instead, so mine would be available for her to buy, because it’s just as right for her and her needs as the one I’m buying is for me. And of course, the entry point to this future, the portal across the street from the house where Mike and Kelly used to live, is a place full of the memory of loving connection between the three of us. The flowering of any future is always seeded by the riches of the past.
When we honor ourselves by eating in this gentle whole foods way, we help to open and create a new world, not only for ourselves, but for others, too, even if they don’t eat like we do. The excellent science behind it is definitely convincing as well. But before I knew all that, I was simply following a hunch that it’s the right thing to do. In following that hunch I began to create a whole set of possibilities for a more bright and loving future by allowing myself to step through the invisible door leading to the other side of that hunch. Connections awaited me on that other side, heartfelt and real, that, among other things like a whole online support community of new friends, made this blog possible. So we may take the step alone, but we are never alone if we take the step.
Although we only have stories to go on, the experience of glimpsing the future seems to me a lot like traveling to another planet. Like the beginning of Star Trek used to announce, I have to be willing to boldly (or even timidly) go where I’ve never gone before. Trusting the way will become clear, one step at a time. In this spirit, walking down the street can easily become walking into the future.