Time Bends and Echoes

Monday Morning Musings:

“Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past. . .

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory,

down the passage we did not take,

towards the door we never opened,

into the rose garden. My words echo

Thus, in your mind.”

T.S. Eliot, from “Burnt Echo”, No. 1 of “Four Quartets”


“So much of history is mystery. We don’t know what is lost forever, what will surface again. All objects exist in a moment of time. And that fragment of time is preserved or lost or found in mysterious ways. Mystery is a wonderful part of life.”

–Amy Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter


This week–

a photo,

hidden within a mislabeled envelope, appears

challenging history

what is known and what may be,

tangible, frangible,

certainly mysterious

does it show what we think it shows?

Can it?

Will we ever know more of lives that soared and crashed?

The photo,

a door opened into the past,

within it the people still live

a passage, a channel

leading this way or that

perhaps many such secret passages exist

burrow along well-traveled pathways

winding passages that bend and shape the straight roads of time

time past, time present, time future


We go to a play,

three men enter a room, one at a time,

Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, Count Leo Tolstoy

(Barefooted and dressed as a peasant, he says

don’t call me Count, throughout the play.)

The room is furnished with a drawered table and three chairs,

in the drawer, the men will discover notebooks and pens.

(Jefferson is amazed at a pen with ink–amazed he did not think of it himself.)

Though they lived in different times,

each man has just died and entered this room,

At this discovery, Jefferson remarks,

“Evidently time bends.”


Bulletin board in the lobby of the Lantern Theater.

The door lock after each enters the room,

they cannot exit until—what?

Each man is a writer,

and it turns out each wrote his own version of the gospels,

each man was a visionary of sorts

who wrote about reforming society,

each failed within his own life to uphold the standards he envisioned

and in this amusing and entertaining play,

the men write and argue,

debate their ideas,

and write some more,

facing the mirror—us–

we, the audience, the fourth wall

hear their words,

hear them confess their deeds and weaknesses.

And what if they did meet,

and what if they did debate and discuss,

and what if we could hear them,

bending time


On a beautiful summer day,

after the play

we walk the streets that bear traces of Jefferson everywhere


a medical school and university named for him.

Centuries ago, he walked these streets

sat in a room, penned (with quill) his elegant words*

of sacred rights, of equality and independence,

even while he continued to enslave others,

words that led to a revolution,

words that still resonate today,

I imagine him,

his long-legged stroll across the cobble-stoned streets,

conversing with his unlikely friend John Adams,

perhaps opening a door into a rose garden


the scent lingers in the air

the words echo

time bends

Charles Dickens visited Philadelphia, too.

in March 1842, he stayed at the United States Hotel

on Chestnut Street near Fourth,

the part of the city

now called Old City

where Jefferson and other delegates declared our independence

I imagine their ghosts meeting on these city streets

that Dickens found much too regular

longing for a crooked street–

perhaps seeking a place where time bent

and echoes lingered in the air


Dickens met with Edgar Allen Poe,

they discussed poetry.

Dickens had a pet raven, Grip,

his stuffed body rests in a glass case

at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Dickens wrote about Grip in his book

Barnaby Rudge,

which was serialized in the Philadelphia Inquirer,

and Poe reviewed the book for a Philadelphia publication in 1842,

mentioning the raven,

and Poe later writes a poem about a raven

whose word “nevermore” echoes in the air

and through time


And on this beautiful summer day

we sit outside at a café,

drink wine

(and beer)


eat cheese



I wonder to my husband

how it would have been—

what if a woman had been in that room?

He says, was there one who wrote gospels?

I don’t know,

though I think there must have been

perhaps, lost to history,

or yet to be found,

a mystery,

perhaps to be revealed

in a mislabeled envelope,

or amidst remnants unearthed from a secret passage

in the locus of past, present, and future.

We sit at the table

(a window becomes a mirror

old buildings blend with new)


watch the people,

listening to words echo

lingering in the breeze


We saw The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens & County Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter at the Lantern Theater Company in Philadelphia.

We went to Tria Café Washington West

A photo said to be of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan was in the news this week.

*Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence 

31 thoughts on “Time Bends and Echoes

  1. Reflections on time have always fascinated me. This quote appeared on my blog post last week: ““When you retire, your past and your future meet at a moment of new beginning.” I was thrilled when a reader mentioned that she intended to create a cross-stitch rendering of the quote.

    I like your quotes and an observation of windows as mirrors. Thank you for your ingenious weaving today which worked in historical reference and literature with wine and cheese. Just a moment ago I took a Brie cheese break. Yours looks rather like mine.

    • Thank you, Marian. I am also fascinated by time (as you know). 🙂 That is wonderful quote on your blog post.
      I’m glad you enjoyed by reflections (pun intended). The cheese was described as “lustful,” I believe, on the menu. It’s a French, triple crème–so somewhat similar to Brie. It was pretty amazing, I must say.

  2. Fascinating play! Both you and your husband have the most intellectual date nights…. oh, and wine and brie are always perfect companions, as well. Beautiful embroidered blouse, Merril!

    • Thank you, Rose. I needed to get out of the house, and that was the very last performance of the play. It was perfect–play and a beautiful afternoon/evening to sit outside.
      It’s actually a sundress that I’ve had for years. Thank you. 🙂

  3. This was so compelling, Merril. From the idea of the play, which sounded right up my alley, to the references to Philadelphia streets, I was mesmerized. I’ve also been totally smitten with the new info regarding Amelia Earhart. She’s long been a larger than life figure to me.

    • Thank you very much, Janet. Mesmerized, certainly makes me happy! 🙂 Thank you for letting me know.
      The play was fun.
      Amelie Earhart’s life and death are fascinating. I imagine unless they actually find her plane and bodies, we’ll never know for sure what happened. I like though the idea of finding things hidden in archives. I don’t think people realize how things can get mislabeled and buried.

  4. Time Bends. If only we could stop our linear thinking, then we’d see past/present/future all at the same ….time. But perhaps we’re not meant to. Doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying. I just read that Madelyn L’Engle’s A WRINKLE in TIME is being made into a movie. She wrote about bending time, time travel, time wrinkled in her ahead-of-its-time YA book.
    The play sounds mind-bending. And looking at your photos of Philly (as we southern New Jerseyans called the city of brotherly love – I suppose they still do), I’m reading the new book Kiss Carlo, set in Philadelphia in the late ’40s. I think you’ll like it!

    • Pam, I’m so excited about the new, upcoming movie! I read”A Wrinkle in Time” to my own children and also to my sixth graders (1979-80) and loved the female other-worldly characters! They embrace with an ethereal cloudy presence. 🌌
      Also, my retired friend, Jenny, recommends “Kiss Carlo,” also. ❤

      • I think it’s time I re-read A Wrinkle in Time. I highly recommend Kiss Carlo. Really delightful book that sets the reader back in time to the ’50’s. Now reading The Women in the Castle, which is EXCELLENT. xo

      • Oh, this sounds good, Pam! I didn’t know about “The Women in the Castle” book. Thanks for your recommendation!
        I liked most of the book, “The Glass Castle.” (Different author and tone, I’m sure).
        I’m not sure how they will incorporate why the father is so anti-establishment. His mother, the girl who tells the story explains, about her grandmother’s “bad behaviors.” I do want to see the movie and it means a lot to have it translated on to film. As a teacher (and past child advocate), I may cringe at some of the unique ways the children are raised. Have a great rest of the week!🌸 🌞

      • Yes, I really liked the memoir The Glass Castle. She wrote it unflinchingly yet without asking for sympathy either. I hope the movie can keep the author’s tone in there. I listened to her speak (Jeannette Wells) and she spoke as she wrote. Fascinating…

      • I bet Jeannette Walls was amazing! I went to her site and she has only 4000 or so followers. Can you imagine?
        Her writing was very raw and real. I felt so bad “why” the father didn’t ever want to go back to see his mother. My book club discussed all the uncomfortable parts. His childhood is why the father is the way he is, trying to preserve freedom and unfettered joy. His wife, the kids’ mother, had such love for him that she defended him. It really is fascinating, as you said. Nice chatting about this, quite different from “A Wrinkle in Time.” 😀

      • TOTALLY different books, for sure. I just finished reading The Women in the Castle and am blown away at the writing, the story. Was in tears at the end. Since we’re sharing reviews, had to tell you this one!!! xo

  5. The play sounds fascinating. I’ve always thought that time bends, or is certainly malleable in some way. I finally figured out what I love so much about your musings. It’s the connections. You weave with words, colorful threads of current events and your own weekend activities with a little poetry, history, and photos thrown in for good measure.

    • Thank you for your lovely comment, Robin! 🙂
      The play was fun. It wasn’t as deeply philosophical as a Stoppard play; it was lighter and funnier, but I thought it was an interesting idea, and well-performed.

  6. I liked this very much, Merril. I have often liked the “table” idea of, “Who would you invite at your life’s table?”
    I admire Thomas Paine, C.S. Lewis and would have loved having Eleanore Roosevelt or Frida there at my table. Discourse and the Arts.
    So cool these men from the play, all were connected in one way or another, including Philadelphia! 🙂
    My Aunt Amelia, or as we so often called her Aunt Amy, was always reminding her three girls and we three cousins of the idea of flight and unlimited possibilities. Of course, my Dad echoed these, as her husband and my Mom believed, too.
    Aunt Amy was a HS math teacher and her husband, Uncle Orrin, was a HS science teacher. They married the same year as my Dad and Mom, in 1955.

  7. I’m working backward, so now I see the connection to the poem that follows. We were talking about that photo too, but I think it’s better, in the words of Iris DeMent, to “let the mystery be”. Also true, as she sings, for the gospels too! (K)

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