I attended two weddings this summer. The first was in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (though Ashley & spent most of our time in nearby Pigeon Forge). The second wedding was in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The Tennessee event took place at a pavilion in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, while in Arkansas the reception was at the Crescent Hotel (which likes to bill itself as the World's Most Haunted Hotel). These were nice get-a-ways, and I have fond memories of the weekends.
What occurs to me about the aforementioned weekends is that some of their importance rests upon their timing, and who was there, not just in the destinations, themselves. I quite liked Eureka Springs, and wouldn't mind going back at some point, though it will undoubtedly be a different experience. Neither Ashley's dad (who visited us while we were there) nor anyone from the wedding party will be present. The space will be the same, but the time will not. That can make all the difference.
All of our experiences and memories are made-up of a series of convergences of space and time. Back in the late '90s, I attended my friend Bret's graduation from nursing school over in Lafayette, Indiana. While I could probably go back to the auditorium where the graduation occurred (assuming it's still standing), it wouldn't be with nearly the same familiarity. The structure -- the space -- would be the same, but, due to the time, there would not be any of our old friends there who witnessed the graduation. Time has moved on. Bret is a collection of ashes in a mausoleum in Lafayette. The friends who were there have all moved on with their lives.
I think about the living room of the house I grew up in. The living room where so many friends and family came and went. The house is still there, but a step inside that same living room today would now be meaningless, at least on a personal level. There would be no uncle Joe, stopping by for one of his weekly visits. No grandparents. No other uncles, no aunts, no cousins. No mom or dad. Other people now inhabit that space, building their own lives and memories.
And all of this is just about the people I know and remember. What of the many, many souls who have come and gone in the plethora of spaces I've occupied? Souls who long ago walked those same steps, decades and centuries earlier. Here on our local university campus, we are reminded of such people with the inscription on our Alma Mater statue: "To thy happy children of the future, those of the past send greetings." It doesn't get much more direct than that.
We occupy our spaces on earth for but a relatively short time. Someday, our homes will belong to others, places of horrific events will become scenes of serenity (and vice-versa), people will come and go. We often think fondly of particular places, but I guess, if you think about it, it's the people who shared those places with us that really makes them special. The time we spent with them there. That is the fleeting beauty of space and time.