life's time-lapse sequences
Wednesday, April 18 2007
The scenes in a documentary can be like still images in a time-lapse video. Since seeing the Frontline piece about the Stephen Heywood (the ALS sufferer), I've realized that its poignancy was similar to the kind I felt for the stars of the long-running British documentary Seven Up, which, every seven years, checks in with individuals in a group that this project has been following since they were seven back in 1964. In the more recent versions of the series, we've seen the individuals enter mid-life and, in many cases, settle into a lives that are something other than how they'd imagined they would be. But we don't just see how our heroes are now; we're also shown footage of the way they were. The ease with which the editors were able to cut back and forth between the potential of youth and the unspectacular realities of middle age showcased human futility far more viscerally than anything else I've ever seen. The Stephen Heywood documentary was similarly moving because his decline was accelerated to the point where it could be captured in nearly its entirety over the course of a mere three years.
But life itself is full of time-lapse sequences, even if none are quite so profound. The most obvious of these is, say, watching your infant nephew grow into a teenager over the course of a dozen yearly family visits. Today I was given an example of a time-lapse life movie happening on an even tighter scale. This came when I was in Woodstock on a housecall. Whenever I go to Woodstock on my own business (that is, without Gretchen), I almost always get myself a couple slices of pizza at Catskill Mountain Pizza. Despite the change of the seasons and the ebb and flow of tourists, that place is about as unchanging as the face of the moon. Unlike most restaurants, Catskill Mountain Pizza has no observable employee turnover. Once I went in there and the Latino guys who actually make the pizza had commandeered the television to watch Hispanic dance movies (it's a genre not unlike Bollywood), but usually the joint's television is kept locked on a particular MusicChoice rock and roll channel.
Today, though, I noticed a change at that pizza place. I don't know the name of the young woman who usually fetches me my slices, but she's served me so many times I feel like I know her and that she should know me. Suddenly today she had become unconcealably pregnant. It was as if she'd gone from zero to six months since the last time I'd seen her, which couldn't have been more than a few weeks ago.
I'd brought the dogs along with me (though I'd left them in the car during the housecall, as Sally had pissed on this client's floor the last time I'd taken her in there with me), so while I was in Woodstock, I took the dogs on an extra-special walk. We went to the Comeau Property, the nature preserve just beyond the buildings along the southwest edge of the village. Due to recent rains, the trails were muddy and Saw Kill creek was greyish-orange and moderately flooding. While walking through them, I realized most of the Comeau Property's forest is an old plantation of White Pine, with evenly-spaced trees 100 feet tall and with trunks a foot or more wide. Here in there among the pines is the odd accidental Shagbark Hickory which somehow managed to grow to equal height and trunk thickness amongst the monotony of its monocultural brethren.
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