As I write this, in mid-March 2021, most of us have been living under some form of lockdown for a year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. These stay-at-home orders have changed the way I move through life, including how I perceive time. I began saying “time is a farce” any time I looked at my calendar (although, of course, I’d then go on to schedule that online coffee date on Tuesday at noon). Working in the garden, I felt inter-connectedness with all of the humans and other creatures who had worked or walked on it before me. I found myself simultaneously trying to predict the future — when will the stay-at-home order be lifted? When will my work site open up again? — and sitting with present uncertainty. Less beholden to the linearity of an office work-day, time started to fold in on itself.
We live in the thick of things, not on some individualized linear path that moves from birth to death.Whitney A. Bauman, “Queer Values for a Queer Climate” (in Meaningful Flesh: Reflections on Religion and Nature for a Queer Planet)
“Queer time of reverberation,” as Whitney Bauman terms it, is not a new concept in this pandemic, though I feel it more strongly now. In queer community, time often seems to move differently.
“Straight time” is usually perceived as linear. The various events of a person’s life are more or less pre-assumed, and build on previous experiences. A child is born, comes of age and discovers themself in adolescence, dates other people, gets married, raises kids and pursues a career, and finally retires to relax in the abundance that they have produced.
For queer people, however, these same life-stages may happen cyclically, or simultaneously. A lesbian who comes out later in life may re-experience the thrill of dating as a 60-year-old, not a 20-year-old. Families may reject their queer members, and queer folks find their own chosen families. I have been simultaneously going through puberty (thanks to gender-affirming hormone therapy) and working to have children. The success of a career in queer activism will likely look very different from the success of a career in, say, banking.
There is beauty in this cyclical sense of time. Ecclesiastes says: “a season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven” (3:1). To this, Pete Seeger added “turn, turn, turn,” reminding us that the seasons repeat in new and yet familiar ways. Here in the Pacific Northwest, as the light and warmth of spring return, I deeply feel this cycle of the seasons, both literal and metaphorical. We are approaching the spring equinox, celebrated by some pagans as the holiday Ostara on the Wheel of the Year. My friend Natalie Copeland wrote this verse and shared it on a podcast episode about the holiday:
It is perennially wild to me
How the mere tilt of the earth
Is always alchemy to my soul
And how radical a change can occur
By simply standing apparently still.
I sprout fresh feathered leaves
Over and over again.
The church I attend uses liturgical resources from A Sanctified Art. We are currently in the season of Lent, the forty days of self-reflection preceding Easter. The Lenten theme this year is “Again & Again.” Again & again the Divine calls us . . . the Divine loves us . . . the Divine sanctifies us. Again & again we turn toward justice . . . toward hope . . . toward peace. As time reverberates all around us, we honor the past, present, and future all at once.