Up Ahead | porchlight - Indiana Public Media

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Up Ahead


Roadside stand, Brown County, Indiana

Over the course of this past year, so many lives were suddenly cut short. While time always seems to be a scarce resource for each one of us, there is, theoretically at least, an endless supply of it. But since so much illusion is attached to the imagined length of these moments, seasons, and lifetimes, for now let’s just play along.

Imagine that all the time that’s diverted – stolen, really – from so many vibrant lives during this pandemic has somehow found its way to you, simply because you woke up today amidst the world in crisis. Simply because you have survived thus far. Congratulations. Your only reward? Thomas Merton’s daily prayer to God, it turns out: more time.

So can someone be given raw time that is unscheduled, unfamiliar, seemingly limitless and come away with a deeper appreciation of just how precious the smallest amounts of it can be?

In that sense, maybe spending 15 minutes these days is like spending 49 cents in the middle of the last century. If you had just that amount of change in your pocket back then, you already had a wide variety of choices, experiences, and items available to enhance your daily existence just by walking into a local drug store, a grocery, or a diner.

How much difference could this modest sum of 49 cents make? Well, Woolworth’s 5 and 10 cent stores once had over 2,000 locations spread across the United States and it wasn’t until the spring of 1932 that they began to include items for sale that were priced at more than a nickel or a dime. Nevertheless, their products and prices store to store would pretty much remain uniform, as would befit one of America’s very first retail chains.

Back in, say, 1950, you might have purchased a packet of five white linen handkerchiefs at Woolworth’s for 49 cents. I know this because I found one still unopened with its original price sticker at a garage sale some years ago. One of those soft clean handkerchiefs for instance might have been offered to comfort someone crying, someone unexpectedly messy, someone sweating in the midday sun. Once upon a time, a brief interaction like that between two strangers surely happened somewhere. The handkerchief might have been all that was exchanged – no words, no names - but perhaps those few moments endured with feelings and memories spanning across each of those two lifetimes.

Which is to say: Just imagine what you might do with a whole 15 minutes.


Song, Artist, Album 

Which Will, Nick Drake, Pink Moon

Where Will I Be?, David Crosby, Crosby and Nash

What Do We Do Now?, John Hiatt, Crossing Muddy Waters

Theme From Rawhide, Frankie Lane, Soundtrack

Lush Life, Stan Getz, Golden

Night Ride Home, Joni Mitchell, Night Ride Home

Groovin’, Rascals, Very Best

Uncle John’s Band, Grateful Dead, Workingman’s Dead

All Things Must Pass, George Harrison, All Things Must Pass

Nine Pound Hammer, Tom Roznowski, Voice Beyond The Hill

Keith Jarrett, Don’t Ever Leave Me, The Melody At Night With You