Spots of Time–as seen in Chasing Redbird, also by the author of Walk Two Moons
3. Look at the last paragraph of Chapter 27 (156-57), in which Zinny describes the gradual darkening of the sky? What is the significance of this description?
What connections can you make to Ben and Uncle Nate’s ability to see Aunt Jessie?
In Wordsworth’s famous passage about the spots of time, we understand that time and space have been intertwined in a new way, a way which allows for imagistic perception rather than an intellectual understanding. Perception is part constitutive, part creative that is. There is vast insight gained from communication with Nature in these moments where time seems to stop. Wordsworth also is famous for his definition of the Imagination. It is, he says, the powerful overflow of spontaneous feelings, recollected in tranquility. These spots of time lead to a mystical seeing into the life of things. His mind and its awesome power invest the landscape, and are invested by it, with great significance. Nature is not static; it is a living presence, with the power to nuture and to guide, hearing and seeing "A motion and spirit that impels / All thinking things, all objects of all thought" (Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey"). And he would use these moments of insight to nourish him in future years.
Zinny describes the gradual darkening of the sky in much the same way: she is part of the universe, part of the endless movement around her. Time becomes fluid as she experiences a moment when she sees into the life of things, when she is aware that the mind is" lord and master, outward sense / The obedient servant of her will." Her physical boundaries have collapsed and she has felt a "spot of time."
4. On page 250, look closely at the first full paragraph. What types of perception are being described in this passage? What do you make of the "spots" Zinny notices?
Remember the different forms of perception, of seeing we have discussed throughout the semester. Here we see Zinny combining her memory with her internal visionary power, as she recreates the moments, the spots of time, the individual places she paused along the trail. The trail becomes for Zinny a spatial memory where time repeats itself (synchronically) now as she contemplates the finality of her journey. Her trail has been her discovery, her uncovering of herself. A trail in British dialect suggests the act of playing upon or taking advantage of another’s ignorance, whereas other meanings suggest following, flowing in a long, thin line, and tracking, or deliberately blazing of a trail. When Zinny drags or draws her trail, she also marks her path inwardly as well as outwardly toward Chocton. Her perception of herself has been enhanced by the unraveling of her memories, of the healing power of Nature, of independence and of interdependence. Sight and insight are no longer dependent on physical circumstances. Maturity and humanness is to be caught up in or aware of suffering, of fears that have to be met and accomodated. Zinny experiences, and has great sympathy for and with Aunt Jessie and Uncle Nate in their desire for continuity of self, for their desire to thwart time’s grip. The paradox of man’s sense of time’s discontinuity joined with his desire for continuity of self throughout time suggests Miguel de Unamuno’s definition of the tragic sense of life. "Memory," says Miguel de Unamuno, "is the basis of individual personality; just as tradition is the basis of the collective personality of a people. We live in memory and by memory, and our life is at bottom simply the effort of our memory to persist, to transform itself into hope, the effort of our past to transform itself into our future" (8-9).