This past week, two of my cats have found such good hiding places in my house that I honestly couldn’t find them, even though I looked everywhere. I jokingly thought to myself that there might be a secret time portal in my house that only they know about and can slip in and out of at will.
I actually think about portals in time a lot. It probably started when I was a kid and saw the old Twilight Zone episode, “The Odyssey of Flight 33”, which concerns a commercial airliner that inadvertently travels back in time. Yes, it’s fiction, like so many other fantastical stories of slipping into another time and place, but I’m one of those types of people who chooses to believe that fact can be stranger than fiction and that the universe is inconceivably vast. So who am I to say that portals in time are something that could never exist?
When it comes to portals in the fictional sense, there is almost always something that one needs to pass through. It could be a very odd looking cloud that a plane flies through, it could be a cave, it could be a shimmering shape of light, a tunnel, a doorway, or any number of things.
On the last camping trip I took this summer, I let my mind wander for just a moment. I was on my way back to the campground by way of a short trail that went out to the beach. Right before getting back, there was a metal tunnel that actually goes under the road and pops you out right in front of the campground.
I stopped at the opening to the tunnel. No one else was around. For just a moment, I closed my eyes and imagined that when I stepped into the tunnel, I would travel back to a point in time where, back at the campsite, Mario would be sitting in one of our folding chairs, holding his wine glass, and waiting for me to get back to start up the campfire.
Well, the tunnel was, of course, not a time portal, unless you want to call it a portal to a past memory. If I reframe it and redefine it, I have been through quite a few metaphorical portals where I essentially passed from one time to another (although always moving forward in time). I most certainly went through one when I passed through the hospital doors the night Mario died–walking into a new, weird, time period I’d previously had no experience in.
As a widowed person, I’m probably not the only one who lets their mind wander to the past. I’m probably not the only one who wishes they could go back and relive a good memory one more time or perhaps influence events and change outcomes.
I’m reminded of a quote from Albert Einstein:
“Now he has again preceded me a little in parting from this strange world. This has no importance. For people like us who believe in physics, the separation between past, present and future has only the importance of an admittedly tenacious illusion.”
He penned this in a letter to a friend’s family after that friend’s passing and ironically, only a matter of weeks before his own death. Many have taken some liberties with the quote or reformatted it to simply, “time is an illusion”. But the purpose of his letter was not to talk physics or actual theories, but to comfort the family of his friend while they were grieving their loss.
It’s a very human, and natural thing to long for “more time” or desire to go back in time and change things. But still, those metaphorical portals can exist, where we can play with time. And so, when it helps to soften the blow, I create my own portal and travel back to to a happy memory.