Imagine life as a game of cards, and your opponent is Time.

Time is ever-moving, unrepentant as it passes, often rapid through moments of joy, and unhurried in periods of boredom or pain. But overall, it continues steadily. We are dealt an unknown hand of cards, out of our control. Instead, the power rests with Time.

“Time is like a handful of sand – the tighter you grasp it, the faster it runs through your fingers.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Like an opponent in a betting game, Time picks up the present moment like a card from the top of the pile, and transfers it to your deck of used cards. You see a quick glimpse of the picture on the back – and perhaps you even grasp it for a split second – before it is part of the past pile. This stack of old cards can only be viewed in reflections in the glass table at which you are sat. 

“The sands of time cannot be stopped. Years pass whether we will them or not… but we can remember. What has been lost may yet live in memories.”

– Christopher Paolini

Around the room, cards from the past – or perhaps sketches of them – are displayed in frames that hang on the walls. They are impressions, imprints of bygone moments, captured and seen again like time capsules. They are spectators to the modern cards in front of you.

There’s another pile at the other end of the table, spread out in a long, winding row. Sometimes, you can see every card – laid out exactly as you imagined. Then without warning, a gust of wind will often scatter them onto the floor, extinguishing candle flames or making them flicker as shadows dance across the pictures. What you see may just be a trick of the light, without certainty.

But in this darkness, Time slows in pace as it transfers the cards across, letting you focus for longer on each card’s picture.

Time then leans forward and arranges a selection of cards on the table in front of you. You can’t pick them up, but you’re allowed to examine them and decide which one will go into the pack you have collated. In grief, when the past deck is tainted blue, Time will take pity and gradually build the colour back up to a brilliant rainbow, card by card.

Time is cruel. It will trick you and make you lose. But sometimes, when it’s feeling generous, it’ll help you heal, or slow a couple of minutes so that you realise you’re not as late to an appointment as you thought you were. Even though it often jogs ahead or trundles behind, Time will remind you that it’s a constant companion, running with you every step of the way.

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