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Father Time’s life was written on his face.

Time stood still on a mountain side in Switzerland.
We found Father Time on a mountain side in Switzerland. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

TIME STANDS STILL for no man.

I had heard it all of my life. I even thought I knew what it meant. Every day is a new day. Life keeps changing. What happened yesterday is gone even if it’s not forgotten. And tomorrow will be different from today.

That’s what I was told.

That’s what I believed.

Somebody lied.

There are places in this world where time does stand still.

I know.

I found one of them.

Gerald Crawford and I were driving through the backcountry of Switzerland. I had left Lucerne by the time the morning sun had touched the lake and wanted to see what the land really looked like far off the beaten path.

I took one turn, then another.

After a while, the turns all started to look pretty much alike.

I was standing in another lifetime, and time was simply standing still.
I was standing in another lifetime, and time was simply standing still.

We had a map, but it had been folded, wrinkled, tossed around, passed from hand to hand, and cussed a lot. Mostly it had coffee stains.

We didn’t know where we had been.

We didn’t know where we were going.

We weren’t sure which road led back.

So on we went. I was driving down a long and winding hill, and all of Switzerland spread out before me. It was as beautiful as it was supposed to be.

I guess I should have been out on the side of the road with Crawford taking photographs of the mountains. But as I looked out across the field, I immediately lost interest in the mountains.

I hit the brakes and stopped.

The world around me stopped.

Time had suddenly come to a grinding halt. Time was standing still.

Out in the field, I saw the old man at work just as he had been for most of his life. I climbed out of the car and Crawford walked toward him with his camera.

We nodded.

He smiled.

He kept working, raking cut grain by hand, the way he had been taught as a boy, the way he touch whoever came along to replace him. Then again, I don’t think he had any idea of going.

I didn’t speak his language, and he didn’t speak mine, so I don’t know who he was, where he lived, how old he was, or how long he had been working in the field. I don’t know if he owned the land or was merely a hired laborer. But the details didn’t mean much to me. They never do.

I saw the man’s life as clearly as if I had known him forever.

His life was written in his face.

For him on every day of his life, for me on one day in my life, time had indeed stood still. Nothing around us had changed for generations. He had no idea that a digitized or mechanized world existed, and I doubted it he cared. This is who he was and what he did, and he was proud of the way he did it.

I waved and we walked away.

He kept smiling.

I’ve always thought of him as Father Time.

I’ve seen Crawford’s photograph, and then as now, on a far away mountain side in a world that may or may not have existed, time is still standing still.

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