The past is a place which enriches me in almost all I do, and I love travelling there as much as I love travelling abroad.  As Henry Miller said, it ‘fructifies the present’, and I see history as a vertical version of geography – a place you can visit and meet – or commune – with other people, perhaps quite different from yourself in many respects, but also bound by much in common.

This deep fascination with time past, present and future, including how they reinforce each other, and how we relate to them means I love finding novel ways to describe our relationship with time and its tenses.

Here is a fresh metaphor for the presence of the past in our lives, and incidentally a touching affirmation of the connection we feel if an animal shows a moment’s trust in eating from our hand.

This is a quiet reminder that if we abandon the natural world – or the past – we abandon something which generated us.  And, I’d add, in so doing, we deny ourselves something which can also regenerate us.

Wishing you many happy visitations from minor gods, whether from the natural world or the world of time and tenses.

‘To have an animal eat from your hand… feels like a visitation from a minor god. A message from the natural world we have abandoned but which generated us. The past, to me, feels like this neglected natural world.  I felt that light claw of something living through hundreds of years.’

See also the bestellar review of this luminous book, complete with a mosaic of quotations and metaphors.


Source: Molly Peacock, The Paper Garden: Mrs Delany Begins her Life’s Work at 72 (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), p. 268

Photo credits: Lane Jackman, Martin Castro and David Hofmann at


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