A strange face in the mirror and my temples aren't gray

I just spent half an hour searching Google for this excerpt from "Einstein's Dreams" by Alan Lightman, a selection I consider one of the most astonishingly great and immediate snatches of prose I've ever read. I get in certain moods...I can barely read it without crying.

I found this, by the way, on my old Xanga. Sigh. A life of images and no time, indeed.


Imagine a world in which there is no time.
Only images.
     A child at the seashore, spellbound by
her first glimpse of the ocean. A woman
standing on a balcony at dawn, her hair
down, her loose sleeping silks, her bare
feet, her lips. The curved arch of the arcade
near the Zähringer Fountain on Kramgasse,
sandstone and iron. A man sitting in the
quiet of his study, holding the photograph
of a woman, a pained look on his face. An
osprey framed in the sky, its wings out-
stretched, the sun rays piercing between
feathers. A young boy sitting in an empty
auditorium, his heart racing as if he were
on stage. Footprints in snow on a winter is-
land. A boat on the water at night, its lights
dim in the distance, like a small red star in
the black sky. A locked cabinet of pills. A
leaf on the ground in autumn, red and gold
and brown, delicate. A woman crouching in
the bushes, waiting by the house of her es-
tranged husband, whom she must talk to. A
soft rain on a spring day, on a walk that is
the last walk a young man will take in the
place that he loves. Dust on a windowsill. A
stall of peppers on Marktgasse, the yellow
and green and red. Matterhorn, the jagged
peak of white pushing into the solid blue
sky, the green valley and the log cabins.
The eye of a needle. Dew on leaves, crystal,
opalescent. A mother on her bed, weeping,
the smell of basil in the air. A child on a
bicycle in the Kleine Schanze, smiling the
smile of a lifetime. A tower of prayer, tall
and octagonal, open balcony, solemn, sur-
rounded by arms. Steam rising from a lake
in early morning. An open drawer. Two
friends at a café, the lamplight illuminating
one friend’s face, the other in shadow. A cat
watching a bug on the window. A young
woman on a bench, reading a letter, tears
of joy in her green eyes. A great field, lined
with cedar and spruce. Sunlight, in long an-
gles through the window in late afternoon.
A massive tree fallen, roots sprawling in air,
bark, limbs still green. The white of a sail-
boat, with the wind behind it, sails billowed
like wings of a giant white bird. A father
and son alone at a restaurant, the father sad
and staring down at the tablecloth. An oval
window, looking out on fields of hay, a
wooden cart, cows, green and purple in the
afternoon light. A broken bottle on the floor,
brown liquid in the crevices, a woman with
red eyes. An old man in the kitchen, cook-
ing breakfast for his grandson, the boy gaz-
ing out the window at a white painted
bench. A worn book lying on a table beside
a dim lamp. The white on water as a wave
breaks, blown by wind. A woman lying on
her couch with wet hair, holding the hand
of a man she will never see again. A train
with red cars, on a great stony bridge with
graceful arches, a river underneath, tiny
dots that are houses in the distance. Dust
motes floating in sunlight through a window.
The thin skin in the middle of a neck, thin
enough to see the pulse of blood under-
neath. A man and woman naked, wrapped
around each other. The blue shadows of
trees in a full moon. The top of a mountain
with a strong steady wind, the valley falling
away on all sides, sandwiches of beef and
cheese. A child wincing from his father’s
slap, the father’s lips twisted in anger, the
child not understanding. A strange face in
the mirror, gray at the temples. A young
man holding a telephone, startled at that
he is hearing. A family photograph, the par-
ents young and relaxed, the children in ties
and dresses and smiling. A tiny light, far
through a thicket of trees. The red at sun-
set. An eggshell, white, fragile, unbroken.
A blue hat washed up on shore. Roses cut
and adrift on the river beneath the bridge,
with a château rising. Red hair of a lover,
wild, mischievous, promising. The purple
petals of an iris, held by a young woman. A
room of four walls, two windows, two beds,
a table, a lamp, two people with red faces,
tears. The first kiss. Planets caught in
space, oceans, silence. A bead of water on
the window. A coiled rope. A yellow brush.

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