Time, they say, is the fourth dimension. There are three spatial dimensions, and there is time. The poet Delmore Schwartz commented that “time is the fire in which we burn.” Clocks and bell towers mark out the passage of time. So do calendars and metronomes. Hiking down the South Kaibab Trail and into the heart of the Grand Canyon, you hike through time. Layers of rock such as Redwall Limestone, Muav Limestone, and Bright Angel Shale greet you and bid you farewell as you hike down down down to the distant Colorado River. When you’re in the Canyon, below the rim, the evidence of deep time is all around you. Your own life is set off against billions of years, and you seem so brief. On my office credenza I have a jagged piece of metamorphic rock from the Vishnu Schist – which is one of the lowest exposed strata at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It is approximately 2 billion year old.
Time plays a role in litigation. Deadlines abound and mark out the progress of a case. Filing deadlines, discovery time-lines, and court-imposed dates all compete for attention. Those are all managed once litigation has started, but a claim can be “timed out” if you are not careful. Statutes of limitation are legislatively imposed deadlines for bringing a claim, and once those deadlines have passed, the claim you have is no longer a claim you can bring. For example, Michigan law provides that you generally have three years to bring an automobile negligence claim. Under most circumstances, you have 6 years to file a breach of contract claim. Other causes of action have different time-periods. If you are not careful, if you don’t consult an attorney who understands these periods of limitation, you run a great risk that a lawsuit may be over before it even starts.
Coming up from the Colorado River, I see the layers of rock marking out the progress of deep time. Emerging from below the rim, tired and dirty from a non-stop 8 hour climb, I look at my fragment of dusty rock that predates almost everything that can ever be thought of. Then I look back, and down, at the gray-green ribbon of the Colorado River that still carves the inner gorge. Time stands still, for a moment at least.