Tincture of Time

When a problem or sorrow defies easy solution, I think of the elderly endodontist in Houston who soothed my spirits while he fixed my teeth. He had an office filled with Native American art, which he bought on vacation at reservations, and he played Classic Oldies Hits on the radio, to which he whistled harmony, loudly, while he worked. The first time I went to see him, I did not yet find these things familiar or comforting. I was in deep pain, so confused I couldn’t tell exactly which tooth hurt.

He took something that looked like the bottom of an icicle and tapped it methodically against each of the teeth that I thought might be the aggressor. Nothing. Then he tried the tooth to the left. Nothing. Then he tried the tooth to the right.

I winced.

“Ah!” he said, and got out that probe thing, the one with the point on the end, and turned it around. He banged the thick, ridged handle on each of the teeth he had tried before. First tooth: nothing. Second tooth: nothing. Tooth to the left: nothing. Tooth to the right….

I screamed, and jumped back in the seat. I covered my mouth with both hands and hot tears ran down my face. I was ashamed at so big a reaction, but he handed me a tissue as if this happened routinely, and put away the instrument.

“That,” he said, “is what is known as a ‘hot tooth.’ I’m not going to touch that tooth today.” I relaxed slightly. He continued, “We’re going to treat this with tincture of time.”

I said, “Tincture of thyme? What’s that, some herbal cure, like oil of oregano?”

He said, “No, t-i-m-e. I’m going to put you on antibiotics for two weeks, and then I’ll try to touch that tooth. I can’t get anywhere near it now.”

Two weeks later, the tooth was ready to be treated. My fever was gone, the swelling had stopped, and healing could begin.

I cannot whistle.

But when confronted with a thorny problem, a suffering child, an affronted friend, now, sometimes I step back.

I picture tincture of time being poured over us all, like a heavy healing oil, soothing, fragrant. It drips down our hair, it softens our skin, it sinks in where nothing else can reach.

I picture myself leaving it there, to do its work without me, penetrating silently, working unseen.

And I turn on some music, and hum my own harmony.

And wait for healing.

5 thoughts on “Tincture of Time”

  1. An homage to “the great spirit”, the healer who does no harm, who sees the followthrough and calms the moment. Your work give so much pleasure in the intimacy of acquaintance.

  2. My dear – I, too, use TofT to apply to situations I cannot help with. It is hard to back away from ticklish situations. “Just sit and wait,” my grandmother would say. I would huff and puff and then flounce to my room. Some hours or days later, the situation would “miraculously” be righted, and I would have to apologize to my grandmother. I caught myself saying the same thing to my children. And I still remind myself of it now that I’m a great-grandmother. When my great-grand-baby died of SIDS at 3 months of age, I was devastated, just as the rest of the family was. But I have age and experience with grief and stress. And I know that TofT (AKA, just sit and wait) softens terrible stress and experiences. And it has begun to do just that. Age and experience help with many things. God helps me daily. And I have the Jesus Prayer. Something I wish I had known about many years ago!

    1. Thank you for this. Just what I needed to hear today as I struggle with parenting my restless, irritable, 10 year old. I keep wanting to “fix” his attitude, or our misunderstanding in the moment, or his behaviour, or shut down his complaining. I get so angry inside, because I don’t know what to DO. I suspect that accepting that “nothing” for a while may be just the thing will calm me and allow me to just love him. So what is the antibiotic that works while we leave it alone. Is it prayer?

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