Time Loop by special guest Dr. Harrison Solow

“Here is the question: If you could talk to your 16-year-old self, what would you say?  What advice, warnings, or encouragement would you give your younger self?”


Time Loop

If I could talk to my sixteen year old self, I’d be silent. I’m not disposed to dispensing advice. And she isn’t disposed to taking it. Already she has begun to sense the fallibility of the advice dispensers in her life, so she will view me with suspicion. She isn’t happy to see me. I know her. I know all about her. Every single thing she ever thought and did – 100% of her life. She knows but a fraction of mine – nothing beyond what she is at the moment we meet. She feels at a disadvantage.

And I’m no longer what she is…

I look at her, with her Catholic school uniform (plaid skirt, very white shirt and saddle shoes), thin, ink-stained fingers and sunburnt California face, knowing that this is the summer she will spend mostly at the beach, reading 133 books in a mad quest to know everything.

And now she wants to know what will have happened to her by the time she is me-now. I can’t tell her. I can’t tell her a thing, because, the time-space continuum being what it is, if I do, her future might not happen and my sons won’t be born. I will protect their existence over hers. I’m not her mother.

But she doesn’t know about time-space continua. She doesn’t like science fiction and Star Trek hasn’t even aired yet. Her mind is full of Whitman and Eliot, Merton and Woolf. She doesn’t know that she will take Astronomy & Physics at foreign universities or that I will have changed her mind about this magnificent speculative literature – that it will become an enormous part of our life, that sometime in the 1990s, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, most of the Star Trek cast and other icons of that world, will have become her friends and colleagues. She doesn’t know that because of it, she will marry a man whom Variety calls “a Hollywood legend” in that world and beyond.

She doesn’t care, anyway. She wants to be a priest.

That’s the first direct question she asks me – “Am I – uh – are you – or we – a priest?”

I don’t know if it’s okay, in this timewarp, to tell her what hasn’t happened – but I risk it. “No,” I say. “It still isn’t an option for women, even in my now.”

I don’t look at her when I say this, not wanting to reveal by a single twitch of a muscle either what I feel about this; or that her current predilection has undergone considerable alteration in my life; that there are deeper priesthoods in her future.

But when I look up, her face is stricken. Her eyes are swimming with tears. My stomach tightens. My throat constricts.

“You’re sixteen,” I say, finally. “You would have had to have started seminary at eighteen. You didn’t really think the Church’s entire dogma on the priesthood would change in two years, did you?”

It doesn’t sound very compassionate to me, even as I say it, but I remember that shock, that bitterness so well – that day when I was sixteen and someone came to visit me and told me something like that. (Was it an aunt? I don’t remember. Someone who looked like me anyway.) The bitterness must have crept in from memory, changed the sound of my voice…

“I don’t know,” she says, squinting, looking up at the sky, “Maybe.”

I remember then how very young sixteen was then. Much, much younger than now.

Suddenly she says, “Is Brother Joachim okay? I mean in your time? Tell me.”

The intensity of youthful friendships in those faraway days, the loyalty, the honour, return for a moment. Innocence. Joy. I remember her – my  –  beloved Franciscan friar, close my eyes against decades of memory and grief, and nod almost imperceptibly, hoping the universe won’t notice.

She doesn’t press me for a verbal answer, but I see her body relax slightly.

“Do I get to go to university?” she asks. “Do I get a PhD?”

I can’t tell her any more, I say, but this time I tell her why. I tell her that her life won’t be like anything she has yet dreamt; that we are meeting in a brief aberration of time – a Temporal Paradox; and that anything she knows about her future could alter it.

“Then what are you here for?” she asks.

“To talk to you – to give you a little advice.”

“But hasn’t my future already happened?”

“Not for you.”

“Yes, but my future is your past, isn’t it?” she asks.

“Not all of it.”

“Well, up to this point it is,” she answers. “So what advice could you possibly give me that would actually work?”

I look at her squarely, face to face, right into the dark, dark eyes I know so well. It is then I realize what I’m really here for.  I give her the answer she already has:


She smiles, then –  a clean, sweet, sad, sixteen year old smile, and turns away.

I begin to retreat into the unstable time vortex that seems to be forming around me but she suddenly turns back, takes my hand – and I return for a moment to hold her to my heart.

“Right,” she says, as I slowly release her into my past. “Because, of the two of us, it’s only your future that can actually change.”

__________________________________________________  © 2012 Harrison Solow

Harrison Solow Bio:

Time Loop by Harrison Solow

Dr Harrison Solow

American writer Harrison Solow has been honoured with multiple awards for her literary fiction, nonfiction, cross-genre writing, poetry and professional writing, most notably winning the prestigious Pushcart Prize for Literature in 2008.  A writer and strategic consultant of rare experience, her work spans Hollywood, Academia, Business, Law and Literature. Harrison Solow is one of the two best-selling University of California Press authors of all time (at time of publication), a Notable Alumna of Mills College where she earned an MFA, and holds the rare distinction of a British PhD in English (Letters) with a critical and creative dissertation “Accepted as Submitted: No Changes” from Trinity Saint David in 2011.

She lectures in English and American Literature, Creative, Nonfiction and Cross Genre Writing, Specific Authors, Science Fiction and American Culture, Professional Writing, Philosophy and Theology at a number of universities, colleges, arts and cultural institutions in the United States, Canada and Great Britain.Time Loop by Harrison Solow

A former faculty member at UC Berkeley, she accepted a lectureship in the English Department of the University of Wales in 2004 and was appointed Writer in Residence in 2008. She returned to America in 2009.

Dr. Solow is a strong proponent of the traditional Liberal Arts, the Fine Arts and the Utilitarian Arts as separate and equally respectable entities, an advocate for Wales and a patron of literary endeavours.

She is married to Herbert F. Solow, the former Head of MGM, Paramount and Desilu Studios in Hollywood and has two sons.

Her latest book is Felicity & Barbara Pym: Amazon and WordPress Page

Harrison Solow is available for interviews, lectures and workshops. She can be reached through her manager, Simon Rivkin at simonrivkin@solowtwo.com

Harrison Solow’s Web pages: Red Room and Academia   Follow Harrison on Twitter: @harrisonsolow and on Facebook


  1. Harrison, I truly admire your style of weaving fiction with non-fiction. This piece was a joy to read!

  2. Elizabeth Eslami says:

    Rich and evocative, as ever. I wonder what it says about us that I too wrote of my sixteen self “She isn’t happy to see me.” 🙂

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Victoria – that is my specialty – and where I feel most comfortable – in the liminal land between the two. I appreciate your inviting me to participate.

  4. Elizabeth – it probably means that we would have been BFFs when we were both 16. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading – and for tweeting it to your myriad fans. 🙂

  5. This topic is so very timely – my son recently converted to Catholicism. I told him I would convert the minute the church allowed women priests, and all priests to marry. Guess it will be a long, long time.

  6. Parthenia Hicks says:

    A look back at your very precocious self, reading 133 books in one summer and planning for a life that will morph into something else altogether. I appreciate the wisdom of your sixteen-year-old self and the tenderness of your reflection.

  7. I remember Brother Joachim and the powerful effect he had in my life too.

  8. I understand, Erica. Of course, I have very different views and a very very different spirituality now, than I did at 16. I would have liked to have had the option, however, to fulfill that particular dream *at the time*. Thank you for the kind comment.

  9. Parthenia – thank you so much. I very much appreciate your sensitivity. Of course some of those books were YA and pretty easy to read, but most of them were doors to new worlds – philosophy, poetry, literature, theology, astronomy, etc. What a great summer that was!

  10. Luanne – I was just reading over Brother Jo’s letters – I have a box of about 200. We were faithful correspondents when we weren’t together – and perfect companions when we were. I spent a lot of time at San Damiano when I was in high school and later, when I was in the Franciscan convent, he spent a lot of time with us. Blessed to have had such a spiritual soul-mate. If you’re from the Bay Area, you must remember “Brother Jo’s cookies” !)

  11. Thanks, Luanne – I’m so glad to hear that. I’ve just been going through over 300 letters from Brother Jo., each more beautiful and thought provoking than the one before. We were both Franciscans, which lent a special flavour to some of these letters, though we were friends for years before that. I’m so glad I kept this epistolary record of a loving friendship and profound spiritual companionship, that despite my highly altered views, are enriching even today. Thank you for posting.

  12. Sorry for the double posting. The first one didn’t show up, so I wrote a second one the next day – by which time I had finished organising and cataloging the letters by year and date – 334 in all. Thanks to all for kind responses.

  13. Such a rich and evocative piece. I truly enjoyed reading it!

  14. Signe – thanks for the kind words, highly amplified by my having had a look at your website. Your book Faery Tales , sounds extraordinary. Hidden places are precisely (or rather imprecisely) the things I write about, from a very different perspective, regarding Wales (“where the leaves on the ground lift in response to a wind that isn’t there and uncover for a millisecond, small vibrant worlds.”) Looking forward to reading your book. Thanks for commenting.

  15. Lovely to “meet” you! All the best, Signe

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