The Wheels of Time Grind Slowly But Fine


by Ara Hagopian

The Wheels of Time Grind Slowly But Fine is a fine art print from an original pen and ink drawing. Its concept is exemplified by the Harry Morgan character in To Have and Have Not.

It’s conceivable that no-nonsense Harry would say a hard working trawler-boat fisherman who’s lost a thousand pounds of livelihood due to a broken rig would be pretty angry that night and many nights after. But talk to that same man on the steps of his retirement home—that is, many, many years after the costly incident—and he’d most-likely recall the story with a smile, albeit wistfully so. Time is the great leveler, but we have to wait it out.

In The Wheels of Time Grind Slowly But Fine drawing, shown below, major traumatic events in our lives are depicted by blue dots with white trim. The largest dot—at the top right—is created at the moment of trauma; it represents a heartbreak, or the death of a loved one, or in Harry’s case, the proverbial broken rig leading to the loss of a fortune. As the Wheels of Time engage in their laborious process, the traumatic event is systematically crushed, broken, and worn down to the tiniest of dots, as shown at the lower right of the drawing.

In the beginning of this progression, the first six dots—ever so large—are the hard days, months, and years when the pain is strongest. The second set of six dots represents pain in transition—acting as their own mobility, and still quite sizeable, the trauma-dots become part of the greater mechanism itself.

The last set of six dots occurs during the span of time where the Wheels’ crushing is replaced by a cat’s-tooth like serration, leading us to the very last dot, which is nearly microscopic. Unable to be ground further, but quite manageable at this point, that tiny dot represents the kernel of memory we hold in our heart—the hurting is less, but we will never forget. The Wheels of Time, indifferent and perpetual, have completed their work. The bit that’s left is what we have to live with—we have tucked it into our lives.

One will notice that the tail-end’s serration gets progressively smoother as the drawing tapers off. The idea is that this system’s natural cycle eases up in the long haul; like how a prison guard treats a gentle, long-time prisoner.

The beauty of this system is that the entire process comes naturally. Time is as natural as can be. “The Wheels of Time” is not a mode to engage, or a therapy, or a plan to follow. The Wheels start on the day of a disaster, and the years will play out to a scale that’s determined by the individual. One may take comfort in the fact that the mechanics of the process are invariable.

ARTIST’S NOTE: In 1984, the year my father died, someone wrote me a letter. Among her words was the title to this piece. I didn’t know what to do with such a phrase—I wanted to feel better, now—but I always kept it in my head.

Today, nearly thirty years after those hard months of mourning, I’m on the other side of the equation. I understand the globe of pain I felt then, and the speck I hold now. As it sits, the pain is as crushed as it can possibly be; it’s a part of me; that smallest of dots near the tail of the drawing.

But it does still hurt. And yet, it’s not the wild, frightening stranger it once was.

I can be enjoying a nice, private lunch with a friend and I can tell her about dad, and if it’s a particular story, I can cry in a manner of two seconds. The tiny dot is like a pebble of fire.

At my father’s funeral, someone told me it’s going to get worse before it gets better. What a terrible thing to say to a kid at his dad’s grave. It does get better—a lot better. That’s the message that needs to be said.

I don’t have a choice to draw. I don’t have a choice to feel. I have chosen to share, and articulate graphically and with words, exactly how my bad circumstance got better.  The wheels of time grind slowly but fine.

ABOUT: Ara Hagopian’s debut book “What Happened to Vicky Lee? A Collection of Stories” is out now:

The Wheels of Time Grind Slowly But Fine tells the story of how a life tragedy can be managed over the long term.

The Wheels of Time Grind Slowly But Fine tells the story of how a life tragedy can be managed over the long term.

About Ara Hagopian's The LITERATE Show

For over thirty years, I have enjoyed drawing beautiful shapes and writing complementary stories. The imagery tends to focus on our place in the world—whomever or whatever we may be. I am influenced by Twentieth Century history—I read vintage magazines, books and letters. Inspiration comes from visualizing human achievement and personal interaction—derived from people, places and things which may be obscure, but never insignificant. My pen-and-ink THE MAGNIFICENT RECOVERY was selected by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for their 2008 summer art auction.
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1 Response to The Wheels of Time Grind Slowly But Fine

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just pausing for while from the hustle and bustle of life, its pleasing to sit quietly and enjoy your work.

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