The Wheels of Time Grind Slowly But Fine

The Wheels of Time Grind Slowly But Fine (drawing made in 2009). The drawing’s concept is exemplified by the Harry Morgan character in To Have and Have Not, the novel by Ernest Hemmingway.

It’s conceivable that no-nonsense Harry would say a hard working trawler 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 many years after the costly incident, and he might recall the story with a smile. Time is the great leveler, but we have to wait it out.

In The Wheels of Time Grind Slowly But Fine drawing, 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, the event is systematically crushed, broken, and worn down to the tiniest of dots, as shown at the lower right.

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 progressively-smoother 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 have completed their work. The bit that’s left is what we have to live with. We’ve tucked it into our lives.

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, thirty-three 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 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 a bad circumstance got better.  The wheels of time grind slowly but fine.


Ara Hagopian’s most recent book is


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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