Thursday, 15 October 2009


I stand in front of the microwave, waiting impatiently for the two minutes required to heat my left-over coffee from yesterday’s brew. I think, “this is two minutes of my life, idly passing by.” I set the laundry dryer to thirty minutes needing the sweater that lies within for a luncheon visit with friends. In the late afternoon, I come home, tired but exhilarated, and climb into the hot tub, set the timer to the maximum twenty minutes and stretch out, relaxing until the buzzer signals that “time is up”. Meanwhile, dinner is in the oven with the timer set to an hour. Yet another hour of my life will have been neatly measured.

These mechanical timers are all useful gadgets in the day-to-day of our privileged, modern existence. But today I am thinking of a different era, when life was lived from dawn to dusk, when the sun or the moon were the timers of our lives. As children, we played until parents signaled “time is up”. We set to a task and did what we could till we were too tired to continue, or the daylight receded. We counted time, by the beginnings and conclusions of tasks, by the planting and harvesting of crops. Nature provided the cues for the passing of time. Even now, this October day, as I watch the leaves changing colour, virtually before my eyes, I think of the timelessness of this event in nature. It occurred before my birth and will cycle on after me.

We are all timers. Our internal clocks go tick-tock, tick-tock, like the metronome on top of the piano. Occasionally I try to turn off the timers, slow down the rhythms of the heart beats, in part to forget how quickly it is all passing by. Moments alone, by a fire, indoors or out, sitting by a lake, on top of a hill, in the garden, reading, thinking, or just imagining a tabula rasa state of being, provide that momentary stay again the intrusion of time.

Wordsworth’s lines from “Daffodils” come to mind:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood
They flash upon my inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

So here I sit, in the midst of all the beauty of my favourite season, and yet my mind is also thrusting ahead to the emergence of spring as time ticks away. It is all a grand illusion, this attempt to “play with time”. But play I must, since, each day becomes more precious than the last. So I harbor my memories jealously, bask in the moment selfishly, and wait patiently for the inevitability of spring.