Friday, August 31, 2012


Before leaving the house this morning, I slipped my cell phone into my rear pocket and strapped on my watch. This was not me over-managing my time: the watch was to keep me on track (I had an appointment) and the phone has become a constant while we wait for The Call (you know, the "Mom, Alise and I are on our way to the hospital" call). If not for that imminent event, I would have left the phone home and traveled disconnected.

The watch is one that Ben handed down to me. It is a Camp Fitch watch, given to those campers who attended five years in a row. It is analog, which means it has hands and I have to read it, rather than glance quickly at a digital screen. Its current band is red; I choose my watchbands for color and do not worry about picking one that will go with everything.

I often do not wear a watch and, with the exception of recent weeks and the possibility of a grandbaby arriving, I rarely turn on my cell phone. As a result, I often float through the day unmoored from time. I prefer it that way. Unless I have a scheduled event at work or an appointment in the wider world, I like slipping off the horological constraints. I am in agreement with Thoreau, who wrote, "there were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work... I love a broad margin to my life."

I am not anti-time. I am punctual for appointments, for meeting up with friends, for starting a mediation. I just prefer to be less than connected in these too intense, too loud, too turbulent times. Author Lauren Groff captured my feelings exactly in her recent novel, Arcadia (a wonderful book, incidentally). A college professor assigns his students to spend a week disconnected from the modern electronic world, including email, texting, cell phones, and the Internet. One student discovers "how alive people must have felt before you could reach anyone at any time... Back then, the past was more subjective, she imagines, because things weren't immediately logged online for everyone to see; the future was more distant because it had to be scrupulously planned. That meant that the present would have been a more intense experience."

Our house has a number of clocks, from the stovetop to the computers to the ones scattered on different shelves. A few are stopped, but most are current. Even on a day when I am not fettered to time, I still glance occasionally at one of them to check where I am in the day. But so much of what I do, especially when I am at home, is free of that constraint. The walk home today (after the appointment), the pace at which the laundry is drying on the line in the heat—these things have nothing to do with the number of minutes in an hour. And later today I will pen a letter to a dear friend, not by the clock, but by the heart.


Jayne said...

Oh, I love the watch, April! I'd wear it every day. All my watches are analog--I think they're much prettier than the digital sort.

I love this piece. After I drop this note to you I'll be off to find Arcadia. Sounds like a book I'd enjoy. I can relate to your words here, April. It's important to disconnect at times, to pay attention to the moment and be fully present, rather than writing (via social media or the like) off the present.

I work from home and most of the day I never look at a clock. I'd like to be able to turn off the phone, but I've two children in JH/HS and want to be available to them should they need me. I wonder, once they're off on their own, if I'd venture out without my phone?? Hmm... I think it takes a certain amount of courage. You're a brave woman, April!

Terri said...

I'm wondering if my students would consent to do such an exercise? This semester I do most of my work from home and can choose when I start my day and when it ends and I often do not wear my watch either, having learned to tell somewhat from the angle of the sun in the sky and what radio program is on.

I must tell you that you have guided some of my recent reading--the E. B. White essay you mentioned several weeks ago and Cheryl STrayed's book Wild. I just finished Wild on Monday and DH and I have been chatting about bits and pieces of it all week long! Thank you for such wonderful recommendations.

And I hope the babe arrives soon.