Friday, August 31, 2012
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.