Within our little cabin we have two clocks. One, on the north side of the house, sits atop my childhood bookcase, alongside our kitchen table. Made of pottery, it takes the shape of a stuffed armchair. When a young girl, I painted and fired it as an arts and crafts adventure. The upright portion of the “chair” is hollowed out just enough to hold a clock face. It keeps reliable time, silently marking the passing of each minute. The second clock is by our south window, perched on the shelf atop our desk. It is a wind-up clock, one that Ryan has had for years, gold colored, and with a penchant for racing ahead of itself.
The first clock is noticeable for its shape. The second is memorable for its tick.
Indeed, I well remember my first attempts at sleeping alongside this audible timepiece ... for, yes, it once sat beside our bed. I tried burying my head in my pillow, stuffing the covers into my ears, piling my clothes on top of the clock: while somehow melodic during the day, the tick-tock was certainly more pronounced by night. Though I rather liked the clock’s presence for perceptible marking of time, I undeniably had a hard time accustoming myself to sleeping alongside such a tick-tocking roommate.
It is a luxury that the floor and a half of our cabin now separate the clock and I with just enough wood and space that sleep comes easy. Well rested, my fondness for this teller of time continues to deepen.
It is interesting how the clock’s ticking smoothly fades into the background — as one would expect — as conversation, dishes, or the stacking of wood dominate my thoughts. Even in the course of silent acts such as reading, writing, or watching the fire, the tick-tock seems to ebb and flow of its own accord. At times, it is a metronome, the statement of a second: loud, overbearing, undeniable. Yet just as my comprehension of a passing moment seems to peak with over-awareness, the clock’s steady rhythm easily fades, allowing other thoughts and observations to pass through my mind.
Surely this could be a fascinating study of human perception and sensory experience. Yet for us, through our daily acts — in which moments become hours become days — this dear wind-up clock persists as a reminder of time and it’s fleeting nature. It is not, mind you, a dire warning, nor a vocal reprimand. Rather it is a pleasant call to be present, a call to regain momentary cognizance. It is so easy for time to come and go — so much can pass by without our care nor intention! What are these moments worth, and how best to spend them?
Well, each day we must wind the clock. Each day we must recalibrate its overeager hands, slow it down to the present time. And each day, we prize this subtle, at times subconscious, reminder of the moments we are fortunate to have.