I have been re-evaluating my relationship with Time, befriending it as best I can.
Today began with a commitment to hunker down at my computer for a productive work day of research and writing. The one diversion I would allow myself, I decided, was to prepare for our Old Reliables’ booth at the Sustainability Fair, but that shouldn’t take much time. And doing the laundry would provide essential breaks from the physical misery of Computer Hunch. “Just for today,” I vowed, “I will not hurry.” The cat on my lap yawned, no doubt thinking that, as usual, humans are so pitifully slow in getting their priorities straight. I exhaled a confident centering breath, and settled in.
Then I got side-tracked.
Caught by the irresistible lure of cyber wandering, I clicked on a link that led me to a Great Blue Heron in Ithaca, New York. The live webcam showed the heron sitting on her nest, and even revealed the five eggs she had already laid. I became hypnotized by the hope that she might lay a sixth egg while I observed from my nest-like writing space in Massachusetts.
This diversion was triggered by my inability to keep it simple when answering an email. I made the mistake of indulging in a description of how, last night, I had surprised a Great Blue Heron on the edge of the lake, right there on our beach. At first, I could only make out a large dark shape. I didn’t know if it was a shadow, or something with actual density. Could it be a coyote, a deer, or perhaps a giant snapping turtle? In the next second, the shape rose up out of the dark and flapped away across the lake. A Great Blue Heron! The first of the season.
Responding to this story, someone had sent me a link to the heron I was now watching on my computer. In one carefree mouse click, here I was in cyber space, hoping I might witness the laying of the heron’s sixth egg. Time stood still as I watched, breathless. Heron Mama sat waiting, and I sat waiting, while, almost imperceptibly, Time moved serenely forward.
Reminding myself that time waits for no man – or aging cyber sleuth – I made myself leave the heron, and get down to the business of the day. Within minutes, I became preoccupied with finding a print-out misplaced somewhere in my work files. This led me on a journey to the basement. There was a chance that I had filed the missing document in my “I’ll get to this someday” bins. Next thing I knew, I was investigating a collection of small objects I had unpacked and left absent-mindedly on the ping pong table, now used for sorting things that have been packed away, and things that require sorting, letting go, giving away, or re-packing.
I wondered why it was that I was still keeping my mother’s watch, recently unpacked along with other small mementoes. It sat there on the ping pong table, unused, in the company of other objects I couldn’t make decisions about. Now I longed for clarity about this object, clarity that would end my rituals of remembering, wondering, re-evaluating. Yet I lingered over the small delicate watch, remembering my mother’s wrist, her seamlessly choreographed command of time.
Nudged out of this reverie by suddenly noticing it was too cold to stay in the basement, I went back upstairs empty-handed. But the trip to the basement had reminded me that when I came to my next stopping place, I should really do a load of laundry. I was challenged to maintain a supply of clean clothes that would keep up with New England’s every-season Spring.
Now my work was finally underway – there would no more wasted time. But, as often happens, Time was not on my side. In the midst of my laundry-doing, I noticed a fast-moving water leak seeping across one entire wall of the basement. It might have come from the washing machine or the sink or –perish the thought!– the water tank. The basement floor was starting to seriously flood! Survival was now going to trump creativity in terms of time allocation.
I called my son-in-law, Mighty Mike, who often comes to our rescue. Mike promised that he would come soon. In a matter of a minute or two, my time of waiting for help was suffused with relief, replacing wild anxiety. And when Mike arrived with two small children in tow, his time and my time, work time and childcare time, became intertwined.
By the time all was back on track, my day of productivity had slipped away faster than the water leak in the basement.
And yet…what really matters at the end of the day? Isn’t the time I spent watching the heron on her nest, the gift of a memory that will make me smile again and again? How could I do anything but cherish my good fortune in yet again experiencing Mike’s kindness and competence? Will I give thanks that the time I gave over for the first trip to the basement became a meditation on my mother’s watch? This was time spent in gratitude for the many intangible things she left in her wake, including her mastery of Time’s challenges.
Today, I make a promise to myself that there will be no regrets for the things I didn’t take the time to feel, to say, or to see. Today, I have taken time for the small wonders, the moments that open me to amazement and love. It’s about time.