Tempus fugitive

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The Ecotone wiki site is a collection of essays on "place" and its meaning to the writers. My other bursts of

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Long before I made a career of meeting deadlines, I learned to count seconds. Lazy as I am, I learned a game early on that I called "five more minutes," in which I would check the clock, close my eyes and go back to my daydream, or my snooze, or just resume reading for five minutes. When I looked up again, I'd either have hit it close and have to get up, or I'd have missed, and then I could authorize myself to wait for another five, or until someone yelled at me to get a move on.

If you think about it, the odds of my missing are pretty good, which is why it was a rewarding game.

As an adult, I find that I steal a lot of my time. Twenty minutes is enough to sit and turn a few pages; 30 will get the kitchen clean; an hour will pay the bills; 40 minutes will mow the lawn. In between are moments to read or snack or work a lick on some small project or other. Sometimes it's enough to just loaf. Eventually, I have to go to work, after all.

I like to imagine a place without time. Years ago, I liked to climb hills and look across the valleys I had left and imagine how they were for long centuries before we began to shave and carve mountains for highways, before our great-grandparents stripped them of trees and let them grow up with trees again, when there were chestnuts and elms in among the maples and hemlocks. The reverie usually made me more conscious of time, not less.

The sea is timeless, and yet it isn't. The pulse of the planet beats in the steady crash of the swells, and the bits of land eroded away are changed forever, even if they've been eroded away before and will someday rise to be eroded again. I supposed that if you distance yourself from the process, the dynamic itself is unchanging. From orbit, the Earth is always itself, big and round and blue. But the white patches won't sit still -- and who would want them to? And to be in orbit at all, you have to have achieved enormous speeds.

I've known a few moments in the woods, when the wind falls quiet and the stillness endorses my decision to pause on a hike or after the campground chores, when the minutes don't tick so loudly. But, chronophile that I am, I can't stop noticing for long: That shadow has grown; the sky's not the same color; that industrious beetle is actually EATING that fungus.

Maybe I think too much. Here in the back yard are my maple tree, 80 years old and still apparently hale; the flower and herb gardens planted by some ambitious amateur landscaper, age indeterminate; a fox squirrel, less than 3 years old, certainly; a juvenile robin with white patches on its wings; shabbily kept heirloom roses; lilacs and honeysuckle in great profusion, blossoming a week or so early to celebrate the sudden hot weather; a second story of trees and barely visible beyond them, the sheltering walls and roofs of my neighbors' homes. In this green and quiet spot, if anywhere, I should be able to hold still and let go.

Or maybe not. It's 2 o'clock, and the laundry is waiting ...

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