Time continually befuddles me, so much so that my last book of poetry was called How Time Moves, and I’m still deep in the muck of figuring out what time is and how it keeps slipping through my fingers and surging backwards under my moving feet.
Being a little number-dyslexic, I also stumble mightily when it comes to scheduling things in other time zones. Since I have coaching clients in all four U.S. times as well as one in Ireland (we meet in my morning and her evening), I’m often adding and subtracting wrong directions. This last week, I met with the wonderful board members of the Transformative Language Arts Network, one of whom was in Dubai, ten hours ahead of this cushy chair where I type in Kansas, and occasionally I’m in touch with a dear friend in Macau, a full 14 hours ahead of me, and a friend in Japan, 15 hours over the cusp of the next day. It’s an amazement to Zoom and Facebook-message with people in future time or ones just waking when I’m way past a lot of strong morning tea.
But then there’s whatever we call time here (or wherever I am) and now (also relative). With the vanishing of daylight saving time last weekend, and with travels to Orlando, a time zone ahead, I was thoroughly confused when we landed back in Kansas City to drive home, arriving at 1:45 a.m., which was 2:45 a.m. ET, and 24 hours earlier, would have been 3:45 a.m. ET. Sometimes the arbitrary tricks of naming time spin my head; whenever we do a time change, I find myself thinking, “now a week ago, it was ___ time now.” None of it makes sense to my body which gets so wedded to that week-ago time that it takes a big stretch to transfer my allegiance to the so-called real time, which will be pulled out from under us come March 12.
Even as a teen, I had trouble with this, and once got into trouble with my dad because I arrived home on a time-change night (out of daylight savings time) for my 1 a.m. curfew either five minutes early, which made me 55 minutes late. He grounded me less than he had planned because he couldn’t stop laughing at how I screwed up by being a few minutes early, which made me late.
I believe in real time mapped out and punch-holed into existence all the time by the natural world. The birds start singing in the spring just past daybreak, the barred owl calls after midnight, and the noon sun is often just about overhead. There’s also the seasonal tilts. Right now, our usual happy bird feeder is lonesome, but soon enough, the winter flocks will surge and roost there. The temperature has dropped to what feels like ghastly lows for people living in too-warm days and, like my family, having traveled recently to tropical swamplands, but eventually I’ll step outside when it’s 31 degrees and think, “oh, it’s not so bad today.” The cedars tell their own time as well as the turtles, hibernating underground, who know when to emerge.
We live in time and time lives in us, but not the kind of time we can clock. Time is more an ocean, moving inland, then back out with its big waves and dangerous undertow. The only way to know what time it really is to step outside and watch, listen, smell the changes in the air from snow about to come to the garden thawing out. Still, because we work and meet and pal around in time, there’s time enough and not enough time to track while the real time tracks us.