Thursday, February 24, 2005

on the art of passing the time

I forgot to mention this in December, when the real anniversary was, but huminbean is now officially two years old! Actually, it’s more like 2 years and 2 months now, but the fact remains: I’ve been at this for two years, this tapping out of ideas and ramblings, and posting them on the web for all to see. (All being those who I invite or all who stumble across it.) Two years! It seems like a snap of the fingers. It began as most blogs do, just another place to express myself and to also be watched and read by others, a sort of exhibitionist diary. It also doubled as an easy way to stay in touch with those at home, as I was out in BC doing the whole ‘ski bum’ thing, only without the skis.

This function grew to be more integral when I left BC to travel home, making email a bit harder. I went through San Francisco and then back to the East Coast, making stops in Montreal, the Laurentians, New York City, and New Hampshire before returning back to ol’ Cape Breton for a summer. Then, from the ‘ghetto shack’, I issued stories of the little green isle in the summertime, stopping to wipe the potter’s clay off my fingers before approaching the keyboard. Most of the time.

Then little bean went off to Australia! Jacky Mills accompanied me, and that’s when the blog was really useful, as a way to convery information to people at home and others I’d met along the way. Then another summer spent as the pottery doyenne, and now here I am, a university student.

The point of all this is that I was thinking this morning about New Zealand, and how far away being there seems, and this afternoon I was singing a Bonnie Raitt song to myself as I walked home. The lyrics to the song go:

“When I was a young girl/I had me a cowboy/he wasn’t much to look at/but he was a free-ramblin’ man/But that was a long time [ago]/and now matter how I try/the years are just rollin’ by/ like a broken down dam.”

(lyrics, John Prine.)

And I thought, you know, years really do that, don’t they? I’m only 20 yet, and it seems like a broken down dam…yeesh! And I haven’t even ‘had me’ a cowboy yet…

The thing about time is, the cliches are all true. It really waits for no man, and it flies. Where we are right now (doing a quick survey, I see that it is 4:23, I’ve just eaten a tuna sandwich, it is sunny outside, and I’m in Fredericton, which is under a layer of snow and cold air) quickly turns into the past—but how? What subtle mechanism is turning, what quiet cogs are making it all happen? Most of the time you don’t notice it, and take it as a given. Sometimes it’s happening too slow, or too fast. (Think of vacations, or waiting for 5’o’clock to leave work.) But to place a limit on it like that, deciding that it isn’t the right speed, that it is displeasing somehow, instead of noticing it taking its own time, is to limit ourselves in how we think of the moment.

After spending a lot of my life puzzling over the ‘quiet cogs’, I’ve decided that I think time passing and moments gliding into one another is to human beings what a dripping faucet is to a cat. It’s one of those things that we will forever watch, scrutinize, as if by watching so closely we could discern what makes it work, or even get ahead of it somehow. But each new drop puzzles us just as much as the last. This is why I think developing the art of watching time and using time is important: since we can’t do anything about the passing of it (save for a few physicists who might someday see the ‘man behind the curtain’, or better yet, develop a time machine, though I’m not holding my breath) we might as well use it to our advantage.

I’m not saying all the philosophical discussions are without worth, and I’m not saying it’s fruitless to try and bend your mind around time—watch the faucet, as it were. On the contrary—mind bending is as necessary as yoga or fresh air. What I’m saying is that it is worth just as much to be able to notice the smallest increment of time that you can, to still your mind’s turning and look around as though this moment is a tableau—what is here? what is happening? what are the colors, the smells, the motivations behind everyone in the room? who knows? The point is that this is where you are, and soon it will be gone.

The other delightful thing that is true about this moment, not to get all Jon Kabat-Zinn on you folks, is that it’s when the action happens. It’s when you have the ability to walk up to the cute stranger, or to write the paper you’ve been mulling over, or to cook that stew, or to walk in the park… if I were to list all the possibilities of right now, I’d be sitting here for another two years, and then some. The point is, is that right now is when it all happens. Therefore, we have nothing to lose by treating each moment like a ripe fruit, a gift, a lesson. And yes, I know Pema Chödrön’s voice is all over these words, but it’s up to us to determine what the moment is teaching.

So, I’ve been spending my days of late: on schoolwork (delightful and challenging, boring and beautiful, all at once), at parties (there was one on the weekend where we all wore blank tee shirts and wrote on one another with Sharpies—grand fun!), getting enough sleep (I tell you, nothing feels more like splurging than getting an extra hour, mm hmm!) and watching Fredericton in February. The little kids love Odell Park this time of year, with all its icy slopes, and you have to dodge them on Krazy Karpets, careening down, in order to walk safely there. The days are getting longer, which is wonderful for early morning classes, and for the afternoons. Soon it will be spring! The desire I feel for this new season is primal.

There is also the tentative news that I will be back for the 5th season of pottery-shop-manager-cum-apprentice. Look for a smudged and messy-haired girl on the Cabot Trail! For now, though, Latin homework calls. Tempus fugit!

And so, valete.

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