Of late, I have been thinking quite a bit about time. Perhaps that is because right now I feel as though, simultaneously, I have pockets-full and holes in those pockets. Hours clip right along, and then as I fall asleep, the morning seems mornings ago.
This might be due to fact that the Easter Term of my Masters program involves no class time. Zip. Instead, the six weeks, that I am currently sitting in the middle of, is devoted to writing a dissertation. Therefore, it is sort of an act of mercy to have no structure, few commitments. However, this leaves huge blocks of unspoken-for time. Time that should be, and has been, allotted to researching and writing. But also time that is in ways unconfined — only by the thin lines of the calendar’s date box. This is freeing in a sense: the ability to spend one’s time how she wants to, knowing that she will be held accountable for the day only to herself. But eventually, a grading committee will hold her accountable for all these days. So, this unstructured time feels, at once, so vast and too short. Its freedom and its demands both could be crippling. Time is a weird, good, scary thing.
I write, I research, I go to yoga class, lunch, I write, I go for a run, I research. And the days are full.
And around 2pm I know that America is waking up, Central time. And around 4pm I know that America is waking up, Pacific time. And in this way, the day starts over again as I start it over with my person there. I have never more understood Tennessee Williams’ words, “For time is the longest distance between two places.” Because it is the distance that robs us of half of the day together, as you sleep and then I.
My favorite poem is “Mattina” (“Morning”) by the Italian author Giuseppe Verdi. It reads:
There is not a true English translation. The closest we can come is, “It illuminates me / with immensity.” But that’s not quite it. It has an utter power in Italian, sonically and semantically. Verdi conveys the overwhelming feeling of a morning, its potential and promise, its new, almost crushing, hope. Each morning time repeats itself, anew. The poem has a huge, beautiful idea of what waking up and seeing the sun on another day can mean.
That’s another curious thing is happening here — sun. SUN. This place where three months ago the sun rose around 9am and set at 3pm, is now experiencing freakish amounts of daylight. Like a normal place where humans can live and thrive. Sunrise is 5:10AM, sunset 8:40PM (thank you, iPhone). If I do my math correctly, that’s an increase from 6 hours of sunlight to FOURTEEN. Add seasons to the list of things I do not understand, right next to time and chopsticks. And while science and common sense insists that the number of hours in the day has not changed, I feel as though I could make a strong argument on the contrary.
Sunflowers face the sun as it moves across the sky, changing the direction that their heads point. Like the meerkat of flowers. These sunny days, I feel an almost physical guilt for being indoors when the sky is shining. I feel like we have to take advantage of the beautiful days. I feel like I need to store them up in case I must enter an unexpected hibernation. I have to go out and turn my face up to the sun. (There’s probably also some science involved concerning Vitamin D and mood, but I’m no scientist. I’m studying media, for goodness sake.)
Conservationist John Muir (“John of the mountains” as his friends called him) once said, “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” Something about that ‘good look’ does not seem hurried, doesn’t seem dictated or constrained. It’s the incredible mission and potential of a day, but also of a lifestyle. A way of noticing and being in the world. Muir loved trees, and that makes sense.
Quite possibly, I’ve also been thinking about time because I have watched thirty-three and a half hours of Netflix in the last two weeks.
Before you call someone, let me explain.
My dissertation is considering representations of texting in certain Netflix series. So, this is research. It’s homework. It’s actually productive, I swear. And I am on a strict viewing timeline.
So, this is about the opposite of Muir’s idea of taking a good look at the world. But, let me present to you how absurd my complaining would sound: “I can’t go outside and have a look, because I HAVE to watch House of Cards.” If you didn’t dislike me before, you would after that. So no, no complaining. It is simply understanding that we all have commitments on our time. Right now mine are a dissertation and Netflix, but this, one day, hopefully, might be a desk job. I don’t quite know, but I’ve heard tales of these. Right now, it’s about thinking about how what we do in an hour can make us feel time differently. How an hour of activity can make me feel two more hours alive. How minutes define a day.. define a life.
I am trying to use my strange time in a reflexive way, conscious of it, conscious of its unique present state, conscious that this is not normal, nor to be expected in the future. Conscious that the times I feel far away, feel the distance of time, that this is also a luxury. Like the luxury of long hours of sunshine. Of mornings. Like the luxury of boredom and deadlines. Like the luxury of stress and perspective. Like the luxury of each single day.
So, even when I am sore, I step out for the run. Because the sun is out, and I have time. Because finding things that fill us with immensity is a job-search, an inspiring occupation. I run because there is no better backdrop for these endorphins. And because, I am so very lucky to have a small twin bed, in a small room, in a house with a blue door, on a street in a city filled with history, that is so far away from everything I had previously known, to fall into when it is my nighttime, and somewhere else’s afternoon.
There should be a better phrase than ‘spending time.’ Because, ironically, it’s so non-quantifiable. So this is a small reminder to myself and to us to love time, to save up and use, to not wish away, to take out of our pockets and pass along, to count and care less. I am asking myself, “What are the things that make me forget time? What makes me acutely aware of it? When is it the sweetest?.” I want to take the good look. I want to be illuminated.
I don’t know what time is.
Now excuse me, I have to get back to Netflix.