You can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take Jersey out of the girl. I’m full of Springsteen this afternoon – Dancing in the Dark. It’s what it feels like most days, trying to craft this new life amidst the remnants of smoldering Rome. But onward: let the slow polishing of bits and pieces commence.
On the mantle over the wood stove in our living room sits a square, squat clock. It’s surrounded by small stones and rocks I’ve gathered on my travels or dug out of our garden. Hardened pieces of the earth: weighty. I started putting them there without thinking too much about it – it felt right. I sometimes jest that the rock pile is my literal attempt to hold down Time. But if I am honest with myself, the truth is it’s more about the rhythm of the rocks. It’s their vibration I’m after.
When I first begin to dance to a live band, I find the bass line. I start with my feet about hip distance apart, firmed to the ground, balanced, body loose. I bend my knees slightly; hold out my arms, palms down, feeling for the underlying beat. Under a band’s soaring melody I search for the steady groove – that anchor cast down where the roots grow, where the rocks hum. Connected and attuned to that supporting vibration, my dancing can flow free.
Time is a cultural phenomenon, and every society has its rhythm. In the America I grew up in – in the America I inhabit when I ride the hectic pace of modern life – there is never enough time. Trained by the school bell and then the time card machine, we are a society that praises punctuality and worships at the altar of Timex, or more recently, Blackberry. Tick, tick, tick. In America we dance a very quick two-step, almost a run.
We are a people who seek to dominate our natural environment, and our assertion of clock-time over natural-time is no exception. In the segmenting of years into days, and days into neat boxes of hours, minutes, and seconds, we have imposed a precise, manufactured order on a natural, flowing process. And somehow, in our willingness to carve up something precious, we’ve turned an abundant force into a limited resource.
I don’t think we always lived this way. My three-year old couldn’t give a flip whether it’s 5:47am or 7:08am. “Look Mom, it’s light outside,” is all he says when he comes to wake me.
I believe that down in our bones we can all still remember this different rhythm. It’s etched in there as ancient as the rocks on my mantle, twined in us over centuries of rising with the sun. I am wondering what could happen to our relationship with Time if we began to relax into this geologic beat. More, I’m wondering, with my body vibrating to this ancient bass line, what it’s going to look like when I feel grounded enough to set my dancing feet free.
For today, the practical liberty step is this — clear your calendar for one day. Then, for that day, ignore the clock. For that one day, eat when you are hungry, work only when you feel called and sleep when you are tired. For that one day, in your home, you decide the when.
What is that like, dancing with Time rather than slaying him?