Time it Was, and Is, and Will Be

It is time, dear ones, to start stocking up on sleep, if you possibly can.  We will awake on Sunday morning to discover we have lost an hour, only to discover it lurking around in the shadows of the backyard later in the evening.  And we will be exhausted.  It exhausts me, that lost hour, for easily a week or more, and I don’t quite recover until mid-June, when day and night are equal lengths.  

But then, I am also exhausted for a couple of weeks when we gain an hour, so I guess what I am saying is, time is a construct, time is emotional, time is physical. Time is circadian.  Time, sometimes, can be all in our heads.  

I blame my father. 

He was a good sleeper, a cheerful riser, his feet hitting the floor as soon as he awoke. 

But for a couple of weeks after the time changed he moped around the house, Theda Bara-like, draping himself on a velvet fainting couch, hand across his brow while sighing,  “But really it isn’t eight o’clock, it is seven.”  Or in fall, the other way around. 

That we didn’t have a velvet fainting couch, that he wasn’t built to drape is beside the point.  He felt the time changes acutely and passed this on to me.  It irked my mother, a practical sort, with five children to see to, all those mouths to feed.   She hadn’t time for his nonsense.  She looked at the clock.  If it said 3:00 p.m. the kids would soon be home from school and it was time to start dinner. 

My siblings never seemed to care much, although they, too, were off kilter for a week or so right after we changed the clocks.  Perhaps I took to the abstract aspect of changing time more than my siblings.  I could entertain myself for hours, although sometimes it felt like torture, thinking about puzzlements.  Like this one. 

Let’s say you know objects only by one sense—touch, for example.

Then you see a group of objects all lined up with other objects you also have only experienced by touch.  Can you now pick out the round object only by sight, or the square one, if you have only touched round and square objects?  Would sharp edges and curved surfaces translate visually?

This one took me years. 

And while I am not sure my answer is correct, I am quite enamored with it and it comforts me when I am bored or downcast.

The disappearing and reappearing hour is one of those things.  Calculating time in general, is one of those things.  A couple of weeks ago I attended, by ZOOM, a reading held in Cork City, Ireland.  It was evening there, midday here.  Friends from two time zones would be watching, and what gyrations we went through making sure we didn’t miss it, making sure we heard every lovely word that fell soft as rain from the writer, Billy O’Callaghan’s, Gaelic lips.  

It didn’t matter our phones told us exactly what time it was in Cork.  We didn’t completely trust it, and we counted backward on our fingers —or I did, I’ll confess—right up to the moment the presentation began.

I once kept myself company on a long international flight trying to work out exactly how many hours I had been awake, and how long, really, the journey was.  There is time zone time and real time, and I worked it out on the many napkins they brought with my drinks.  Somewhere over Newfoundland it dawned on me I could do the simple math of comparing the local time I left and  the local time I would arrive home, adjusting for time zones, but even as I write this I have confused myself all over again. 

I will go around my house this Saturday night changing what clocks I have, all of them, in fact, attached to appliances—the coffee maker, the stove, the microwave.  On Sunday morning I will take it hard, oversleep—I sort of book that in early as an indulgent excuse—and I will nod off by eight, as I settle in front of Masterpiece Theatre, even though I didn’t nod off at seven the Sunday before. 

By midweek, I will be languishing, and I will cast about for a fainting couch to drape upon, nudging the memory of my father in the ribs so he might scoot over, make some room for me. 


Already there is something stirring, call it spring, call it the vaccine, call it about time.

The weather looks to be better, some nights around freezing, maybe, but daytime temps are creeping up into the fifties, the sixties by the weekend.

It seems the same for friends whose weather I keep up with. I have taken you to my heart, truly and forever, if your city pops up on my phone’s weather app. I keep up with the weather in a couple of places I love like people, too. And almost all of us can count on temperatures at least in the 50s by the middle of the month.

Even if it is snowing where you are now.
Even if you are freezing right this minute.
Even if it won’t last.

Already I am eyeing that spot along the fence that separates my drive from my neighbor’s yard. He has been eyeing it for months now, too. In the fall I offloaded bags of manure and compost with the intention of filling in the low places and preparing a flowerbed for spring. I didn’t have quite enough dirt so I left it all sitting there until I could do the job properly, and there it has sat since.

He has offered to spread the contents of the bags for me, but no, I am happy to do that myself. I want to do it, think I can call it exercise, and so it would be. But first I need more dirt. He is a patient fellow, but he will be glad when I get after it. Soon, John, soon.

This week might just be the week, in fact, because seed and flower catalogs are jamming my mailbox and nothing inspires me quite so much. They are stacking bags of mulch at Kroger and I am giddy about it. I know they are, because my cousin posted a photo of those big bags last week, when she was giddy first.

I have tried watching the British gardening shows, Monty Don being one of my favorites. But if I am honest, he exhausts me. He moves slowly and calmly, digging, uprooting, rerooting, I will give you that. But I think of all the behind the scenes efforts — just getting those nice bins filled up with that custom peatless potting soil, I mean, how long does that take? How does he drag all the ingredients into his well-appointed potting shed? And those wonderful giant terra cotta pots he has all over the place. How much do they weigh? Empty? Loaded?

No, I have already decided, from the comfort of my couch, to pare down my gardening this year, sticking with those things that provide real bang for the buck. I have managed to keep two rosemary bushes alive all winter, and I am trying to overwinter some big geraniums in the basement. My fence row garden plot may serve as an AirBnB for zinnias until fall, when I may plant iris.

But, even so, there will still be plenty of trips to the nurseries, the garden centers and those places that fetch bags of mulch for you and dump them like a body in your trunk. I will be glad to have gardening back, to have it back as the joyful, playful activity it is. Digging in the dirt, water play, all my favorite childhood past times. But now no one yells out the back door to bring those serving spoons back in the house this minute.

I have had tools. I have a wheelbarrow.

So, celebrate with me. It’s almost spring, the vaccine is here and it is more than time.