How do I tell time?
I tell time with my body — every crease and wrinkle marks a passage, every scar and break a minute passing, a milestone.
I tell time with the phases of the moon. That year I started to menstruate, that year I stopped.
I tell time by watching the birds on the roof. In the morning they gather, rising from their sleeping places in the sea. At noon they fly off, a flurry of gulls circling the Douglas firs on Sayshutsun Island across the channel. They are not visible at night.
I tell time by watching the spinach grow in white pots on the balcony. It is spring when the leaves widen, winter when they wither.
I tell time by watching the sky. The sun now on my left side, higher in the sky, white against the blue. And the sky blue tells me another time. A time for hurry, brightness urging me to awaken.
I tell time by watching my husband. The hair on his head thinning, his opinions thicker.
I tell time seeing the notebooks gather on the shelf beside my desk, the way they stack themselves one on top of another. See the way the shelf below curves and bends?
I see, too, the emptied pens gathered in the wastebasket. A thicket of plastic, testimony to the hours, minutes, seconds—weeks spent at the page.
I tell time by the way the shopkeepers call me Dear and condescend to describe the features of walking shoes, and the way the young speak just one or two octaves below my hearing to keep their secrets.
I tell time by the creatures that scurry into the underbrush as I walk the trails in my stout shoes, noticing the cold no longer bothers me, or the mud. The wood willow and the elderberry answer back when I speak, curious to know me. The ducks in the water do not pause in their duck business but they are listening too. All of us here– the ducks, the willow, the flicker in the tree, see the redwing blackbird take flight. The marsh is getting smaller. Telling its own kind of time.
I tell time by what is dying all around me. It is everything.
And then another second, minute, passes. New green emerges. Eggs in nests begin to quiver. A new pen makes black marks across a white page. The shelf of notebooks groans. The gulls return to rooftops. I step lightly on the earth, note new lines around my eyes, hold my husband’s balding head in my palm, breathe for the muttering shopkeepers, pocket some stones from the waterside for my desk.
Thank you, I whisper to the willows that fade along the marsh.
How do you tell time? I’d love to hear your reflections. Feel free to comment.