The last afternoon of the writing retreat, I wanted to go swimming, but my cold was pretty bad, so I decided to spend the last solo practice time working on the sculpture. I had sculpted the head, with two faces, the night before, using the wire mesh as an armature beneath the papier maché. I’d inserted the silvery feather into its crown and left it to dry. That last afternoon I affixed the ceramic shards to the side of the driftwood as wings, glued a mayfly to its heart, attached cedar needles to the wings, head, and tail. The tuft of down went on the throat. A tuft of moss and two grass seed heads adorned the base. And I thought perhaps I was done. I wrote:
My “time guide” turns out to be about ephemerality, and, what, accretion? Concatenation? Creating a life out of a mosaic of shards, of stones, of past life which is now shed. Getting it home in one piece may be a trick.
I did manage to get it home in one piece, mostly (lost a few cedar needles, I think). It didn’t feel quite done, though. I still envisioned a pocket watch being added to it, inspired, I think, by some antique clocks I’d seen recently, like the one in this photo.
(My trip to this antique clock shop would be worthy of a blog post all on its own, but it’s ending up as a scene in the novel instead, I think). The clocks consist of a bronze figurine with arm outstretched. The outstretched arm holds a clock that swings itself back and forth, the entire suspended clock a pendulum. I fantasized about commissioning a pendulum clock to be made to attach to my time guide. I even had the potential clockmaker identified – the guy my Dad & I took his clock to for repair in Nashville in June.
Two days after I got home I went to the massive Art Fair on the Square that happens in Madison every year. I love the art fair, and the past couple years have treated it as an “Artist’s Date” with myself. Not having to coordinate with a companion, I can wander freely, be inspired by other artists, buy things if I feel like it, or not. I often end up talking to a few artists in some depth. This year it was HOT, and I was still sick with my cold, so I didn’t know how long I’d last. I drove around for a while looking for parking, then gave in and went into a parking structure. Walking to the closest point on the Capitol Square from where I parked, I got about five booths into the fair before I saw one full of clocks.
When I went in, I realized that none of the clocks were running – they were all antique watch faces and inner workings, now being used as components for jewelry! In addition to a necklace and earrings for myself made from deconstructed watches, I bought another necklace with a wristwatch pendant on it and a beautiful antique chain made of little pentacles (five-pointed stars). I got it home and hung it from my sculpture. It seemed perfect, or nearly. A day or two later I added a large heart-shaped rock I’ve had on my meditation altar help me open my heart and relax around my heart palpitations.
A couple of days after completing the sculpture, I did the accompanying writing exercise from Makridakis’ book, contemplating the “Time Guide” I had created, and writing a letter to it.
Dear Time Guide,
I could really use your help when it comes to Time. You seem to have come to terms with time, despite its ravages. Despite how it has shaped you. Despite its heavy burden. Despite having had to cobble together your life from vestiges of past ones. Or is it because of those things, that you may be able to help me understand Time? I really want to be able to rest in time, to gracefully allow the flow of time to carry me, rather than fighting with time, resisting it or pulling ahead of it. I want to be able to wait until my tea is cooled enough, rather than burning my tongue.
And I suspect that my ultimate fears – of unworthiness, and of death – may be at the heart of my anxiety, my struggle with time. Trying to fit more in – more accomplishments, more experiences, more life. You are a Time Fly, what does that mean? That time is always flying, and you are okay with that? That you can fly on its currents? Can I?
Please share your wisdom with me.
You are beautiful.
I love you,
P.S. What does it mean that you have two faces? Are they both right? How can they be, when they must see time, and life, so differently?
And then I wrote my Time Guide’s reply to me:
I am so glad you gave me form, and that you are seeking answers to your questions about time. I will try to help, though I am only a humble timefly. First, let’s sing the song. Go ahead, you can find it on YouTube. I’ll wait. [pause while Becca googles “Both Sides Now”]
See? All you had to do was enter “YouTube both” and Both Sides Now came up. And no, it doesn’t have a verse about Time. But it could.
I’ve looked at time from both sides now. From up and down. From give and take. From win and lose. From now and then. I look at life from both sides, now. Now and as long as I shall live. I look towards the future, and towards the past. And I listen for the present, for presence.
And, as in the song, it’s time’s illusions I recall. But it’s also time’s illusions I create, illusions we create together, which become real as we believe them.
You notice I said “life” rather than “time” in that riff on the song lyrics. An accident? Perhaps. Yet as you have suspected, time and life are one and the same. Chasing after more of either only means you don’t let yourself fully experience what you already have. As the mayfly at my heart knows, each moment, however fleeting, is as precious as every other. Each day, each life, no matter how small.
Do not compare your life, your time, to the mayfly’s, or to the mountain’s. Live it. Dance it. Sing it. Give voice to spirit.
Feel the earth, send your roots down into its depths. You will find clear crystal there, and clay.
Allow time to shape you, to bend you, even to break you. The broken pieces are the shards from which new life is built. Remember and honor the gifts of your ancestors, and continue to make beauty out of them.
Time is only a burden if you measure it too tightly. And even bound in heavy chains of clock time, life and spirit can dance. Held loosely, a way of marking time, of tracking it, can be a grounding awareness. A heartbeat, a rhythmic soundtrack to your dance, your flight.
I know you meant to ask about your heart. It is fragile, like the mayfly. And strong, like the driftwood. Honor it. Listen to it. Love.
You are beautiful.
I love you.