Monday, November 4, 2013

Back in time

Dear Indiana,

Until 2005, you had the good sense not to observe Daylight Savings Time, and in that resistance, you shaped my eyes and spirit in beautiful ways.

While growing up on your western edge, I didn't think much about Daylight Savings, though I was proud that my otherwise-bland state had at least one mark of distinction. During my first semester of college, however, I experienced a "time change" for the first time, when my roommate insisted that we change our clocks in order to satisfy some sort of enforced chronological economy.  I was troubled to think that we could so recklessly rename and tamper with the hours and minutes. How arrogant, I thought, to wrench the clock away from the sun, conforming instead to railroad tables or agricultural conveniences. I wanted the hours on the clock to be a perfect language, signifier conforming sweetly to signified. Instead, I faced a truth I was learning, at the same time, in my first linguistics class: that human languages were arbitrary, flawed systems for stumbling into meaning, not pure and perfect lanterns shining into the truth of things.

Perhaps because I associate my first time change with such philosophical and spiritual dislocations, I remember my eighteen years of Indiana-time so fondly. I realize that you had plenty of good economic and logistical reasons to join the silly Daylight Savings Time bandwagon, but by waiting so long, you gave me something precious.

As a child, I could look out our kitchen window and name the hour perfectly. Each year, daylight slowly, slowly contracted toward the December solstice, then slowly, sweetly grew toward June. Our house faced due east, and I could measure the season through the shadows that fell through curtain laces and tree branches.  Living through these slow hours, winter never surprised us, and summer was coy, offering her delights only after we had endured a patient and penitent spring.

Very few men and women my age have enjoyed this privilege of slow time, seasonable time. Instead, most members of my generation were born into a world where time is all chronos: humans  at war with their clocks, wrangling time into systems that can mandate hours at the office, but which make little sense to children and morning glories and other wise creatures.

But you, my dear, backward Indiana, let me grow up in kairos, the appointed seasons of the sun and  the Holy Spirit. If this means that I often find myself, to borrow Wendell Berry's words, "bewildered in our timely dwelling place," so much the better.  The disorientation reminds me that I should always  mistrust clocks, for they never mark the times that matter.

Your prodigal daughter,

Indiana sky: my first and favorite timepiece

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