As I write this sentence the change from Standard Time to Daylight Saving Time approaches. The mornings will suddenly be darker, and the evenings will be lighter. The lake will not glimmer in the sun’s early glow but be restful in the waning light of day. Pow. We change the mechanics of the seasons.
Our concept of time is interesting. From an early age we are taught not to waste it, always to be busy and productive. A pithy saying many are taught at an early age is by Benjamin Franklin: “Time is money.” My, not only does that expression come from a Founding Father, but it makes sense for a while. But is it true? Perhaps, but maybe it is just another way of telling us to stick to the grindstone and work hard. For me, over my 70 years, I have found working smart is much more productive than working hard. However, if one wants to, follow Franklin’s words and let time be your money.
Back in the 1880’s when the railroads were coming into wide use, the need for a Standard Time arose. For example: when travel was by foot, horse, carriage, or canal, it was no matter that noon in Boston (as gaged by the sun’s position) was 24 minutes before noon in Washington. After all, the 24-minute difference would not matter when one rode a horse or drove a carriage from one city to the other. Yet, when trains with their marvelous speed came into general use, there was a true need for a standard time. So, in the 1880’s, the railroad barons created our time zones and gave each a Standard Time. Now, all would be uniform. With the advent of fast travel, it mattered to the barons and the traveling public. As one historian has observed, it was a way of building community. And commerce would flourish under this Standard Time, and by this accounting, Franklin’s definition of time would seem correct and best for all. Certainly, the distressed and overworked mother in Tillie Olsen’s short story, I Stand Here Ironing, sees time this way as she laments: “And when is there time to remember, to sift, to weigh, to estimate, to total?” For this overworked mother, time is a fleeting commodity, not a luxury.
Yet, this seems an injustice in our thinking of time. I appreciate and understand the need to be productive. After all, any farmer knows that the hay must be harvested when the weather is dry and to let a dry day go by courts disaster. But, it all seems like we are trying to control nature, and as John McPhee points out in The Control of Nature, we can try, but we can’t.
John Lennon, the singer and songwriter, observed that “Time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted.”
Now, that view is far from what Franklin wrote, but it has its place. And, the other quotation about time is by the Nobel playwright Dario Fo who wrote: “Know how to live the time that is given you.”
Perhaps if we mix Franklin with Lennon and Fo, we will not end up like the harried mother of Tillie Olsen—too tired to find any time. So, in this glorious season, take some time to study a red-orange leaf of a maple tree or the palette of color on your lake or mountain. Take a child on a walk through some woods to smell the tang of the season. Or just sit somewhere in the waning sun and enjoy what we have been given to enjoy. I promise you won’t miss it. It is yours, enjoy.