By Roger Barbee
As I write this sentence, it is the first morning after the change from daylight saving time to standard time. However, having the early light in the morning is nice as I recall the October mornings when I walked out into the dark with Nolan the honey hound, who made strange noises to scare the nightly visiting skunk away.
Now, in the early light of this Sunday morning, while standing near the workshop waiting for the hound to find some spot to mark, I turn to look at Short Mountain. Its ridge looks as if it is on fire because the rising sun on the eastern side reflects off the string of dark clouds hovering on the western side of the mountain, casting a streak along the ridge that looks like the inside of a hot furnace. Waiting for the hound, I took in both the new light of morning caused by the man-made artificial change and the free show put on by Mother Nature. Welcome, time change.
Our concept of time is interesting. From an early age we are taught not to waste it, to always 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 67 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 1880s 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 1880s, 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, as I came inside after walking the honey hound, I told Mary Ann she should see the sunrise over Short Mountain. And as I write these words, I marvel at the display of color on the foot of Short Mountain as it runs toward Mount Jackson, and as I waste time looking at that multi-colored foot, two other quotations about time come to mind.
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 mountain. Take a child on a walk through some woods to smell the tang of fall. 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.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.