Not the same time: Unmoored amid pandemic’s unsteady march of days

  • Marking days that begin with sunrise over Mount Tom and end with the sunset bathing the mountain in sometimes coral-hued light. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 3/2/2021 11:39:16 AM

Walking through Nonotuck Park the other morning during a snowy episode, it seemed like all of life had been suspended. The snow negated many parts of the landscape and enhanced others. The contrast between dark and light was exaggerated. All sounds were muffled and it was very, very quiet. It was as if Mark, our dog Cricket and I were the last people on earth.

This sense of timelessness has been a hallmark of 2020 and 2021. We have experienced a global pandemic that has resulted in quarantining, self-isolation and social distancing. We’ve learned to mask, wash, disinfect and remove ourselves.

The COVID-19 virus has upended many of our social habits and most of our in-person interactions. It has left us to our own devices. The fortunate among us have meaningful work at home. It is somewhat ironic that our studio used to produce timing devices, clever constructions that marked the passage of time with seconds, minutes and hours.

It was a challenge to keep up with the demand, to stay on schedule, to have the necessary materials on hand, to fulfill other peoples’ expectations and to deliver on time.

Recently, last year for example, I had been seeing time passing like a rushing river. It seemed to go faster and faster the older I became.

It was kind of alarming. What happened to those long, lazy summer days of my childhood? How could I have come to this, an observer on a bridge, watching the time rush below my feet like water? And then everything became different.

Time has changed and we with it. I used to think of the week as Monday through Sunday. A long work week and a short weekend. Now I often lose track of those specifics. It’s today, yesterday, one day, another day, someday.

A day can stretch like pulled taffy or it can come, as Carl Sandberg writes, like “fog comes on little cat feet.” It is defined with reinforced routines: walking the dog, reading the paper, playing a word game after lunch, shopping and cooking.

We have embraced remote connections with family and friends — letters, emails and texting, words that fly around the world but are never spoken. It is a time for silence, for creating that which is time-consuming, because time is the currency in our social bank accounts and it needs to be spent.

Spending more, or most, of my time at home has allowed me to see the evolution of the natural world in my yard. I notice the birds that come through for a free meal at our feeder. Some flock and leave, while others are constant visitors; jays and woodpeckers, sparrows and chickadees.

I go out in the early morning darkness and observe the slow movement of the stars on the north side of our house. There is a dipper that is moving ever westward and a very bright star getting higher in the tree line behind our studio. Many of the trees have set their buds already, a reassuring promise of spring to come.

The moon is more than ever a timepiece, waxing and waning, glorious in its fullness, generous in its departure to allow the stars their moment in the dark sky. I watch the sun progressing down the street only to pause and then reverse its course.

I pay special attention to the glorious moment when it emerges from behind Mount Tom, and I cherish the last rays that often flood our mountain with coral for a very, very brief but beautiful few minutes. I observe the sunset and appreciate a good, long twilight.

We light a fire in our burning bowl to steal a little more time outdoors, to revel in the warmth, to push back the darkness for a few minutes, for a little more time in this timeless period.

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