From GENE LOGSDON
Like most of you, I’m sure, I’ve developed ways to tell time by eyeing up the sun with various fixed features on the farm. When I’m hoeing in the garden in the summer, I know it’s about time for lunch when the farthest reach of tree shade from the woods brushes the garden boundary. This changes a bit every day so it’s a little tricky but Swiss watch precision is not necessary. As a boy, cultivating corn in rows running north and south in early June, I knew that when the shade of the muffler top sticking up above the tractor hood reached the third corn row over to the east, it was about five o’clock and time to go home for chores. Who needs watches?
When I left the city office environment, I stripped off my watch and put it in a dresser drawer where it still resides. I think of a wristwatch as a manacle chaining me to a way of life that reckons time as money. Not for me. I want to live where work is so interesting that I don’t care what time the clock says it is. At the office I was constantly glancing at my watch wondering if it was time to go home yet. On the farm in somewhat younger years I could hardly believe how fast the time went by before Carol was calling me in for supper. Or I might get a notion between the corn rows to go sit under a shade tree beside the creek and watch the water flow by. No boss was going to hound me to get back to work. The worst thing to happen to farmers was headlights on tractors which made time seem more like money. Then we felt compelled to work all night and owe the bank more than ever.
I happened to be reading through a catalog devoted entirely to watches recently— it came with the Sunday New York Times which I now read faithfully to remind myself how ignorant and poor I am. The wrist watch today, far from being a manacle, is seen as a badge of honor, a mark of success. The more diamonds glitter around the clock face, the more the watch glorifies time as money. Not many of the ads mention price (if you have to ask, you can’t afford it) but enough did to reveal that today’s watch can easily cost $5000 and sometimes go beyond $25,000. I will bet that the people wearing the $25,000 variety complain more about paying taxes than the ones sporting $5000 models.
The descriptions of these bejeweled works of timeless art are full of grand words like hypoallergenic aspects (I have no idea), gold that won’t scratch, banquette cut pink sapphires— language like that along with wondrous machining that allows the watch to go on ticking even if its wearer dives deep into the ocean. Some watches can change time zones as the wearer soars through space in an airplane so that one can calculate how much money is being made no matter where the sun is. But through it all I discern a hunger for simpler times when the day’s work began at sunup and ended at sundown. In one advertisement, the CEO of a foremost Swiss watch company explains his philosophy about time being money by saying: “For me this means plain speaking and not wasting time in pointless meetings. Rustic common sense if you will.”
Rustic common sense? Wearing a watch that, as a rustic, I don’t need and costs more money than I make all year? As a rustic, marking time without a watch has an effect worth more than gold that won’t scratch. As I move around my little world, I am always aware of how constantly the earth is moving around the sun, reminding me of the ever-changing shadow of reality. Everything is constantly in motion. There is no permanence, no matter how much we desire it. Time is not money; time is life. Even that big old white oak tree that seems so immobile, creeps toward the sun a tiny bit every day, or if it has reached the end of its days, shrinks a little every day until it tumbles and rots down into the earth.
I used to hate daylight saving time when I was milking a big herd of cows because it surely didn’t save any daylight for me. When a cow is accustomed to being milked when the sun has barely cleared the fencerow to the east of the barn, and suddenly she must come to the holding pen when the sun is still below the fence, she is not happy and neither am I. If I had been out having a beer with the boys after a ball game until midnight, which was sometimes the case, I had a hard time figuring out how any time was saved when I had to get up before the sun did. Then about the time both the cows and I got used to “fast” time, we had to turn the clocks back again. If I had been wearing a watch that changed back automatically, I might not have noticed and missed church the next Sunday. Darn.