An Hour, A Day, A Life


When reminders about the end of daylight savings time began to crop up last month, the usual congenial grumping began.  Some people wished it never would end.  Others expressed hope the practice would be abolished.  Arguments broke out at dinner tables and over fences: is the practice left over from a more agricultural society?  Does it really save energy?  Should it be standardized across the country?  Does it help or hurt school children?

At least for now, Daylight Savings time is gone, but the transition back to Standard time always amuses me.  I have one friend who takes the reminder to set clocks back one hour at 2 a.m. so literally she sets an alarm to wake her at 1:45.  She doesn’t want to be late in meeting her civic obligation.  She’s done it for years, and for years I’ve given her a bit of a hard time about it.  She says she does it because that’s the way it’s “supposed” to be done, and if everyone would get up in the middle of the night and set their clocks as they’re told, we wouldn’t have so many people being late for Church or missing television programs on Sunday. 

I’ve never dared tell her about my approach to the end of daylight savings time.  If she knew, she’d be scandalized, and probably would be knocking at my door at 2:05 to get me moving.  She’d have to, because the fact is I’ve never risen in the middle of the night to change clock settings.  I don’t even reset them before I go to bed, as my mother does, or adjust everything, one by one, as I move toward the first early sunset the day after the change.

The way I see it, that hour we “gain” as we “fall back” is pure gift.  It’s a little chunk of time, just lying there at the edge of my life, and it’s mine to do with as I please.  Every year, I save my hour of re-claimed time until I need it, or decide what to do with it.  While everyone else is running around resetting clocks, I’m sitting back with my feet up and a smile on my face, secure in the knowledge of that hour safely tucked into my pocket.  When I decide I need that extra hour, I reset the clocks, and am back in synch with everyone else.

In the days when I had a “real” job and was expected to show up at an office, it wasn’t so easy.  I had to be running on the same schedule as my co-workers by Monday morning at the latest.  Even now, there are limits to how long I can hold on to my hour.  It really isn’t feasible to keep it for Christmas shopping in December, or an especially pleasant February day when you want to take a walk. But, within reasonable limits, deciding what to do with my extra hour can be a real kick.

Just imagine – you’ve spent the entire day-after-daylight-savings-time-ends doing work around the house, and suddenly at 5 o’clock, you decide you’ve had enough.  You just pull out your extra hour, declare it 4 o’clock, and sit back and relax. Perhaps you’d like to take a long, sunset walk.  With an extra hour tucked into your bag, it’s no problem.  You set off at a brisk clip until you feel yourself tiring. Then, you take out your bit of time and slow down, secure in the knowlege you’ll be home in time for dinner.

It may sound crazy, but I’ve done it for years.  I’ve used my extra hour to repot African violets, read The New Yorker, watch the sunset and brush the cat.  I’ve spent that extra time talking on the phone with a friend, and I’ve spent it browsing a bookstore.    I’ve used the time early, and I’ve used the time late.  Once, I used it as late as Monday morning.  I hadn’t needed it before then, so I went to bed on Sunday evening secure in the knowledge that when I arose, I could simply set the clock back, and have some extra coffee-and-paper time.

It’s a game, of course, and it’s fun knowing I have a time-treasure hidden in my pocket.  But there’s a another side to my yearly game-playing.  The point is not merely having the time; it’s deciding what to do with it.  This year, I “spent” my extra hour doing a small favor for a friend.  It was my choice, a decision freely made.

It also was a reminder that what is true for an hour is true for a day.  When I rise on any given morning, the chunk of time lying at the edge of my life is larger than my little play-hour, but it’s still my responsibility to determine how it will be used.  Certain decisions – to be employed, to seek education, to raise children or work within the community – predetermine much of our days’ course, but every day there are bits and pieces of time to be found which can be ours, and ours alone: for creation, renewal, reflection and relationship.

As we choose how to spend our hours and days, we begin to discover how those decisions give shape and substance to our lives.  Hours become days, days turn into weeks and months, and soon the years of our lives have become the sum of our decisions.  Despite my daylight-savings-time silliness, I understand that none of us has any “extra” time.  But we have all the time there is, and that’s enough.

Moving from equinox to solstice, leaving the light and moving into the darkness of the year’s bleak end, we can be tempted into believing that the days themselves are shrinking, that our hours have shriveled and our minutes crumbled.  But in daylight or dark, time endures, freely given from eternity’s store for us to dispose of as we choose.  Our hours may have been reset, but the opportunity to shape our time remains.

The clocks are ticking.


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5 thoughts on “An Hour, A Day, A Life

  1. Hi Linda

    I’ve just found your blog through my WordPress tag surfer just as I was about to sign off for the night. It’s great! I will be back again for a more leisurely browse but initial impressions are – layout, images and your writing are so impressive. I’ve just set up a site myself – for readers and writers – called Writing from the Twelfth House – – check it out! I think we may have some common ground eg Annie Dillard, Loren Eisely……I will soon be launching a GUESTS slot for writers’ work I like which fits into the ethos of my own site. More of this anon. Best wishes Anne Whitaker (writer from Scotland)

    Good day, Anne,

    How wonderful that you stopped by, and were kind enough to comment. I’ve readers from England and Wales that I know, but none from Scotland until now.

    There’s layout work to be done, and some tweaking of the site itself. And, I’m just getting back into a writing rhythm post-Hurricane Ike. But, I’m making some new daily decisions about time, and hope that they will be profitable.

    Again, many thanks for your visit, and best wishes on your new site. I’m working out of town just now and having to “make do” for an internet connection, but once I’m home again and working in my accustomed and comfortable place, I’ll stop by and see what treats you have on your page.

    regards, Linda

  2. Quite a lovely way to use that extra hour we gain in fall.
    “Hours become days, days turn into weeks and months, and soon the years of our lives have become the sum of our decisions.”

    This makes me sad, because time is really so fleeting. When I was young it seemed like everything took forever. Suddenly, I found myself in today, and I feel like time is running out. My post today started with a brilliant quote – “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is the present. That’s why they call it a gift.”
    I do my best to live in the moment, and then time stretches again….


    What a lovely response. I know that sense of sadness, and the fleeting nature of time is quite real.
    But there’s a certain joy in learning to accept time’s passages, and always the amazement when we realize the “old folks” in our past were right when they said time speeds up as we age.

    Of course, if things seem too poignant, we always can consider the words of one of my more practical friends who read this, and said, “If the ticking of time’s clock bothers you, just buy a digital watch!”

    A good weekend to you, and thanks again for stopping by.


  3. I’ve just learned about two ways to handle daylight savings time that I’ve never heard about before. I find your way much more delightful than your friend’s that went up in the middle of the night.

    I’ve heared people “over here” complain that daylight savings time is not “the real time”. You shift the clock just because it is practical, but the “real time” remains.

    I’ve also heared complains that it is such a problem with jetlag!

    For me, I just turn every clock an hour in the morning and then I forget about it. It’s just a clock.


    And I think you may be the smartest of us all. “It’s just a clock” – exactly. The Greeks were the truly smart ones, with different words for different kinds of time. That’s what we need to adopt. I think maybe I’ll write about that!


  4. Love that you use that “hour” gained (or lost) however you wish, I mean, whenever you wish … I had not considered using it on Monday, for instance. Brilliant!

    Evening, oh,

    I wish now I’d saved that hour. I would have given it to you for Nano!


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