Spending Time

On the timeless prairie

Amid a flurry of autumn traditions old and new — carved jack-o-lanterns, homecomings, pumpkin spice latte —  discussions of a less happy tradition arise, inevitable as falling leaves. As the clock adjustments required by the end of daylight saving time grow nearer,  a little inconsequential and mostly congenial grumping about the practice can be heard across the land.

Some don’t care which official time prevails; they only wish for an end to switching back and forth. Others, in favor of keeping the practice, argue the case for a national policy. Most seem to consider the fuss over “falling back” or “springing forward” nothing more than a relic of the past, like barn-raisings and butter churns. Continue reading

The Time of Our Lives

Reminders about the end of daylight saving time have begun to crop up, opportunities for a little congenial and inconsequential grumping in the midst of Eurozone crises, premature snow and political theatre. Some wish “the longer day” would be made permanent. Others consider the fuss over “falling back”  nothing more than a relic of another time, like barn-raisings and butter churns.

The annual discussions are repetitive, and predictable as the seasons. Does our clock manipulation save energy? Should it be standardized across the country? Does it help or hurt school children?

I don’t think definitive answers are possible, and I personally don’t care. Like an old-fashioned farmer, I work by the sun, not the clock. Grandma liked to say she worked from “kin to cain’t” – from the moment when the first bird took flight into the dawn until the last light faded against the hills – and I love embodying that part of her tradition. Still, living as I do in a world of clock-and-calendar sorts, it’s important to take their realities into account – including the transition back to “standard” time. Continue reading

Getting My Clock Cleaned

Stealing pears. Stealing watermelons. Smoking cigarettes out behind the barn. Tying together someone’s little sister’s shoelaces. Throwing crabapples at old man Wozniak’s house. It just was what boys did when I was growing up, and whenever they decided to do it again, whatever “it” was, any old folks who happened to notice would shake their heads knowingly. “Sure enough,” they’d say. “One of these days those boys are going to get their clocks cleaned.”

I wasn’t sure what the expression meant, or why stealing watermelons should bring about a clock-cleaning. Living as I did in one of those cleanliness-equals-godliness households, a clean clock sounded pretty good to me. But no one ever suggested a girl could get her clock cleaned, so I didn’t give it much thought. Eventually, the boys grew up and the old folks dissolved into the mists of time and memory, taking the phrase with them. I hadn’t heard it spoken for years until last week, when Ralph arrived at my door and said, “Howdy, Ma’am. I’m Ralph, from Chappell Jordan. I’m here to clean your clock.” Continue reading

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.

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