As I’ve written about previously here, last fall I moved just a bit outside the city to the quiet of the country. Living with no neighbors and few passersby fits my introverted personality quite nicely. The nearest place resembling the hubbub of city life I left behind is the Cubby’s Mini Mart two miles away. However, I can only take the busy and often boisterous Cubby’s in small doses.
I knew that moving out of the city would force many adjustments, but one unforeseen change has been how I see time. Time is the one thing with which we are all equally blessed/cursed. How each of us choose to use it is what differentiates us from each other. The spending of time is sometimes set, as everyone needs at least some sleep, but outside of the six to nine hours of sleep is where we depart.
Now that I live in the quiet of the country, I spend most mornings outside in my patio chair. I never sat outside much in the city, because of the noise mainly – a daycare on one side and screaming teenagers with hemi trucks on the other. Now that I am isolated, I sit outside more and do pretty much nothing. I watch the birds come and go – this week a family of bluebirds has moved in; I never really noticed birds before. Now I notice downy woodpeckers and nuthatches and barn swallows. I watch for the fox that roams the gravel road early mornings, and the woodchuck that seems to be making a daily meal out of our rotting chicken coop. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? He’d eat approximately a 3×4 hole out of a small building.
I’ve also had to adjust my newspaper reading. In the city, I took the early morning paper, my days beginning with coffee and the news. When I moved to the country, I learned, to my bewilderment, they don’t deliver a morning paper. How would I spend my morning? How would I know what’s going on in the world? After a month or two of no paper, I decided I really didn’t need to read the news the moment I rose from bed, so it freed up a lot of time. So I sat outside and watched the birds some more, thinking.
Now that I live on a gravel road, I have to drive slower. My Volkswagen Jetta wasn’t made for bumpy gravel roads, so now, just like everything else, the pace of my driving has slowed to a crawl. But this doesn’t necessarily take more of my time. In fact, the time I spend in my car now has become a different type of time than when I drove on the busy streets of the city. Sometimes I’ll turn down a dirt road just to see where it will lead, to see what I will see. I’m looking out instead of looking ahead. I hated wasting time driving before; now I look forward to that time.
In the city, there was always something to do, a restaurant to try, music to hear, a festival to visit. I was always doing something. Now I don’t always do something; I often don’t do anything at all. At first I missed the variety of restaurants the most, but mostly I just felt I wasn’t busy enough. Before I was always busy doing something, and now I was a bit lost in my unbusy-ness. What does one do when there’s nothing to do? At first I searched for things to do, but as time passes, I’ve come to like doing less. I suppose you could say I’ve undone myself.
Nighttime has changed as well. Now I leave the confines of the house at sunset, building a fire out by the barn as I sit to watch the sun go down and the stars come out. And the stars come out in the country, big, bright, glowing beads of crystal right above my head, so low it seems I could reach up and pick them from an invisible branch. I never spent my time at night like this in the city. I cleaned house or watched TV or read the paper or magazines or the occasional book, always doing, always looking down and never out, killing time, a mass murderer of time.
Now when I sit under the nighttime stars and watch time pass, I feel I am most productive. Before I had the same amount of time as everyone else, but spent my allotment in ways I wouldn’t dream of now. I realize time doesn’t fly. Birds fly; time passes. Time is a currency that we all spend in different ways for different reasons, and the pace at which we live our lives is a choice. The time to just think, to contemplate, turning over thoughts like mossy rocks, is a kind of time I never had – never took – before. The open space where I now live has brought with it open spaces of time, and now that I have it, plan to guard it as if my life depended on it. Perhaps it does.
What is your relationship with time?
Do you ever hear yourself saying, “I don’t have time to write” (or time to … fill in the blank)?
If you had more time, how would you spend it?