As I was walking into a breakfast meeting with a colleague, the grandfather clock in the lobby of the country club was chiming. That sound roused in me all sorts of conflicting thoughts and emotions. “Whew, I’m on time!” was my first thought. Since I’ve been challenged to get places on time, there was a momentary feeling of relief. (I’d like to blame my perpetual lateness on road construction season here in Minnesota, but I suspect that several people would say that is not the cause!) That thought was immediately followed by the clock reminding me that time is always ticking away. I need to keep this breakfast meeting focused so I’m on time for my next appointment.
After that initial reaction, a much deeper memory stirred. Growing up, I spent a lot of my summers at the home of my aunt and uncle. My cousin and I would share the pull out sofa sleeper in their living room, and while I waited for sleep to come, their grandfather clock would tick and chime, making me feel comforted and safe.
The ticking of a clock making a person feel comforted? Safe? That is not the most common reaction to that sound. We live in a world that just doesn’t appreciate a clock ticking. At best, it reminds you that you always need to be in a hurry because time is always slipping away, tick by tick by tick. You can work harder or longer to make more money, but there isn’t anything you can do to make more time. The tick or chime also reminds you of your own mortality. How many years, months, days, ticks do you have left?
And yet, that second response – remembering how I felt about the clock’s chimes when I was younger – is the one I find still lingering. I long for the space to simply sit and let time pass without feeling I need to be someplace, do something, talk to someone. To feel comforted and safe, trusting that the world will not intrude in this moment to rob my sense of serenity.
But I just glanced at the clock and I have another appointment in a few minutes. Sigh. Back to hurry, hurry.