Ever notice how we human beings have ways of marking the passage of time? Sure, we have our calendars, our reminders, our clocks and gizmos. I’m talking about the not-so-obvious ways of marking time. The ways that mark time in subtle ways that leave you realizing after the fact how time has passed rather than noting it up front.
I am not a winter person. I like cool weather but I’m really a sunny, summer person. I mark my years mostly by noting the passage of the seasons. The months from January to the end of March are dreadful for me. In the region where I live winters are relatively mild, but temperatures can vary from a balmy 60 degrees one day to snowing and freezing levels the next. I find this pretty tough on my system. I’m always glad when Daylight Saving Time arrives. Even though I lose an hour, I can see that summer is on the way, and with it, some more consistent temperatures.
I’m also in a career field that allows me to not have to show up or punch a clock during the summer, while still receiving a paycheck. I am not paid for those days, but the pay for the days I do work is spread out over the entire year. So, in addition to the seasons, I mark the advent of time through the annual cycle of my job. For example, for most people the New Year begins in January, but for me, the New Year begins in late August. I know the New Year is coming up when I see close outs on summer swimwear and sales on school supplies. When others celebrate the New Year I am celebrating the halfway point in another year.
Some people count time by using holidays as markers. There are the usual fall festivities of Back-to-School leading up to Halloween, which a friend of mine swears is the official start of the holiday season. Then, of course, to make the longer nights and shorter days more bearable we have all the big parties like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s. we move trough the dreariest part of the year with fewer holidays, until we arrive at 4th of July; marking our passage already through half the summer and the year.
Tonight, as I lie awake listening, I realize that sounds can also indicate the passage of time by evoking memories of earlier times when the sounds were similar to the ones we hear now. Or, maybe, it is how the sounds differ that strike a chord in our memories, giving us pause to realize how much things have changed; to note the changes over the course of time.
Tonight, for me, is one of those “sounds” moments. In earlier posts on this blog I wrote of the sounds I heard late at night. These words were penned at a time in my life when I was experiencing the end of a very disastrous marriage. At one point, I lived in a trailer borrowed from friends. Now, almost five years later, I can feel the rumble of the semi’s and the roar of their tires on the pavement as I lied awake fearful and anxious wondering how we’d survive. At a later point, I was rebuilding life in an older home requiring a great amount fixing up. Awake late at night, I heard the gurgling hum of the pool pump and the sound of the occasional car passing on the highway a mile north of our old home. The divorce was final, the dust had settled, I was incredibly worried about finances, but I was safe and, in many ways, happier than I’d ever been.
Tonight as I lie awake, I listen. I hear sounds that are similar to those earlier times, blending with new sounds. I still hear the familiar sounds of tires on roadway, the tinkling magical sound of the wind chimes hanging outside my bedroom window, the cool air coming in from outside, and tonight…rain.
But it isn’t entirely the same either. The tires on roadway are now on a freeway, an interstate. The same one I lived beside in the borrowed trailer. Instead of a thundering roar of truck tires barreling by only a couple hundred feet away, I hear a steady soft roar reminiscent of the ocean, constant but not loud. It is muffled, but definitely there. Calming in its steady tones the distant roar of the freeway is a reminder of how things have changed and of how they haven’t. The wind chimes tinkle from a different home, a two story, larger, newer, easier to maintain. It has a dishwasher, and no yard, but plenty of spacious decking. Gone is the hum of the pool pump, the click of the hot tub heater kicking in, replaced these days by the soft sound of the breeze blowing through massive cedars.
So much has happened in the last five years. As I sit considering all that transpired since this time half a decade past, I’m astounded at what I’ve lived through. Proud of some accomplishments; embarrassed and ashamed by others. It’s all part of life and I’ve made my peace with my past. I ponder the passage of time tonight not with calendar nor clock, but with the simplicity of sound. The sounds take me back and move me forward simultaneously…and for the briefest of moments time stands still. I am, as I was back then, grateful, content, and filled with a strange, unlikely emotion that comes not from having things or lacking stress, but from being alive. It sounds like joy.