I was at my part-time job the other day,and in an attempt to make small-talk with the school secretary, I said, “I can’t believe it’s already the middle of March!”
“I know,” she agreed. “They say time speeds up as you get older, but I don’t think that’s it. This winter went by fast. It really did.”
I was reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies, The House of Yes, in which Lesly says, “boy, it’s been a long day,” and Jackie says, “not as long as yesterday. Yesterday was a whole twenty-four hours.”
Days only feel long or short, depending on what you do with them.
Although, according to science, the days really are getting longer. The earth’s rotation is slowing, adding 1.7 milliseconds to the length of the day each century. That means today was the longest day of your life.
My boyfriend and I discuss the phenomenon of time quite often, and not only when he tries to explain concepts of relativity to me (which, as a physicist, he does on a regular basis). We talk about how our days seem to go by so fast. It’s good, we acknowledge. Time flies when you’re having fun, or, at least, when you’re focused on what you’re doing. Time moves slowly when you’re bored or unhappy or anxiously waiting for some future event.
But still, we worry we won’t accomplish all of our goals. We have a limited amount of time on earth. That’s what makes time such a precious commodity.
* * *
Today is the first official day of spring – the vernal equinox. Today is the day that everyone on earth is experiencing an equal night and day.
In Seattle, the cherry blossoms are blooming and red-breasted robins hop on the branches of budding trees. “Look at Plant!” I tell Paul just about every day. Plant is the ingenious name I gave to our Star Jasmine on the patio. Every day it seems like Plant has new white flowers and new curly shoots reaching over the railing and out towards the sun.
For some reason, Spring used to creep me out. There was the weather, to begin with: cold in the morning, warm at mid-day, windy, rainy, sunny, foggy… utterly fickle. But the really scary thing was that Spring always happened so fast. The cherry blossoms came and went before I could get down to the DC Tidal Basin to see them. One day the trees were naked, the next day they were full of leaves. Whoa – when did that happen? It freaked me out. Time was flying by, and I wasn’t stopping to notice the daffodils.
The first year I truly enjoyed Spring was last year. Last year I was in a transition period of my life. I was living in Virginia and working two part-time jobs (instead of three, the way I am now), which meant I had more free time. Because of this, I went for a walk around the neighborhood every single day. Sometimes multiple walks per day.
On my walks I saw the way the buds formed on the trees, and for the first time I marveled at how amazing it was. These trees that had stood dormant all winter contained life inside their knobby branches. I wandered into people’s yards and took close-up looks at the buds, watching the way, day-by-day, they opened into tiny new leaves so green I could hardly comprehend the color. For the first time, my life had slowed down enough so that I could enjoy the miracle of Spring.
It makes me sad that so many people in the world have full-time jobs that never give them the opportunity to slow down. They rush from one day to the next without noticing the little miracles going on all around them.
And then there’s the people whose jobs (or lives) make them wish time would speed up. “How’s it going?” someone asked the woman behind the counter at a convenient store yesterday when I was buying some gum. “Oh, I’m just trying to make it through the day,” she said. I hate to hear that. Just trying to make it through the day, through the week, through the year…. Through your life?
This year I’ve been a lot busier than last year with my writing and my three jobs and my guitar lessons and my yoga work-exchange. I haven’t had the time to take as many walks, and it makes me sad that Spring is passing by so quickly.
What I need to remember is that time is relative. And I don’t mean that in a sciency way. I mean that I can control, in some small way, how I experience my time on earth. I can choose to slow down my day and notice the world around me. A fifteen minute walk around the neighborhood doesn’t take much time, but it can make Spring last a lot longer in my world.
And if I drop the ball and miss Spring entirely, I’m in luck, because it will be back again this time next year.