Saturday, April 12, 2014

I Know What Time It Is; It's 7:17

Photo by Amy Vinchattle Photography

When my oldest son was four years old, his summer was as perfect as a little boy's can be. He had a tricycle, and a little wood playhouse built by his daddy, and a garden with vegetables and flowers and worms and dirt, and a mom who didn't care if he got mud under his fingernails and sand in his underpants.

He was chubby and sweaty and had little ham fists, part baby fat and part infant manliness. He ate dill out of the garden and poked sticks at toads and chased birds. And talked. And talked. And talked.

One of the things he talked about was learning to tell time. He didn't quite have the hang of it yet, but since his favorite number was 17 he always told me the time was 7:17. Or 17:17. Or sometimes even 70:17 or 77:17.

That time, that real time in the summer of the real 1999, was as fleeting as his imaginary points on the clock, as fleeting as the chubby dimples on his knuckles, as fleeting as the years since.

What was once sweet toddler speech stuck with me, and 7:17 has become my time of day, my waymarker of life's miles. I smile with my heart whenever I notice the time and it's 7:17. These days, in the morning it's the time of breakfast cereal and stuffing sheet music into backpacks. In the evening it's the time of showers and toothbrushes, and books about greek mythology and dragons.

I've been very aware of the passage of time recently, in an almost painful way. It hits me in the middle of the mundane, when I'm slapping my way through yet another round of lunchbox packing, or finding myself at the arse-end of a Thursday night, out of milk, out of clean socks, out of energy.

"And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song...."

It also hits me too, in the large and inescapable fact that little boy has run through the flowers in a garden I no longer tend, around the corner of a house I no longer own, and disappeared into young manhood. So too, all my other baby boys. He and his brothers are growing up.

Let the adventure begin.....

As the 7:17s come and go, morning and evening, spinning into tomorrow, next year, five years from now, I'm tired and hopeful and grateful in equal and dizzying parts. I am measuring the time more carefully these days.

What do I put between my 7:17s each day? Unlike so many self-help articles, I don't believe you really can "make every moment count." Practically speaking we have too many hours we must hand away to paperwork, washing dishes, errands, obligations. But some moments can count very much, and I've been focused on finding them, my 7:17s-- observing them, loving them, realizing them when they come to me. One can miss them if you're not watching.

Some of my 7:17s this spring:

A walk on the Iowa High Trestle Trail. Spring is finally here!

I taught myself how to make crepes for the family tradition that has developed since we moved into this house, Sunday morning brunch. Why did I wait so long to try this? The boys think I need to make up for lost time. I think they may be right.

After a somewhat serious hip injury last fall, I'm back to running again, and it feels like a small miracle to be able to run outside instead of at the indoor track. I like to find paths for running that also help me clear my head:

Inuksuk, an Inuit waymarker for travelers. 
And I'm not ashamed to admit to the most obvious cliche of them all: stopping to smell the roses. Or in this case, stopping to photograph the pine needles:

I loved the layers, patterns, and graceful lines of this bed of pine needles. I couldn't just walk by it.

That's the strength of that old maxim, isn't it? That the happenings of our lives have to be observed, marked, pointed out, in order to honor them? Whether that comes in the form of the time on a clock face, holding a child's hand, painting a painting, writing, knowing the contentment from sitting at your own kitchen table, some small internal prayer of gratitude.

We have to point it out to ourselves to appreciate it. It's that recognition that makes it count. At 7:17 a.m., or p.m., or any other time in between.