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Posts Tagged ‘visualization of time’

Fall in Harvard: Still the best time of year*

The fall equinox came and went last week and I, sweating in 100-degree Austin, passed it right by. Even after an entire year of thinking about seasonality, this September the change of seasons just wasn’t on my mind.

Where did the time go?

I know where my time went, actually. I lost it somewhere between Gogol, Dostoevsky, Emerson, and Rodó. Gradschool time is a weird kind of time, broken into fragments that have nothing to do with the ordinary 9-5. Class at 5:30pm? Meetings at 7:30am? Rock-climbing breaks in the middle of the day? But it’s also true that gradschool time blends together incomprehensibly. Did I just read for 5 hours straight? Is it true that I haven’t taken a break in three days? What happened to the weekend?

It’s a nice feature of gradschool, these long periods of free time in which to do what pleases you most.

This week, NPR is a featuring a new series about the history of time. The series’ premise: “The baseline crisis we must understand and confront is not one of economics, climate change, resource depletion or alternate-reality Republicans. Below them all is a crisis in time.”

The subject of our enslavement to the clock has come up several times on this blog: see for example A Time Without Time. I used the word enslavement: I obviously have concerns about timeliness. (Probably, if I’m being honest, because I’m always late.) It’s interesting to think about the fact that before the invention of clocks, most people knew it was midday, evening, dawn – and nothing more. What freedom they must have felt then!

No one in ancient Greece ever felt guilty for failing to write a blog post for two entire weeks, for example.

Still, the word “crisis” is a bit much. There was an article in the nytimes this week about Republicans and the apocalypse. Its greatest weakness was its emphasis on Republicans. Religious or not, we are all pretending to live in apocalyptic times, until time itself has become apocalyptic. It’s the other piece of the time crisis: the idea that time is running out.

Freedom from time, in my book, means the opportunity to read all night long. It also means the chance to live without fear of impending doom.

Still, I’m glad someone reminded me of the equinox.

Happy Fall! and for those who celebrate, Shanah Tovah.

Weather:
66 degrees in Somerville and 67 in Austin. (but there’s a high of 101 today).

Mood:
Hannah: 6 out of 10 on the “can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Clearly I’m out of bed. But still sleepy.

Anna: 6 out of 10. Early morning-gym run feels good, but the stress of the day does not.

*Photo credit to Kohlin’s lovely flickr account, full of great photos of my (and anna’s!) home town.

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Basilica Julia

Really Old Stuff in Rome

I’ve been thinking a lot about time these past few days.

I’ve had good reason. In the past week I have walked on stones that have been in place for thousands of years. I entered temples dedicated to pagan gods and I wandered through the ruins of palaces intended for emperors. I’ve even participated in rituals from another time or place. A few days ago I threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, build in the 1700s but inspired by Greek mythology. According to the story, it depicts Pegasus striking the rock that brought forth the fountain of the muses, from which water all poetic inspiration springs. And then yesterday, at the church of St. Peter, I was blessed with the holy water of the pope.

My brother, who spent the semester in Rome studying art history and classics, knows all of these stories. He has an intimate relationship with all of the Roman emperors (his favorite is Aurelius). He has a Roman god of preference (Sol Invictus) and he knows how to distinguish between Paul III and Pius XI, between Mark Antony and Marcus Aurelius. When he walks around the city, every single spot tells a story.

Because Rome is all new to me, I have a very different experience of time and space.  I don’t know this city’s stories yet, and so for the most part I am forced to make my own. My stories tend to be more based in the present: this is the giant column near where we got great pannacotta. This is the amazing church with the water fountain that sprayed me in the face. This is a giant head. (that’s all I’ve got for the giant head).

I love it when my brother tells me the “real” stories about popes and emperors. But for me, it’s the stories I create that bring the city to life.

Weather:
Warm and sunny. They say it will be in the 70’s today.

Mood:
Hannah: 7 out of 10 on the “can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Still a little sleepy today.
Anna: Wrong side of the Atlantic.  Still sleeping! [EDIT: Anna is now awake and working. Mood=5 because it won’t stop raining!]

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I grew up in a house full of clocks.

Some of the clocks were more accurate than others. The boat-themed clock on the mantelpiece has been right twice a day for my entire life (an accuracy I can only dream of). The clock in the hall goes irregularly, depending if anyone remembers to wind it. The clock in the kitchen — designed and built by my father — is consistently five minutes fast.

The irony, of course, is that, despite being the daughter of a clock-maker, I have never been particularly good with time. In elementary school I was called in regularly by my teachers for a conversation about tardiness. In college I was regularly kicked out of my Spanish class for arriving late (an injustice, given the 9am class time).

Today, my life requires precision. My alarm goes off at 7am. I leave the house at 7:29 and my train departs at 7:37. I leave the office at 5:10 to catch the 5:23 train and arrive home at 6:00. Russian class is at 6:15; dinners are usually at 7; doors open for performances at 8:30 and shows start at 9.

But this winter, things have been a little more flexible. When I work from home due to snowstorms (as I have several times this month), I suddenly find myself freed from the shackles of a tight schedule. I wake up — sometime before eight. I go to bed — sometime before midnight. I eat when I’m hungry. Leave the house when I’m feeling courageous. Make plans to meet at 7:30ish, or around 9.

It reminds me of the summer that I spent without a clock. It was 2006 and I think that perhaps my watch broke, or I forgot to pack my travel clock. I was working at the Virgin Island Sustainable Farm Institute, nestled in a valley on the west end of St. Croix, with wireless internet but no cell phone reception. There was no electricity in my cabin anyway. Time was always approximate.

That summer I got up with the sun. I worked until it got too hot. Then I hiked the ravine trail down to the beach. You may have thought that this post was about time. But it’s really about choice. Sometimes our schedule is beyond our control. But we choose how tightly we cling to it — just like we choose to be in Boston, when instead, we could be here:

Weather: 15 degrees but sunny.

Moods:

Hannah: 7 out of 10 on the can’t get out of bed to jumping for joy scale. Happy to see the sun. And I had a productive day yesterday!

Anna: 4 out of 10. She’s tired.

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Consider the following:

  • Average hours of sleep in July: 7.5. In December: 8.5
  • Average week-day wake-up in July: 6 am. In December: 7:20am
  • Average weekend wake-up in July: 7am. In December: 9 am.

Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing between sleepiness and depression. “My train arrives in half an hour and I can’t get out of bed!” I think. “I must hate everything and be really miserable.”

I lie in bed, down comforter up to my neck, as the minutes tick by. Then I realize that even though it’s 720 am, it’s still dark in my north-facing bedroom. Based on the numbness of my nose, the air in my bedroom must be below freezing. And even though I got a good eight hours of sleep, I’m still totally exhausted.

I force my sleep-fogged mind to acknowledge that it’s not life I hate. It’s just getting out of a warm and cozy bed to confront a cold, dark, and dreary morning.

Many people suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) a seasonal drop in mood thought to be caused by changes in sunlight patterns. (In case you haven’t noticed, we now get a mere 9 hours of sun a day).

But my seasonal disorder is less affective and more lethargic. It’s not only the cold dreariness that makes it hard for me to get up in the morning. It’s that I actually need more sleep to feel alert during the day. And if I make the mistake of going to bed on a summer schedule when it’s winter, I wake up feeling unrested. By midday, I’m ready for a nap.

So last night I decided to embrace my lethargy and allowed myself a full NINE HOURS of sleep. I woke up feeling the way I have every morning this month: cold, tired, and tragically ill prepared to greet the day. But by the time I left the house, wrapped in gloves, hat, and down jacket, the sun was shining. On the train, the trees flashed by, sparkling with frost. There was mist rising from the surface of Walden Pond. By the time I arrived in Concord, I remembered that I love winter, and that I’m actually quite happy to be alive.

Weather: 33 degrees and sunny.

Mood:

Hannah: 8 out of 10. It’s lovely outside, it’s friday. But the scale might need an adjustment because I still can’t get out of bed.

Anna: 7 for reasons as yet unknown.

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My world hasn’t revolved around an academic schedule in several years, but like many people, it still affects me. I suppose this could be because many of my friends are in grad school and as soon as September hits, it becomes difficult to coordinate schedules around seminars, chapter deadlines, advisor meetings, and dissertations; I’m vigorously reminded that the school year has begun. But I have a sneaking suspicion my calendar will always be impacted by the start of the academic year.

You see, when I imagine each year, I conjure up an oval. I’m nearly always situated at the 6:00 position, or September. If I move clockwise and go halfway around the left side of this stretched oval, I hit May and June crowding around the 12:00 position. If you’ve followed, you’ll realize I mentally pack the entire academic year into one half of my clock-like calendar. Only June through August sit on the right half of this oval. And, if you’re not satisfied by this culturally-influenced perspective, let me add that in my mind, the left side is in shadows and the right side is awash with light, so there’s a strong seasonally-driven, light-related component as well.

For as long as I can remember, this has been the way I imagine time passing in a year. If someone mentions scheduling an event in December, I imagine myself at a dark 9:00 position dotted with lights—lights on a Chanukiah, Christmas lights, all sorts of lights that bring cheer.

But December is not where I mentally start on my calendar, despite the fact it ends with the secular New Year. I start in September with the rest of the students. Always. And so I expect that even as the years pass and my friends graduate, adding various letters to the signatures of their emails, September—and the beginning of the academic year—will continue to hold a unique place on my emotional calendar.

Weather: Some sun shining through earlier today, but completely overcast now.

Mood:

Anna – 4 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “Jumping for Joy” scale. 6 points off for too much stress surrounding the search for a new roommate—is it already almost Nov. 1!? Also, too many commitments this week.

Hannah – 8 out of 10. She has a new book to read!

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