I have an electric wall clock that I am trying to recycle (code for throw away), but it is not an easy thing to do. It was my mother’s, and hung on the kitchen wall in our Winnipeg home.

It is not in any way an object of beauty, having a basic round face set into a couple of inches of some dreadful pale pink plastic. When plugged in, it makes a whirring noise as it continues to lose time, despite all attempts to improve its performance! It also rattles at every opportunity, due to the collection of screws or nails which have fallen into the hang-up-hole behind its face.

But it is the only wall clock that I actually remember from my childhood. I do remember running outside to look down Manitoba Street to check the big clock on the Moose Jaw railroad station. My mother never trusted the watch she always wore. And no wonder; she stopped watches, as do I!

So I have this thing about clocks. I need to be able to see one wherever I am. Doubly strange, because I often ignore the implications of what they tell me.

Time itself is a puzzle, something which seems to control us even as we seek to “manage” it. Employers rate staff according to their time management skills, and teachers strive to increase their students’ Time on Task. (In some classrooms, when I was subbing I used to pass out “encourage-mints” when we increased our TOT!)

Time! As I grow older, I find that time feels a little different – and I’m not talking about the clichés of time speeding up, or even slowing down after retirement.

I’m remembering my mum and dad, who lived to 92 and 94, respectively. Mother marvelled, “I feel just the same inside as I did when I was a wee little girl!” And I recognize that feeling. Dad, too, had moments when he actually felt himself transported back in time. He would assume that mother was still alive, and we would be seeing her soon, or that the waves of driven prairie snow were part of Lake Huron. Of course, we know that his mind was aging, but that mind was still translating passages from the original Greek of the New Testament!

I think we all experience this timelessness in moments of nostalgia, when the past floods our consciousness, and we feel carried back in time. And it’s all there, stored in our unconscious mind, not necessarily accessible at a given time, but there.

I have heard that a conscious mind is the chief marker of human beings, as opposed to other animals. I’m voting for the unconscious – or the subconscious, as some would have it. We have this wonderful ability to go backward and forward in time, sometimes with chagrin, if not guilt, or often with nostalgia.

Time is not what we have been trained to believe. It is not a steam roller destroying the future as it leaves behind a past that has been permanently flattened. Through memory, we can relive the past to change its effects, and through our moments of nostalgia we can rejuvenate ourselves and make our present easier.

Time is not a one-way street, nor is it relentless or even eternal. In all its forms and in all our perceptions, it is a gift from God!

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