Monday, April 21, 2008


I have an old-time clock sitting on my computer monitor, the kind made out of brass and topped with bells and a little hammer on a wire that blurs when the alarm goes off because it moves so fast. And it ticks.

It runs on a spring that I wind every day, and as it unwinds it ticks, the sound of some hidden cog slowly turning away the seconds. It’s not a subtle tick, but a hard, industrial sort that I will never be able to love hearing as I might the gentle ticking of a grandfather clock or whispering tick of a dust covered mantle clock.

This clock, the one that towers over me as I sit here at my desk, isn’t there to tell me the time, though I do occasionally use it for that. It’s there because of that no-nonsense tick. At best I’m completely unaware of it. When I’m working away and whatever part of my brain it is that approves or disapproves of my current behavior, my conscience, it allows me to become so attentive I can tune out that incessant tick. But, when I’m off task it becomes something awful, a never ceasing reminder that life and opportunity are always slipping away. That ticking becomes a countdown.

The good news is that as long as you can hear the ticking the countdown hasn’t ended yet. And, one cannot continuously sit on the edge of oblivion, staring in the face unblinking, without the occasional day off. Sometimes, I let the clock run to a stop and leave it.

I did that not too long ago and left it unwound for several days. It just sat there not moving, not ticking, not reminding me of what I don’t want to be reminded of, but I couldn’t leave it alone. I thought about putting back in the garage, back in the box I dug it out of, but I need to have that subtle nudge. I wound the clock, set it running again.

It’s late. Time to go to bed.

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