E. Winter Tashlin

Marking Time [Picture Tells A Story]

Filed By E. Winter Tashlin | March 21, 2015 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: ancestors, Ostara, passage of time, PTAS, time, timekeeping, vernal equinox


If there is one elemental force that serves as the driver of today's modern world, surely it's time. Uncounted riches and resources have been devoted to knowing exactly when it is down to an unimaginable level of precision. Time is the engine that makes our modern world possible, but it can also be an oppressive taskmaster.

On Wall Street, fortunes ride on microsecond advantages, and millions of high-frequency trades can happen in one day's business; throughout the western world children and adults' lives are scheduled with the precision of a military operation; and we rarely are free to experience the present, as our minds reach out to the onrushing future. On the other hand, the information and transportation networks that define the 21st century all rely on timekeeping, often to a degree of detail imperceptible to an unaided human being. I may wish that life wasn't so ruled by the clock, but I sure wouldn't want to give up my GPS.

Time is on my mind because yesterday was the Vernal Equinox and the pagan celebration of Ostara, a pointed reminder that fixating on the march of time is hardly a modern invention. Tracking the course of the seasons was a central element in many ancient cultural and religious practices, not to mention vital to the survival of people that needed to know when to plant, harvest, and store their foodstuffs. Knowing when we are, was as important to them as it is to us, for all that they were looking on a more macro scale than we do today.

I was thinking about that connection yesterday evening, as I was standing in a tidal cave, where a few of us gathered for a simple Ostara ritual. As accustomed as a I am to frequently checking my watch or phone to adjust my own internal sense of time, not to mention making sure I get to appointments when I'm supposed to, there was something a bit magical about pausing to make that observation using the same celestial chronograph that people have been using to mark their place in time for thousands of years.

Looking out over the gray expanse of the Atlantic under a leaden sky, dressed for the frigid weather, it was hard to imagine that we had turned the corner and begun the journey out of the long and terrible winter. We talked about the coming spring in tones more hopeful than confident, with the wary optimism of people accustomed to winter's malicious tenacity. And yet, none of us actually have any doubt that the summer is slowly making its return.

How much more potent must this moment have been to people who didn't carry a device in their pocket taking chronological cues from a bank of atomic clocks?

Perhaps then, we always have been slaves to the clock. The relentless march of time is humanity's constant companion, whether in the moment by moment frenzy of our lives today, or in the looming knowledge that mistiming a planting or ignoring the turn of the seasons means that people will die or go without food in the months to come. As someone living a modern existence, it's easy to imagine that our relationship with time is a product of railroads and computers, but it simply isn't.

The inextricable river that carries us from micromanaged appointment to appointment today, is one and the same with that which our ancestors feared and praised as they marked the earth's endless sweep around the sun. Perhaps that bit of perspective can be useful as we each seek to figure out just how the engine of time drives our own lives and experiences of the world.

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