The Fabric of Time

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Six months ago, if you were to tell me that time was pliable, I would have politely listened, smiled and discounted you. Darn New Ager, I’d think.

I was immature then. Today I would agree with you.

After my slow travel tour sailing down the Inside Passage, I can now see time as an elastic concept. Sure, tides, tidal currents, sunrise and sunset happen at times that scientists can forecast, though factoring in clouds, wind, river flow, and rain, these have a bit of flexibility.

The other factor that creates and reinforces time is the modern human imposition of artificial time. Many of us spend our days tied to desks, staring at clocks (and computer screens with the time prominently displayed in the corner), or at the very least, being accountable to the clock. Instead of focusing on the task at hand or the weather, we strive for the concept of efficiency. Perhaps by dividing the day into usable pieces of time, we think we can get more done.

But on a cruise, time is only relevant for those brief moments when one determines the high and low tide for the day. Ending up unexpectedly on the rocks is memorable, but doesn’t make for the kind of experience one seeks out.

If the day is measured at all, it’s viewed in terms of enjoyment. How can you measure the beauty of the wind, the waves, the passing mountains? One simply soaks these things up over and over again.

There is hypnotic pleasure in seeing a fantastic landscape go by and with that enjoyment, comes a timelessness, where one becomes so completely in the moment of absorbing said beauty, that one thinks of little else. Compound that over the course of many days and multiple variations of mountains, sea, trees, and boats- like a nature kaleidoscope, that time is replaced by place.

On a one week trip, after a few days, you start thinking about coming home. On a two week trip, your time horizon shifts further, but by the point that you start to forget about measured time, you have to think about the time needed for the return voyage and the spell is broken. When you can find the space for a four week trip, a diversion or an interruption of a few days of rain, or sunshine, or storm becomes immaterial over the days. In the absence of someplace to be other than the present, you don’t think about time and looking back you may be able to differentiate some days from others, but the fabric of memory becomes a vast pattern versus individual pieces of thread. The whole thing can be stretched or shrunk a bit, but it all becomes one experience.

And now that I’ve been wrapped in that fabric, I want to experience it again and again.


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