Sunday, October 25, 2009

Time is What We Make of It

Time, I'm convinced, only exists when necessary. Time exists on Sunday nights, after the kids have gone to bed but before it's time to head to bed yourself so you have enough sleep to get to work in the morning. Time exists when you have a lot to accomplish.

Other times, it does not exist at all. Friday afternoons, Saturday mornings, late at night with nothing pressing in the morning. Time goes away and leaves us blissful, doing what we care to do without worrying how long the doing is taking us. So I had to laugh a bit as I read today two pieces dealing with time and how one uses it.

The first is at, here, by Daniel Gross, who calls pick-your-own apple orchards as a waste and a scam, thusly:

And, just as people who visit wineries end up walking away with a case instead of a bottle, it's a given that people leave pick-your-own orchards with a surfeit of apples. We left with two almost-full small bags, about 20 pounds, or between 60 and 70 apples. In a good week at home, we'll go through a dozen. Pickers tell themselves they'll put the farm-fresh apples to good use: making homemade apple sauce, or whipping up an apple pie. But most people don't have the time. Besides, pick-your-own orchards sell the processed versions right there, in the irresistible form of apple cider and apple-cider donuts.

Most people have the time, but it's time spent doing something else they regard as more important. True, those who are just deluding themselves shouldn't be buying those apples, but for those of us who do whip up that applesauce, pick-your-owns, and the time out of doors it provides with our families, are well worth the investment in apples and time. The applesauce is just a side benefit. (Of course, read about the 70 quarts of applesauce we made yesterday here.) So you bought the apples. Make time. Do like we did -- the whole family pitched in. That'll make the applesauce that much better.

Then there's this guy, David Ulin, book critic at the LA Times. He's got probably one of the best jobs on the planet: He's paid to read. Of course, if the stuff he's paid to read is reflected in the books he drop-mentions in his article, maybe it's not such a good job. Or maybe he's just picking the wrong books. He despairs that he occasionally can't find the gumption, not necessarily the time, to read:

I am too susceptible, it turns out, to the tumult of the culture, the sound and fury signifying nothing. For many years, I have read, like E.I. Lonoff in Philip Roth's "The Ghost Writer," primarily at night -- a few hours every evening once my wife and kids have gone to bed. These days, however, after spending hours reading e-mails and fielding phone calls in the office, tracking stories across countless websites, I find it difficult to quiet down. I pick up a book and read a paragraph; then my mind wanders and I check my e-mail, drift onto the Internet, pace the house before returning to the page. Or I want to do these things but don't. I force myself to remain still, to follow whatever I'm reading until the inevitable moment I give myself over to the flow. Eventually I get there, but some nights it takes 20 pages to settle down. What I'm struggling with is the encroachment of the buzz, the sense that there is something out there that merits my attention, when in fact it's mostly just a series of disconnected riffs and fragments that add up to the anxiety of the age.

Really? Get rid of the distractions. I rarely read in the same room with a computer, or a television. And the time I have for reading has increased since my iPod Touch went through the clothes washer in July. Or get a little willpower. I admit I occasionally succumb to such distractions as well, but there's always time to read. Maybe my job isn't as dreamy as his, but I do have a block of about an hour and a half in which I can sit on the bus and read every afternoon, four days a week. I sink so deeply into books some times I'll glance up and only by chance note that the next stop is mine; my brain seems to have one little portion charged at remarking when the stop is close. The rest is deeply in that book.

Time is what we make of it. We can take advantage of the interesting thing life throws at us, whether they be an apple orchard or a good book, if we so choose. It's what we decide to do with our time, and how we seize those opportunities, that help us decide whether time exists or not.

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