Saturday, March 08, 2008

springing forward on the path

This post is dedicated to the completely irritating modern concept of Daylight Savings Time which removes the natural element of time from our daily rhythm and replaces it with a an artifice, complements of that overbearing institution of behavior change, your government.

"The gods confound the man who first found out how to distinguish hours. Confound him, too! Who in this place set up a sundial to cut and hack my days so wretchedly Into small pieces! When I was a boy, my belly was my sundial - one more sure, truer, and more exact than any of them. This dial told me when 'twas proper time to go to dinner, when I had ought to eat. But nowadays, why even when I have, I can't fall to unless the sun gives me leave. The town's so full of these confounded dials, the greatest part of its inhabitants, shrunk up with hunger, creep along the streets."
Attributed to Plautus, c. 254–184 BCE

Ah, modernity.

When you live in a place for a while you come to know, if you are observant, the "genius" of it. The poet Alexander Pope said, "Consult the genius of the place in all things" and professional landscape designers and architects have made that admonition part of their common lexicon.

But determining the genius of a place means you need to spend a good deal of time there at that place (years I'd say) and that leads me to think the time component would be exceedingly difficult for the hired professional landscape designer, who must by definition be "on the clock". Two necessary components - living in a place over a length of time, and the act of being observant - are the key to understanding the genius of a place.

Which is I think, why the most charming gardens are personal gardens. There is a quality of warmth or humanity, in personal gardens (including many great estates that were once homes) that eludes public, commercial and corporate gardens. Lately glimpsing into the highly diverse personal gardens and gardening thoughts of a multitude of garden bloggers has validated my thoughts on this. There are some lovely things out there to be discovered, with time enough. (Note: A good place to start reading gardener bloggers is

Speaking of time, I wonder always this time of year, why did ancient people create their sundials, or solar calendars - Stonehenge, Newgrange, the megaliths of Carnac, the Sphinx, Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon - of something as unwieldy as stone. And the obvious answer is because stone is unwieldy. As old as the earth, solid. Stone can't be burned for fun or fuel, or moved by an 'act of God', discounting earthquake.

My personal, unwieldy, but living and therefore vulnerable, solar calendar or sundial is the old surveyor's white oak tree on the property line east of our house. It's over 175 years old now, its existence recorded in the Jackson administration when the township lines were being drawn. I love that tree.

I stand in the window with my daily morning cup of brew noting at winter solstice the sun rise south of the old oak tree, and then throughout the year I watch and remark as increasingly the sunrise moves north until finally at midsummer the rosy fingered dawn (I love The Odyssey too) sunrise will be such and so a distance north of the old oak. Reliably to turn once more in her path and retrace the journey south. I do love that tree.

Here's a short tutorial I enjoyed on Youtube, on making a sundial, filmed by an eighth grade science class:

1 comment:

Brenda Kula said...

cquvbxoDaylight Savings Time is just another way to confuse folks like me who have lived 50 years of life. Menopause is not a time to "pause" for reflection, as I've learned. But just another reason for being so utterly absent-minded. I need at least the time, or passage thereof, to be somewhere within the realm of simplicity.