You can’t tell time by the Creek


December 20, 2007

Ever notice when you're on vacation, time really flies by? It seems like you can't jam enough of your favorite activities into one day, then the next day begins! Often we hear co-workers, upon return from a week away, say, "I need a vacation to recover from my vacation!" Usually, time away from home under pleasant circumstances passes too quickly. Your sense of time in the world gets distorted by the myriad things to do.

This month, I took a retreat at a stone cabin up in the red rocks of Oak Creek Canyon outside of Sedona, Arizona, where time stood still. The resort, snuggled at the side of the Canyon, lacked all modern communication access. My cell phone read "No Signal," internet access didn't exist, and even if the cabin had television, there was no reception. This left the usual indicators of time passage behind in the "real" world. When those instruments of measuring time don't exist, you accomplish more in a shorter amount of time. Left with a wristwatch and the two different times displayed on the kitchen appliances, I rarely took notice of the time of day.

Creek Environment
When I arrived, I looked out the living room window to see the creek below me, the road across and above me, and beyond the road, the looming mountain rising hundreds of feet outside the scope of my window.

Low cloud cover, followed by light rain and snow at the 5000' elevation oasis, provided a backdrop which blocked out any natural sense of passage of time. Normally, we can "tell time" using the position of the sun. With the low uniform cloud cover, this gauge was absent. Using the sounds of low or high tides, a vacation near the ocean can be roughly timed using the sounds of the surf. Oak Creek flowed constantly with no abatement. Its lovely roar continued no matter the time of day or phase of the moon. The short days of mid-December coupled with the early darkness of the western edge of the Mountain Time Zone, discerning time of day after sunset proved more difficult than expected.

By the Creek
Telling time near the creek and by the creek both resulted in not knowing the time! The creek's constant flow, like the life-force within us, never stopped to rest. As we age through our life, our invisible spirit constantly moves forward, ignoring the calendar and seasonal changes. Sometimes, like the creek, the only signs of time moving forward reveal themselves in wrinkles or worn away shorelines. Still, like the creek, our consciousness expands into unknown territory and readily adapts to our surroundings. We continue to nibble away at the edges of our comfort zones, just like the winding creek erodes the soft soil of its banks to meander even more pronounced through time and cause and effect.

Immersed in the sensations of the creek's surroundings, telling the time of day became blissfully irrelevant. With a dancing fire and a supply of dry firewood piled up next to the rock fireplace, food in my tummy and the symphony of nature all around me, telling time seemed superficial. I not only couldn't tell time by the creek, I no longer wanted to!

Suspended in time, my brief vacation now lives on in my memory. Since time doesn't matter, I can revisit the creek anytime I wish - in my mind. I absorbed so much sensory input that I'm forever changed. With a few deep breaths, I'm back there, invisible to the world and secluded from it.

Just in time.



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