Pendulums swing — both in clocks and in cultures. The pendulum creates the rhythm that allows inner workings of a clock to maintain the ability to keep time. Measuring time, measuring purpose, helping humans maintain our schedules.
My child knows a pendulum because her grandfather loves clocks. She knows what a pendulum is (without knowing the word for it) because my mother has a grandfather clock that her brother built. But our household has no pendulum.
Our family has clocks built into our smartphones. We have a giant clock hanging on the kitchen wall set 5 minutes fast in hopes that we will get out the door on time. Wonders never cease! One battery-powered clock has silly voices meant to wake children with laughter. We have one single clock that ticks. Its click, click, click wears on my nerves. I have gotten too used to quiet.
Think back to a season when clocks were an art form — carvings and beautiful things meant to make people smile, laugh and remember. The measurement of time kept people on track as they focused on their tasks. Think further to a point that the sun’s position told people the cycle of the day.
My spirit turns to Ecclesiastes 3: a season and a purpose to everything under heaven. Certain seasons have stirred longing in me to shed possessions and create an ordered life. Clean lines and surfaces gentle me in an anxiously busy world. Not every item needs to bring joy, but it should have purpose or meaning.
On the flip side, I am very much aware that it will cost much more to replace things for our children as they launch out on their own. Instead, we can save our aunt’s dishes to give to one child, my parents’ first set for another. For that matter, we have too many whisks! My only explanation is that it came from blending two lives mid-journey, but one day, these three young people will need a whisk. We can share.
All of this has me contemplating a great deal about the stuff of life. Some human societies are nomadic, picking up and moving around in more arid climates. Keeping things lightweight and portable are constants.
Other families have more permanence. Family homeplaces are handed down from one progenitor down a long line of heirs. Some of us come from a more landed gentry, and the land, estate and heirlooms all mean something.
Still others of us are a little more hard-scrabble, reinventors of life and community. We aren’t exactly nomadic, but we haven’t had the same resources. We have struck out and marked our claim and begun again.
Some of us have left all of the baggage behind. We have run for our lives. We have run toward something more … well, at least something different — maybe freer, maybe tougher — because we are no longer near our anchor of hearth and home and center.
Maybe, Kind Reader, you too have read about how certain folks are thinning their resources, trimming the fat, sorting the stuff. Is this worth much any longer? One of my relations has dumped family heirlooms across the American landscape trying to find some kind of freedom by forgetting. Meanwhile, my spousal unit and I don’t seem to be able to say “no” to something useful or sentimental or — thanks be to God — something that is simultaneously useful, sentimental and beautiful.
All of it leaves me wondering if someday the people who have shed so much will wish they had access to the stories and memories and scents of powders, oils, chewing gums; the touch of well-made things; the feel of handmade upholsteries and blankets; the look and feel of real solid oak or wormy chestnut or hand embroidery.
Our youngest will likely dig through piles of paper, unless I get some magical time to scan a great deal of things into a digital cloud that may no longer exist when she is my age. I do not want to burden her with stuff so that she wishes she could cremate it with me — but to give her tools for recalling the stories and ways, rather than the cheap, replaceable alternatives.