I am lucky enough to live in the vast wonderland that is Central Michigan, alive with woodland creatures, back creeks, abundant lakes and urban greatness. Our home is located in the midst of triple-digit acreage like many of you. My favorite is the hush of a first snow shining in full moonlight or the pink of a crispy morning. The silence is stunning and beautiful.
One of my prized possessions is an inherited beautifully old Seth Thomas mantle clock. I am a weird mix of introvert who is quite happy to be around others and do quite love a crowd; but in the quiet, recharge. I find my solace and soak it right into my bones in the sleepy hours of the morning or evening.
If I'm disciplined, the most fulfilling is to watch an infant sun turn a dark winter dawn into a grey winter morn. There are no sharp beams of sunshine, no blinding moments as the sun takes control of the day; merely a peaceful takeover as the sun rises and illumines the sky and snow alike with only the wooded greens to mark the barrier between earth and sky. A steaming cup of tea, my prayer book, and the steady tick tock of the Seth Thomas bring me immeasurable peace.
One must wind this clock by hand meaning it demands a certain amount of attention. I will be the first to admit it is a task that I occasionally forget; usually the absence of tocking tells me I have left the task neglected, the silence stealing my thoughts and showing my error. Like all good wind ups, you have to go alllllll the way around, chiming through each hour before it can be reset. Even though busyness tries to thwart my efforts otherwise, she does run like clockwork (sorry, I couldn’t resist) metering out our familial moments tick by tock.
Oftentimes, when I pick up the key to turn the gears, I clasp the cold metal in my fingers and think of all the hands that have wound it before. It brings me in connect with my past and leaves a mark for the future.
My children have a love/hate relationship with that clock. It's annoying, such monotone steadiness, in their world of personalized ringtones and silent digital timekeepers; It can’t be turned off and one cannot change the sound, much to their chagrin. As one of the boys said recently "I hate that clock, but I'm so reliant on it!”.
So it goes.
The tick tock parceling out our minutes also reminds everyone in our home that humans should always be at a measured pace, neither hurrying and fall prey to neither anxiety nor too slow and falling prey to laziness. One cannot do all that one wants, but one should always do that which must be done; or as my elder sons would declare: Adulting.
One finds it harder to do what one must without the proper disposition of the soul to discern what that must is. Discernment takes time with God. Discernment takes quiet and prayer. It does not require a special ringtone to announce God's presence.
I pray that one day my children will see the value of such a clock, even to the point of carrying on the imprint left on the key, thinking of his childhood as he winds to mark his hours. I pray that I am doing a good job of insisting on silence in this chaotic world - an especially apt reminder during the hustle and bustle of this season that never began as a time of buying and glamming as it is now, but about family and charity.
I hope that there is a day that he sits in a living room and ponders what is missing in the deep silence only to discover the clock needs wound. Silence is vital to our soul, whether we are an introvert or extrovert. Even more so when we allow every moment to be filled with noise, screens, and distractions. I hope that during this magical season you, too, can sneak away, hear the crunch of snow on your boots as you measure your breathing, watching the warmth steam the sky, filling your soul with still and silence.