Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What to do with the Time that is given to us

In the small town of Lourmarin in the Luberon Hills of Provence, Christine and I were introduced to the concept of time in the life of the French. Our gite (apartment) was accessed on the high point of the village after a modest walk up very narrow cobble stone lanes or one lane roads. The gite was within a tiny square which contained other dwellings, an art ‘gallerie’ and an historic Catholic church. Near the steps of the small church was a fountain where the sound of the water spout was comfortable and constant. Here is a painting I did while sitting on my porch. This square was frequented by daily tourists passing by and pretending to be locals we watched them from our small porch on the second level. The church tower bell sounded every hour, one gong for each hour, and one gong on the half hour. Everyone wears wristwatches now of course yet town time was still marked by the church bell. All the business establishments shut their doors when twelves chimes rang out and didn’t reopen until the single clang at 2:30 pm. Town time included this liberal lunch break and midday sleep time. Initially, we wondered whether we could accustom ourselves to the constant audio reminder that time was passing, specially at two, and three, and four o’clock in the morning. Yet someone told us, “Soon you will not notice the chimes.” Someone was correct. Within days the bell was a friendly sound, and through the nights it was hardly discernable as our sleep habits adjusted. Each morning I arose, dressed and walked down to the main street, again one lane and one way for vehicles. Passing people we would exchange a respectful “Bonjour.” Three minutes later I entered the Boulangerie from which drifted the aroma of fresh bread beckoning us all. Always there were people in line at the Boulangerie. No one was in a rush. A vehicle would stop outside the boulangerie, blocking the one lane traffic and the driver would enter the shop to buy his baguette. Other cars simply waited behind his roadblock, patient, no horn honking, no road rage. Each patron walked out with baguettes under our arms or croissants in a bag. “Merci, au revoir et bon journee,” the clerk would say as I left. Ohh, the croissants, buttery, warm, flaky and fattening. All good! At the corner where two café/pubs were located, locals were already sitting at outside tables with their espressos and watching us pass. Christine and I wondered then and now whether the pace of life which we admired in a French village is transferable to our culture. Of course it can’t be entirely. Here, most of our merchants operate in areas removed from our homes, so we are wheeled society. Our home and yard require much work to maintain and all that takes time, so we consider downsizing to a smaller place where yard work is done by someone else. Yet if we liberate more time for ourselves, what can we do with it? Travel more? Paint more? What? That’s where the time question brings me. Retirement has already provided more discretionary time to me. Does time in retirement come with responsibility or is it entirely mine now to use as I choose?

In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

Ah, and I am a person with the conviction that the one who has given me time is the Father. My time is in his hands. What I decide about the use of my time must reflect the sincerity and measure of my dedication to him. Yet this obligation does not have to be perceived as unfun and onerous since I believe that wise use of time may be as simple as kicking the soccer ball with my grandson Ryan, and hitting golf balls with my grandson Kale, and teaching my granddaughter Kailyn how to paint with acrylics, and wrestling with my grandson Jayden (JJ) and letting my two year old granddaughter Kadence snuggle with her head into my neck for long periods of time, and painting my son Jeff’s window trim, and having coffee with my friend Bob, and…. I suppose the itinerary is endlessly delightful and significant.

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