The Feline Astronomer.
You can point out the moon to your cat, but she will probably just nuzzle your finger! A provocative line in a book I’m reading. It made me stop and chuckle! I remember occasionally seeing the moon from our old house and pausing for a moment before closing the garage door or bringing in the groceries. Sometimes calling the hospital back I’d go outside and the moon would be there.
Now I see a lot more of the moon, and even though it has changed little, the viewing of it has gone through a metamorphosis.
Often I’m on watch when the sun warms our horizons out there, takes over for the moon, and a particular morning fit that norm. A long, clear, light had slipped under the clouds to illuminate the volcanoes of Huahine on the bow. Veils of mist hung on them. The sea lapped at our beam as we glided, quietly closer; a long tailed tropic bird shuddering the water to clap, in panicked flight, around our stern, awakened by our passing. The smell of land transposed me through time to the template of my romanticized Darwin and Cook, Magellan and Bligh. You see, I’ve found the trick for time control.
I’m being serious now. Time is an illusion, or rather all illusion is a function of time, our inattention or attention to it. Some say it’s a fickle resource bestowed randomly and unfairly. Never purchase-able, but of great value. And as our obsession with time increases, so too does it’s pace. While we can all agree to the tick of the clock, admit you know that sometimes it bends and lags, sometimes you wake and its precious grains have run you through and time has passed you by without your knowing. Occasionally I will glance upon our cabin clock, which does indeed stop on occasion, and for a moment believe I’ve caught it, in its antics, red handed so-to-speak, only for that long palpable moment to pass, with another tick. There. Clock watching was the first plausible evidence that our Creator had given me that my river of life has ebbs and flows.
Commonly remarked upon in a variety of settings, perhaps during a break at work, is the realization that a season has slipped by nearly unnoticed, or a child has grown, or more grey hairs have sprouted in your muzzle, or perhaps your beast’s. And not long after that comment we adults all agree upon time’s inclination towards haste in our waxing years. It’s in stark juxtaposition to the childhood wait for Christmas or a birthday party, when time routinely slowed to a drip. And so it is out on the ocean. Time is marked by the simple rhythms of our planet, the days and nights, watch schedules, the acute awareness of the arc of the heavens, the chill of changing seasons descending down the Polynesian valleys. We’ve met many people, whole cultures smiling in the distance, in the settling wake, entirely comfortable being away from the edge of time.
I have become aware in a deeper sense, but perhaps a different way than previously about time. Or, more rightly, the frantic pace of living had torn time from me, torn life from me. Weekends lost in the delirium of consistency, admit you may have lost some too. But in the great distances and depths of the Pacific, time and I have lost touch, a tenuous clasp of hands stretched and fumbling in the crowd and then gone. No panic. Our grasp had become clammy anyway. I’d been distracted by stress, politics, efficiency, the tending to my beguiling, but jealous mistress: medicine. Too little sleep, too much noise. The tick tick of the blinker had been in my ear for miles, years maybe. I don’t regret any of it, but I’m glad that I’ve arrested the slide toward the numbing blur of days and years.
Now things are different, like having a magic, master watch in my pocket. Time will always tick along, I can’t stop it or reverse it. But the ratio of life to time is mine to control. I lie on my back and watch, consider actually, my exhaled and silvery vapors, as they wander up towards the surface of the sea, before I take another sweet breath, from the scuba tank. Lilly hands me a shell and we examine it together. My mind starts to wander, but I guide it back to the shell, and to Lilly who, by the way, has no problem with time control. I consider the telltales as they flutter on the sails. We watch the full degree of the sun as it melts into the sea or rises from it.
Now we’ve returned to the land of clocks, of blinkers and horns and alarms. Everyone is locked to the same time, precisely the same time. The cult of phones demands it. But there is a change in me. Surely the hand of progress will work its insidious way back into mine, but I’ve had time to be that lunar philosopher, the cat who considers the moon. I will regard him quite differently now.