Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I've got a small hourglass on my desk at work and often when I'm on an unending conference call I will flip the glass and watch the sand pour through. It's a graphic reminder to me that life is slipping silently by.
It's a simple device that has been used for hundreds years. The ancient Greeks had the technology to build an hourglass, but there is no historic record that they did. The earliest record is in a painting by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in 1328.
In earlier times before watches and clocks were widely used, people used the hourglass to measure time. Some historians believe that ancient mariners used the hourglass in conjunction with the magnetic compass to improve navigation.
They are rarely used today except to measure short durations of time such as a three minute egg timer for boiling eggs and in some board games. I read where the Australian parliament uses an hourglass to time certain procedures but I use the hourglass to keep me mindful of time.
While we go about our daily routines, it's easy to slip into a mindless state not unlike sleepwalking. You go to meetings, take notes, return phone calls, and meet people as you walk down the halls and later as you reflect on the day, it's hard to recall where the time went.
When you think about it, eight hours is a pretty good chunk of time and if put to good use, you can with enough help, raise a barn....you can write a song or short story.....you can read a good book or learn to cook seafood gumbo or experience something exciting and new.
The older I get, the more mindful I am with my time. A very good friend of mine who recently learned she has cancer told me that she no longer spends time with people she doesn't like. She has been married to a professional man for many years and she has attended functions and gatherings with people she didn't know and after spending only a short time with them, decided that she didn't want to know them. "It's not that they were bad people," she explained "they were just after different things from life. I made a decision not to spend time with people I don't like," she said. Instead she spends her time tending her garden and her animals. She talks to her friends, and reads. She drinks green tea in the afternoon while watching yellow and purple finches on the feeders in her yard.
I thought about my friend as I watched the sand slipping through the hourglass today and realized the value of each passing moment.

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