The Cabin without a Clock

Jack and I are fortunate to own a cabin out in the middle of the Tennessee woods. It was my home before graduate school, and the place where Jack and I had our first meal together. So it’s got a lot of history for both of us.DSCN0078

What it doesn’t have is a clock. Electricity, yes; flush toilet, check. Even a nice wood-burning stove. But no Internet access, telephone or clock. Which means once you get out there, you tell time by the sun, or the radio. It’s amazing how quickly this alters perspective. I remember a children’s book, To Walk the Sky Path, about indigenous people in Florida. The young protagonist observes his white teacher at school constantly being directed by the round thing on the wall. He offers to throw a rock at it for her, because it’s clearly bothering her, and she laughs. “How would we know when to do things without a clock?”

Jack and I use the cabin for escape time, and I use it for writing days. Free from clocks on these days, it is startling to identify the depth of their influence on our lives. At the cabin, we get up when it’s light enough to see the pond at the bottom of the hill. We go to bed when we get sleepy. And I write without deadlines of how much (or little) time I can spend on something.

The rhythm of the day rotates as gently and unobserved as the sun. You look up from a chapter and realize your stomach is rumbling, so you eat. Did you have breakfast? Is this lunch? Surprisingly enough, we eat less following this pattern.

If you’re going to take the dogs for a walk, go before dark. In the deep woods, eyes closed or open is almost the same; there literally is no difference inside the house on a dark night.

Life gets simple when you take the clocks away. Unfortunately, it only works for a few days, then you have to calculate your re-entry into society. Like as not, someone is expecting you at a numbered hour. But for those days measured by sunup and sundown, when it’s sleep, write, read, walk, cook and eat and clean up afterward, then sit on the porch watching a flock of turkeys, a herd of deer, or even (once) a bobcat shuffle up the hill on the other side of the pond, time’s measure is simpler, slower, sweeter. And oh so contented.

People have asked if Jack and I rent the cabin out; yes, if we know you or have only one degree of separation. Be warned that it is remote, and has proven too peaceful for some.

We Have an Anchor

It’s been a hard week here at the bookstore, and that’s a fact. Jack is getting on with the basement renovations, despite crazy weather (from 4 to 62 degrees Farenheit in two days?!) crooked walls, and mucked-up windows. I’m working my way through piles of donations from people who cleaned closets in January, and greeting new customers and new friends the book has brought us. Business is thriving.

But some outside pressures we need not go into have got me rattling just like the basement windows in these bitter winds: confused, pressured, cold and battered. Rattled.

Books are excellent therapy in such times. Walk the shelves, straightening and arranging; set the spines upright; run your fingers over familiar titles and remember when you read them. Breathe in the dust and ideas that float on the sunbeams of a second-hand books shop. Sit at the table and drink a cup of tea, surrounded by the weightiness of all those books holding the collected weight of human learning.

There’s a hymn that says, “We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.” 

I’m a person who believes in Jesus as He presented Himself, and who turns a suspicious eye toward many of those offering to interpret Him for the rest of us. Perhaps I have two anchors: the eternal one I neither take for granted nor feel compelled to force on others; and the “take time to think” drag force of 38,000 books, just sitting there, reasonable and silent, in a world full of people screaming for attention. Pull one down at random, read a page at random. Just breathe. Drink tea. Relax. Read about–learn from–someone else’s experiences.

Dust, ideas, silence. Peace in a buffer zone. Our bookshop is a space whose walls are lined floor to ceiling by books. Inside them are ideas enough to start a hundred revolutions, yet oddly enough I feel like they shelter me. They remind me that this too shall pass, that there is very little new under the sun, that how I feel now has been felt by hundreds of real people and fictional characters in the past, and will be in the future. It’s okay to be rattled; I’m in good company in these high winds.

We have, here in our little bookstore, an anchor and an Anchor. And that’s enough.