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.