The Clock Stopped

Well, I did it again!  Chris, his mom, sister and I were standing at the water’s edge, a wave trickled over our toes.  We let out a collective screech, then a gale of laughter. The others retreated, but I like the ocean and pride myself on being able to tolerate the cold before my ankles go entirely numb and I sprout gooseflesh. I took a few steps further into the sea, loving the roar of the waves, the dive-bombing pelicans and the  sunshine glinting on the dappled water. You soon get used to the cold I reassured myself, taking another step deeper. Wham!  A rogue wave broke around me.  We have too much photographic evidence of me scurrying up the beach in sea-soaked shorts. To the great entertainment of my risk-averse companions, it had happened again! As I made my ignominious and rather hasty retreat, I thought of the old adage,

“Time and tide wait for no (wo)man.”

Jean Goulden Testing the Winter Waves

I’d had occasion to reflect on the nature of time a few weeks earlier when my grandfather clock abruptly stopped. Perhaps you remember the rather trite song that flittered across my brain.

“The clock stopped short, ne’er to go again when the old man died.”

Was this a portent of my own demise?  I hoped not, and indeed a quick check in the mirror showed me pink, healthy and only a little disheveled.

I cannot claim to have imported my grandfather clock from Britain when I moved to the US several decades ago, but I have had it for many years. Its origin is unknown but judging from the decoration on the face and pendulum bob it is most likely Scottish, dating from  about 1790 to 1810. Who shipped it here and why remains a mystery, but it must have been quite an endeavor. We have moved it between several homes and from Massachusetts to Florida. At seven feet tall, you’d think it would be unwieldy, however it’s bonnet — the part that houses the face, comes off and you can detach and pack the weights and pendulum separately.  When we put it back together again, I usually hold my breath, yet until now, once wound up and with its base balanced, it’s emitted the regular tick that one friend suggested is “the heartbeat of the house.” And on the hour, all day and all night long, (as my children and some unappreciative guests often remind me), it rings out its chimes. And how I missed it when the clock stopped. As someone with a visual impairment it’s easier to get an audible reminder of the time rather than to glance at an indistinguishable watch, or search for an unpowered phone. It’s not like that, Chris and I have learned to ignore the intrusion and welcome the reassuring presence of the clock. After some searching, we found a peripatetic clock repairer, who did some adjusting and recommended more frequent oiling of “the works,” (apparently ignoring it for twenty five years or more constitutes clock abuse.) It’s comforting to hear its measured tick, the clunk before it chimes and the striking of the hour, and to report that it keeps time as accurately as my iPhone!

As we age — no, I didn’t write that — for surely Chris and I will stay “forever young!” One of the few advantages of low vision is that you don’t see the wrinkles and the crows’ feet!  As time ticks by, and we have experienced loss of loved ones, I am increasingly drawn to things that endure, the live oaks that knit our island together, living for hundreds of years, the creaking, sloping floors of our “new”  (to us) house, built circa 1890, and, of course, the swell and suck of the sea.

In rare, philosophical moments, between putting out the garbage and cleaning the toilet, I sometimes wonder about other less tangible “things” I hope will endure, like kindness, thoughtfulness, justice, and, one blue sky day, peace.


End Notes


Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar Goshen

Waking Lions
Ayelet Gundar-Goshen


Valse Sentimental, Tchaikovsky
Cellist Misha Quint

Buzzy Lee


Searching for Italy
Stanley Tucci 


The Flea
John Donne

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