Tick Tock

Australian children's book author Helen Edwards

All the clocks in the house ticked together, some slightly off-beat, a musical background to her life. Tick, Tick, Tick. Tock, Tock Tock. Precision. Predictable. “Yet time runs away,” she thought, “Like wild horses galloping across the soft white snow, manes tossing in the wind.” She had seen those horses once. They stood in the deep powdery snow, on top of the mountain, all sound muffled except for their breathing. The big silver male had stared straight at her, nostrils flared. In that moment, it was as if time had stood still. Yet she couldn’t make time stand still. She had tried….holding onto her boys tightly, breathing in their scent, noticing, trying to preserve every moment. She had seen so many people she loved lost from time. Held them in her arms as they slowly faded away, and time just charged on without them.

As her babies grew bigger and time changed them all, the ties between them shifted. Their reliance on her diminished, smaller, smaller, until they no longer needed her. Time had done its deed. She noticed her own body starting to give in. She loved the marks on her skin that told the story of her time. The way her breasts displayed the lives they had grown. The curves of her body. But these changes also acted as time markers. Tick Tick Tick. Tock Tock Tock. They pointed to where she was on her continuum. Always moving forwards.

Standing in the middle of her time where she was right now, she could be still, looking both backwards and forwards. Her memories were like the black and white photographs of her childhood, reminding her of when her parents had felt the tug of her growing. She didn’t hate time. She loved the fact that no matter what, things would pass. New things would come, old things would go. There would be changes and new experiences, but you could always value and treasure the old.

She watched as the seasons reflected time. Spring seemed so unsure of herself, wavering between the cool of winter and the oncoming slaughter of the summer heat. People would say, “Oh my it was so hot yesterday and now it is freezing!” As if that was somehow unusual, unexpected. “Spring is always this way,” she would say, “It’s her unpredictability that makes her so predictable.” As spring wavered she compensated by bringing everything to life, opening all of the buds and leaves,  faces turned towards the sunshine, oblivious of the heat that was to come. Lines of ducklings waddled down to the creek, flowing fast, their parents quack quacking them into the water.

She suffered through the stifling heat of summer, at first delighted at the warmth on her skin, the promise of days by the sea, salt in her nostrils. She was joyful about Christmas and the lazy long days with her boys where time did seem stretched. “Isn’t it funny,” she thought, “That humans decided to just change time, to change the clock when it suits us, as if we somehow have control.” Summer owned the days that lingered and stole some of the darkness of night.

She anticipated autumn, her favourite season, with great joy. The time where the world turned into a kaleidoscope of colours. She collected seeds and pine cones, turning over reds and golds and browns underneath the trees. Unlike spring, autumn seemed to know who she was, clear in her steadiness, getting the world ready to rest. Autumn was temperate, easy to get along with. The winds were still warm but there was a steady, easy shift. It smelt of apples and the musty earth filled with rain.

Winter brought the turning of another year for her, celebrations of the time when she arrived into the world. It marked another year of her life. She loved the warmth of the heater on her bones at night, the way they cocooned themselves together. On her walks among the tree lined streets, the smell of people’s wood fires were on the breeze, making her feel like going bush. Walks on the beach in winter were a delight, the sea tumbling, wide empty spaces, people staying away from the coldness of it. Yet she loved this wildness, waves tossing, just like the horses.

Really, time was just the earth turning, nothing at all to do with the clocks on her walls. “Yes, we all march to the tick tock of time,” she thought, “But you must always toss your mane in the wind.”

Helen Edwards Author and Writer Australia

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