Time Passes


At this time of year, we’re all too aware of time passing. Last weekend we were seeing many bluebells on our walks through woods and by paths alongside rivers. Now, only a week later, the bluebells are going over, the white starry flowers of wild garlic are disappearing and the yellow flag iris are taking over.

In the natural world nothing stays still, there is always change, we see aquilegias brightening the gardens with so many different shades of pink, blue and purple. As they self seed and pop up all over -among the gravel paths, trees and shrubs, nobody can guess what colour will dominate next year. A few days with strong winds and this year’s flowers will be gone. Already the clematis are past their best and we’ll only have the walls and fences graced by their cloaks of pink and white for a few more days, maybe a week or so at most.

Last week we visited one of my favourite gardens and found a new Buddha had been installed. Sitting looking across at at him in that beautiful setting, I was reminded again of the importance of valuing the now. I know that the natural world is a great teacher  – we are made aware of making the most of what we can see around us – enjoy it while it lasts. With human relationships too, we must never take them for granted.

One of my favourite quotations from TS Eliot’s Four Quartets comes to mind. It’s not always a good idea to dwell on what might have been however- better focus on what is, now.

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past,

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened.


A Good Place

Some places have the right ‘feel’ about them. There is something that’s difficult to define, but we know instinctively that it’s a place where we feel comfortable, relaxed, safe and at the same time energised.

What it is that makes a difference is hard to understand. There are some beautiful places that leave us feeling cold, some very ordinary places that feel quite special and we want to return to again and again or at least linger as long as we can.

Obviously the weather makes a difference and so does the time of day – sunrise and sunset, the warm late afternoon ‘golden glow’. But all of these things somehow don’t always matter  and when this is the case, when we feel ‘right’ about a place no matter what time of year, day, hour. No matter what the weather is throwing at us – those places get to us, get under our skin and make us linger.

This is one such place. A place that always feels peaceful. I know that many old graveyards do have a certain quality that modern cemetaries with rigid lines lack, but this particular place must certainly be an idyllic place to end your days.

I may have posted this poem before but if I have, then that will simply reinforce the fact that it’s a place that I often revisit.

Pushing up Daisies

Here above the sea,

ruins stand part cloaked in ivy.

Exposed stones warmed by evening sun.


Here we wander, see

no neatly mown paths, nor sterile

gravelled graves, no vases with flowers.


Here in summer, swallows

scythe blue skies above

carpets of unruly, scattered daisies.


Here blackbird scolds us

for invading his territory of

stones clothed with moss and lichen.


Here at Kirkmaiden,

there is peace for those who lie there,

pushing up centuries of daisies.

Best Laid Plans

So much for hoping to post something at least once a week. Ah well, I remember some of my old school reports that said ‘Could try harder’. So I could, indeed so I should.

I’ll have to try to keep track of the days that seem to fly by without me being aware of the fact. No excuse – plenty of calendars aound the house, a diary  – yet I find that I go to my diary, only to find that I haven’t moved the ‘Today’ marker for a week.

So what’s happening to time these days? In theory, as I am no longer working, I should have all the time in the world to do things. And yet, and yet – my ‘To do’ list doen’t seem to get shorter, more and more get added to the bottom without as many getting crossed off the top.

Time has always fascinated me – the way it can warp and defy all logic and measurement by timepieces. Many have written about time, and TS Eliot wrote memorably about it in Burnt Norton (Four Quartets)

Time present and time past

Are both present in time future

and also in The Lovesong of J Arthur Prufrock.

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons

During the last year or so, while all of our lives have been affected by the pandemic, time has certainly warped and while some days have stretched weeks  and months seem to have flown by. Luckily, I’ve been able to enjoy getting out for walks in woods, hills and by the sea. Had I been living in an inner city or town flat, this last year would have felt like a life sentence.

For some who are living in nursing homes, days might be measured, not just with coffee spoons, but with meals and medicine trolleys coming round plus, of course, visiting hours.  These hours can seem endless for some relatives and friends, as this poem of mine noted.

Time and the Bell

Time and the bell have buried the day

The black cloud carries the sun away. (Burnt Norton)

Silent figures sit comatose, waiting

chairs with backs to the wall.

Time endless,

insignificant – marked only

by meals, medicine trolleys.

Unheeded dramas play out

on a giant cyclops screen, loudly.

The clock ticks.

Lost in times of old, what can

future days, weeks, months hold?

The door bell goes, afternoon visitors

step inside leaving behind sunlight

braced for feelings of despair,

facing the long hour ahead.


How can we have already reached November? What happened to the second half of October?

There are some months when the days, weeks seem to pass so quickly that it seems impossible that all days have the same number of hours, minutes, seconds.

What is time? We measure it now with clocks and watches. In the days when people relied on sundials and candles, I rather suspect that they also had the same issue with time not seeming to be constant. If faced with a pile of things that needed attending to, then time would seem to pass all too quickly.

Why is it that as we get older the years seem to be shorter? A young child waiting for Christmas will feel that November and December are far longer than the months of summer holidays.

Looking back on our lives as we get older, it seems incredible that so much  happened in a relatively short space of time and yet when living through  those years there were certain periods of time that sped by while others dragged.

Does time pass more quickly when all is going well in our lives?  Those in pain or grieving may well find that the days are endless. TS Eliot often wrote about time and how we relate to the past, present and future. We see our past in the present and the future.

Time past and time future

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present,

from Eliot’s Burnt Norton – the first of his Four Quartets

By living for the ‘now’ we hope to become more aware of the world around us and more aware of what we’re doing in that world. Worrying about the future doesn’t help the present nor does it help to make it better. Dwelling on the past and ‘what ifs’ is no good either. There is a phrase that is often used – possibly too often these days – ‘we are where we are’. But perhaps accepting that fact does help us live ‘in the now’ and make the most of every minute.

Time & TS Eliot

The last ten days or so have been hectic as our small town hosted its 21st Book Festival. Bringing in thousands of visitors each year, it means that for a while our lives are transformed. The town throbs with life – people queueing for events in the large festival marquee, the County Buildings and the smaller venues.  Our days are clearly divided up into hourly events, checking tickets and general preparations for visiting speakers, authors and their audiences. Time flies – we have to remember which day it is and where we should be. But the whole place is buzzing, adrenalin flows and there is inspiration from art, music, words and conversation. Brilliant!

Now life gradually returns to normal and I’m reminded by a friend that somewhere not so many miles away there are some folk who haven’t been able to be involved, whose lives have gone on as before and their relatives will have continued to visit as always.

This poem was written a few years ago, inspired by a visit to a friend who was severely impaired after suffering from stroke. At the time I was also attending a group reading TS Eliot’s Four Quartets.

Time and the Bell

 Time and the bell have buried the day

The black cloud carries the sun away. (Burnt Norton)

 Silent figures sit comatose, waiting

chairs with backs to the wall.

Time endless,

insignificant – marked only

by meals, medicine trolleys.

Unheeded dramas play out

on a giant cyclops screen, loudly.

The clock ticks.

Lost in times of old, what can

future days, weeks, months hold?

The door bell goes, afternoon visitors

step inside leaving behind sunlight

braced for feelings of despair,

facing the long hours ahead.

Time endless …




Finding Time

In a world where everything and everybody seems to be driven to move at an often frenetic pace, we are fortunate if we are blessed with time to be still, time to walk among the trees and by the sea.

At this time of year, and today we’ve reached the autumn equinox, swallows are gathering on wires ready to embark on their journey back to warmer climes. The leaves are begining to turn, we enjoy the warmth of the autumn sun, gather hazel nuts from the hedgerows and consider the prospect of making an elderberry cordial.

The days are getting noticeably shorter and the chances of walks in the evenings diminish, so we have to make the most of the daytime hours. Today we watched a pair of rutting deer as we walked across fields, to woodland along an old track. Here we could sense the ghosts of horse-drawn carriages. The soft light filtered through the branches and the only sounds came from the waves washing on the beach down below us.

This is when we need to live for the moment, absorb, remember and soak up the peacefulness that counteracts the horrors of our world.


Needing a 10 day week!

It has been too long since I last posted anything on my blog. A combination of a spring book festival here plus the weather deciding to warm up and the garden needing far more attention than it had been getting.

However, yesterday we took time out to go for a walk and the result was I managed to get one or two photos to go with a haiku …

Dor Beetle

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There on woodland paths.

Blue-green gems hidden under

your black overcoat.

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Reading – not a waste of time

How many parents have told their children not to sit with their noses in books, How many people think reading is a waste of time? How many people are critical of the ‘trash’ that some read these days?

Anything that encourages children to read is worthwhile. Reading habits will change over the years and hopefully readers will discern what is good and what is mediocre. Some will enjoy what others deem to be lightweight and worthless, but it is still possible to learn about relationships and human behaviour generally by reading what has been termed Victorian dross and the chick-lit of today.

Steven Gambardella’s blog about Seneca and time prompted the development of a train of thought that had started after an ‘Exploring Literature’ meeting this morning. We are still reading The Divine Comedy by Dante and very conscious of the fact that we are merely skimming the surface. Yet, we do feel enriched by reading and discussing a text which we could spend endless time studying.

In his blog today, Steven Gambardella reminded his readers of the value of time spent reading

We accumulate knowledge over time, but books allow us to accumulate the time the writers have given us. Think of books as condensed time.

Time spent reading good literature is a means of absorbing knowledge that was gained over many years.

Distilled and compressed in the pages of books are years, decades and even centuries of knowledge and wisdom. If you read a good book, you are concentrating the time you have.

I would add that if children are reading whether it be comics, Harry Potter or Jane Austen – they will be learning. Boys in particular are very often reluctant readers so I would never discourage them from limiting their reading to comics. That isn’t time wasted. Reading is a habit that needs to be nurtured. They might one day find the joy of learning from more weighty works. Better to read the lightweights than never to read at all.

Time for Reflecting

As the year draws to an end it’s usually a time for reflection as well as planning for the future. Some time ago a friend reminded me of a quotation by Kierkegaard – ‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.’ Looking back over the past year and things that have happened, we might begin to understand why certain things had to happen although at the time it didn’t seem obvious. There are certainly times when we feel that we don’t have complete control over our lives and wonder more than once how we came to do something or go somewhwere.

A wise old friend once told me that we should accept the hard times when life doesn’t seem to be going smoothly because those are the times when we grow, when we learn and develop. That comes back to Nietzsche and ‘amor fati‘ – that I referred to in an earlier post.

I was reading Steven Gambardella’s blog   Lessons from History earlier today and he wrote -Nietzsche compels us to find the courage to listen. If we can find the strength to find a “why” to live, we can bear almost any “how”.

In spite of the colder weather, now is a good time to get out into the hills, forests or down by the coast to look around and let our minds soak up the beauty and get things in perspective.


A Sense of Being

A sense of oneness,

after a search for meaning.

A sense of fullness,

when the mind is empty.

A sense of being,

when time stands still.



‘Beware the barrenness of a busy life.’  I’ve been thinking about this Socrates quotation. There are some weeks when there are very few days that aren’t filled with ‘stuff’ that has to be done. Various commitments take up a lot of time every day. Then there are weeks when the diary shows we have a lot of ’empty’ days and, paradoxically these are the ones to look forward to because they hold the promise of richness – time to think, to develop thoughts, to enjoy the peace of the surrounding countryside and coast, time to relax, read, listen to music.
Socrates was so right. While we may feel safer if our lives are kept busy, busyness can be a way of avoiding facing up to worries, insecurities, unhappiness that we push to the back of our minds.
Quakers have a book known as Quaker Faith and Practice which includes Advices and Queries. Number 28 reads as follows
Every stage in our lives offers fresh opportunities.Responding to divine guidance, try to discern the right time to undertake or relinquish responsibilities without undue pride or guilt.Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.’
Tomorrow is the first day of a week that has hardly any commitments in the diary – what riches might lie ahead!