This is not a photo of the actual hourglass I have on the windowsill in my writing space. Mine was a gift from a friend who, while we were both serving a Peace Corps Volunteers in Latvia, traveled to Poland and brought it back for me. I’m not sure why he chose that as a souvenir for me. Did it have some underlying esoteric meaning behind it back twenty years ago? Probably not. Does it have meaning for me today? Yes. The symbolism is three fold.
- Endurance: I have no idea how I, or any one of my four children, haven’t managed to break it. Although it has four wooden bars attaching the base to the top, the glass is thin and fragile.
- Patience: It takes a while for the sand to go from the top chamber to the bottom one. I timed it once. I think it was about 23 minutes. (I doubt 23 minutes is significant of anything. Who would ever buy a timer that measured out 38% of an hour? If you’re so inclined, insert Polish joke here.)
- Urgency: “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” As a former fan of that NBC soap opera, I can say that the daily adage detailing how quickly life goes by was a tough reminder. Thankfully, the mindless hour that followed that dire warning erased any residual feelings about frittering away one’s life, say in the activity of watching a soap opera.
So today marks 100 days since I finished Spectre in the Sun. One hundred days might not seem like a long time, but for me and for my writing, it is far too long. Until now, the longest lapse between novels had been 48 days; the shortest 12.
There is something unsettling about getting to triple digits. Something in my mind makes me think, “Well, now you’ve blown it. You’ve got no momentum and, clearly, no drive. It’ll never be the same.”
This sort of defeating attitude is so easy to adopt–and not just in the arena of writing. I bet all sorts of creative people mark time between projects.
And let’s be honest, we all mark time on all sorts of things:
The last time my 11-year-old let me kiss him on the cheek.
The last time I saw my mother.
The last time I saw a number I liked staring back up at me from the bathroom scale.
The last time a stranger smiled at me.
The last time I was in Paris.
All of these “last time” instances, I think, imply that there will be a “next time.” The word “last” in those examples does not mean “final;” it means “most recent” regardless of how long ago the event occurred. Buried in those words is the tacit promise of another opportunity for the same experience.
The “last time” I was in the thick of producing a new story was 100 days ago. The next time, I hope, is coming soon.