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Page from the calendar of the Très Riches Heures showing the household of John, Duke of Berryexchanging New Year gifts. The Duke is seated at the right, in blue.
That sense of timelessness we get while staring up at the clouds...
You know that deeper sense of time that you can get from nature, if you have ever lain out on the grass and looked up at the clouds in the sky, noticing the ways in which they shift from moment to moment, looking first like a bunny and then shifting into a dinosaur? Or when you have your hands in the ground, digging in the dirt, planting seeds or tending a garden? You can completely lose track of “real” time, as you let go of the need to get to a Zoom call or call the dentist. Five minutes lost in wonderment, listening to owls calling each other from one tree to another, or in contemplating the brightness of green leaves against a blue sky can take you out of time. Breathing slows down, the mind’s chatter goes away. You experience a sense of expansion-and freedom. These moments are so very important for our sanity and well-being.
February, attributed to Paul Limbourg, or the "Rustic painter"
What have we lost in our urgency to "mange" time?
Recently I read an article in the NYTimes, Searching for Lost Time in the World’s Most Beautiful Calendar, about a beautiful 15th century calendar, the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, that encapsulated the two different ways we keep track of time, capturing both the seasonal shifts over time and yet, measuring time in a way that lets us be able to make plans, schedule events and stay in touch with each other.
One of the main points of the article, along with beautiful images of richly illustrated calendars from many different cultures, was that we, in our urgency to be able to “manage” time, have lost the connection to another, deeper sense of time that has always been there and would continue to be there long after we as humans are gone. By that I mean, a sense of connection to the subtle shifts of the seasons, tracked in the world of nature all around us. We have, as a human race, worked so hard to be as efficient as we now are, so why would it matter that we lost track of our ancestor’s way of tracking time? We know instinctively though, that it does matter.
A couple of pages from a series of illustrations I did as part of my own other-worldly series called Kalili's Journey, some day I will get this into a shape that you can see the whole thing. You can see how my work is inspired by calendars like the Très Riches Heures
Magic, and children already know about this...
If you, like me, read books like the Narnia series, stories where the four main characters visited alternate worlds by stepping into a wardrobe, you might have vicariously experienced this suspension of time. Often in the magical worlds of books like this, the characters discover that though they may have lived a whole lifetime in the alternate universe, when they return to our world, no time has passed. Or it could be the opposite, like the Rip van Winkle story, where a man goes to another universe for what he experiences as a short time, but returns to our world, having missed several generations of living. Books like this can take us back to an expansive time, that we know in our bodies. Children know how to do this instinctively. I remember this from my childhood but if you haven't thought about this in a while, you may need to give yourself the chance to recollect yours.
It is useful and essential to have ways of tracking our days and minutes with the kinds of calendars we run our lives by. And yet, if we forget to tune into timelessness at least once in a while, we lose a very important part of ourselves. A part that brings us bone-deep and absolutely essential nourishment. A part that reminds us that we are not machines, that we are all connected to source, whatever we might want to call that, nature, spirit, oneness. And a part that reminds us that we are connected inextricably with the web of life, to every other living thing.
I've been at this a while. This is a 2014 calendar where I experimented with alternative ways of tracking the days, while also tracking joy.
Let's not make this into a critique of all that is wrong with our modern day world...
This could so easily get into a critique of all that is wrong with our modern-day world and that is not what I am meaning to do here. It's just that I wanted to share with you a delightful (and easy) way to reclaim something that you have always known but that can so easily forget in a day-to-day existence where the claims on our attention can feel so urgent and essential.
What you might find is that the rewards are great, even if you spend even 15 minutes out of your day in this different sense of time. It could be as easy as looking at a tree outside your window for five minutes out of your day. Or open up a children's book, like the Narnia series, or Alice in Wonderland, that will take you to an alternate universe. Or you can experiment with making your own calendar, tracking what is most important to you, like one I did (see above) in 2014, where I tracked what brought me joy each day. These are a few ideas.
I've been making dolls for about ten years now. I believe that dolls serve as representations and reminders of the best part of ourselves. I am excited to share with you here my learnings about new methods and techniques for doll making and healing. So glad you are here!