MountainTime

MountainTime
Giovanni Segantini: The Punishment of Lust (AKA The Punishment of Luxury) (1891)
" … my soul will most certainly feel more at home there."

Though I might use the same clockworks to measure time wherever in the world I might find myself, time behaves differently in different places. It moves much more slowly some places than in others, the effect influencing clocks such that they fail to register any difference. I do. Perhaps you do, too. A minute is clearly not a minute everywhere. In cities, time naturally moves more quickly, though much of it seems wasted in transit between two inevitably distant points (across town) via crowded passageways. One waits much of their time away in cities. On the prairie, time moves most regularly, with little difference from day to day to day. I figure that the featureless topography influences it, as if there's nothing for it to bounce off of as it passes through. MountainTime seems most mysterious and therefore most special. Long, deep shadows render sundials essentially useless, and twilight, both morning and evening, stretches far beyond expectations, smearing each sunrise and sunset into curiously extended events.

I consider the Pacific Time Zone to be God's Own Time Zone, probably because I gestated and was born there, and inhabited that geographical space through my formative years.
There, both gravity and time seem to work properly, as I suppose God intended them to operate. Displaced from this space, gravity sometimes smears out of focus, and time takes on unlikely habits. In the East, perhaps due to predominant humidity, time tends toward a certain stickiness, moving in fits and starts, and gravity holds more firmly, producing a debilitating friction. It's much harder to get anything done in the Eastern Time Zone, or at least that has been my experience. Easterners tend not to be early risers, perhaps due to these effects.

I currently live in MountainTime, a zone I've long believed to be a mere placeholder, a final stage add-on included in the scheme to produce an appearance of fairness, so that Central or Pacific wouldn't completely dominate. Dropped on top of a region more defined by verticality, its topography challenges the latitudinal basis for time zones, where it's all about east to west movement. Time, like pioneers and early railroads, hit a barrier to passage when attempting to cross through The Mountains. It compresses to slip through narrow canyons and disperses into a gas-like substance to straddle the highest mountains, it's hair unavoidably mussed by the time it emerges into The West. A corner of Oregon lives in exile in MountainTime, an artifact of a political act based upon a now distant past but still present to confound us.

People visit MountainTime to experience the wrinkling and waning of time. It's clearly a time zone tailor-made for distractions and for illusions, the kind of place where an otherwise perfectly sane someone might suddenly decide to climb an impossibly high mountain or ski down an equally impossibly steep one. An old high mountain hotelier called this behavior Extreme Dating, a lustful desire toward self-destruction. MountainTime also encourages an isolating cabin fever restlessness, a deep down dissatisfaction which can sometimes fuel strong reactions, distractions taken up a notch or two, bicycle riding up and over eleven thousand foot passes and hang gliding off precipitous heights. It also encourages an amplified sense of personal rights and privileges, a libertarian craziness which complicates most attempts at community. Everyone's a loner here.

I find brief visits refreshing but longer stays exhausting, for mornings move in mysterious and disorienting ways and nights seem darker, longer, and colder, and days seem to quickly slip by. The time between twilights might be most properly measured in minutes while the time until dawn seems to pass in dog days. Cool comes early and hard, even in high summer, and people here necessarily dress in layers, with winter garb never moving very close to the back of any closet. It rains both begrudgingly and torrentially, as if performing a make-up exam whenever it finally arrives. A few inches might drop in a few minutes, filling usually dry draws and flooding lowlands, and hail might accompany a deluge, bruising everything it touches, curiously similar to how time passes here. It's a queer place, one seemingly suspended from many regularities the authorities reasonably assumed when drawing up the time zone allocations. This place still seems better suited to time as it was before zones, when noon would still come when the sun reached its apex in each specific place, before we collectively started assuming that time might be regulated as if it were a more uniform commodity than it had ever proven to be.

I'm grateful for the fictional uniformity, though. It affords me the luxury of a steady rhythm. I do not need to calculate what time it must be in Omaha to meet a train or fuss over when a baseball game's supposed to begin. Disturbing as I find the many disconnects, I expect that my life would become even more complicated if I couldn't set my alarm for three am, even if I sometimes sleep right through it. I hold the beat even though the surrounding orchestra seems to largely ignore it. I can believe myself the regular one and that everyone else operates to some aberration of standard or daylight time. One day, I'm going to move back into Pacific Time, a placid place where both gravity and time maintain a more effectively regulating pace. I might miss the constantly surprising variations, but my soul will most certainly feel more at home there.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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