Moving with time’s currents

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
I used to tell the time by dandelion. Blow the filaments tactically while holding the kind of juicy, kind of slimy, kind of sturdy stem. One stubborn star would hang on making it later and later and later as I blew. Nine. Nineteen. Twenty seven o’clock. It was never the same time the next time I tried.

Liz Breslin
Liz Breslin
The dandelions are done for the year at my gate and I’m done too for the 20 I’ve been here in Hawea Flat. My kids and my heart have other geographies and I’m finally actually I-mean-it-this-time moving, so of course the weather is wearing its best skirts and Wastebusters has the most essential of everything I really need right now and I found a bay in the lake to swim solo without getting itchy and the coffee in town doesn’t even seem that expensive this week and yes my glasses are doing their best to be rosy and more than half full.

Time does strange things. Almost like it’s an illusion, as Einstein claimed. I’m glad it’s not me who is studying for year 13 physics exams because, sorry, how did my babies get this much grown?

My coping strategy for stretching times was going to be to switch off my phone and go bush for three days. Well, not actually go bush but go Kepler, pricier and more luxe. But the bed bugs put paid to that.

I’m sorry to introduce the bed bugs into your reading experience and I’m sorry if you’re itching now as you read this. I’m scratching the right side of my face and the corner of my clavicle and also behind my ear now and my forehead. The first and only time I had a brush with bed bugs was 26 years ago in an old hotel in London and by the time the tour group I was with got to Paris I had a rash or infestation or some such grossness in all the places I’m agitating like it was yesterday. I sat in a cafe across the road from the Eiffel Tower and covered my face and if I try really hard I can smell the coffee and the disgust.

So there was no way, no waaaaaay, I was going to go knowingly close to the little bugs this time. We stepped out of time anyway and went to the Catlins, visited Cathedral Caves with the tides, walked along a river track past only one other human. On the beach at Kaka Point I remembered that I saw seagulls, rock pools, crabs and starfish in a book called What to look for at the seaside maybe years before I saw them in real life. I kept my phone off for two nights.

At the unofficial end-of-school party, the theme for the leavers was to write little lies on a white t-shirt and, if I was part of playing, I would write ‘‘I am not addicted to my phone’’ on mine. I tell myself it’s for practical purposes that I want to touch my phone all the time — connection, directions, news, music, photos, information, time — but it turns out there’s a workaround for most of those things in the short term. And of course, for those two nights, I was also busy smugly not reading all the research about how smart phones are speeding up and shattering our perceptions of time because I was busy experiencing paua shells and crabs and rock pools and tiny clustered mussels and smug gulps of salt air and waves coming in and in and in.

What time is it? Time to pack the car. Time not to have that flipping Bob Dylan song in my head. Time to love the stubborn stars hanging on to time.


'The sun comes up and the sun goes down, ever since the dandelion'.

Mostly Paul Simon.