Telling Time

Telling time with watches
Telling time with clocks
Telling time with fossils
And the carbon in the rocks

Telling time to slow down
Telling time to wait
Telling time I’m right behind
But telling time too late

© 1983, 2007 Scott Burnett


The Dispatcher

Five days a week he got home at 7:30 in the morning. He was a dispatcher for the town police department. After a night of disrespect from younger coworkers it was good to get back within the familiar dirty walls of home. He’d been a U.S. Marine, a Justice of the Peace, and a “gentleman farmer” but now he took minimum wage.

The dented door of his Wagoneer creaked open and then reluctantly clunked shut with a shove. Dew on unmowed grass wet his cuffs as he walked to the door.

He didn’t glance toward the Lincoln. It’d been brand new such a short pair of decades ago. Now it seemed to be trying to sink into the thinly graveled driveway. Unrepaired after a minor wreck a few years back, it had faded from luxury to junk.

In the house she had coffee ready for him. She handed him a cup, kissed him goodbye and left for work. She was a longtime teller at the bank. It wasn’t much fun anymore. These days it seemed like there was always a new system being implemented and a learning curve to go with it.

He was so tired. The October sunshine was too loud for sleeping. All he could think about was how tired he was. He had a couple of hours before he had to be at his other job. He was also a part-time security guard. Leaves needed to be raked. Not today. He picked up the newspaper and wondered if he could justify mixing himself a highball at this time of day.


more about crayon scribbles

It’s easy enough to slip into the faulty logic that if we haven’t gotten it all right then we’ve gotten it all wrong. The crayon-scribble metaphor helps me a lot. When a child creates a portrait of a parent, accuracy is not the point. The stirring thing is the impulse to symbolically depict a seeing/knowing event. The parent might not be universally recognizable in the child’s crayon scribbles but that diminishes neither the presence of the parent nor the perception of the child, nor the relationship between them.

Furthermore, the parent delights in these imperfect portraits and posts them proudly on the refrigerator.



I scribble in crayon

According to me
Your head is oversized
And oddly shaped

I scribble in crayon


Jesus at the Tension Point

Near the end of his book about Jesus, John the Apostle includes a story about transitions. It happened after Jesus had been raised again to life. John and a few of the other fishermen had been working the sea all night long.

The narrative is rich with symbolism though it doesn’t read as the fanciful sort; it reads as real-life that’s saturated with meaning.

Jesus is standing in the sand between sea and land. He is slowly becoming visible as night dissolves into dawn. He is shouting lightheartedness into frustration and fatigue. He is acknowledging futility and offering a surprise of fruitfulness.

This sort of disruptive goodness – this sense-making presence at the tension point of change and uncertainty – is what makes Jesus recognizable to his friends.


Barry Lopez on *good relations*

"Conversations are efforts toward good relations. They are an elementary form of reciprocity. They are the exercise of our love for each other. They are the enemies of our loneliness, our doubt, our anxiety, our tendencies to abdicate."

Barry Lopez

Barry Lopez on *relational beauty*

"We cannot save things. Things pass away. We can only attend to relationships, to the relationships between things. It is here that we see the most beautiful images we are capable of apprehending or imagining—the relationship between a mother and a child, the racket of sunlight on pooling water, a bird alighting on a limb."

Barry Lopez

Barry Lopez "Eden is a conversation."

"Eden is a conversation. It is the conversation of the human with the Divine. And it is the reverberations of that conversation that create a sense of place. It is not a thing, Eden, but a pattern of relationships, made visible in conversation. To live in Eden is to live in the midst of good relations, of just relations scrupulously attended to, imaginatively maintained through time. Altogether we call this beauty."

Barry Lopez