Occasionally, as a child I would spend the night with my grandma. She lived in a small, stucco duplex on Hayden Street in Amarillo, Texas. Modest is an accurate term to describe my grandma’s house, modest and comfortable. Grandma lived a simple life and was quiet by nature, and since she did not own a television, her house was very quiet, too. The rattle or clang of pots and pans in the kitchen or the on and off of her sewing machine was the only noticeable sound, except for a long sigh or wince as she lowered herself into the swivel armchair by the window, smoothing her apron and rubbing her knees.
On the mantle, proudly displayed in the center, right above the little gas heater was her black mantle clock. The ticking sound was steady and rhythmic and set the tone for Grandma’s house…methodical, never rushed.
My brother and I would ask to wind the clock when it wound down, and often she would let us, but only under her watchful eye and direction. She kept the key that wound the clock safely placed behind it. We understood that if the clock was wound too tightly, dropped or mistreated in any way, it would have to be taken to a clock repair shop and that would cost money. We instinctively knew she did not have the extra funds for that, and so we treated her clock with much respect.
At night as I lay on the lumpy pull-out sofa bed, under two or three handmade quilts, I would fall asleep to the ever present rhythm of the clock. My heart would begin to beat in time with the ticking and I would be lulled into a deep, peaceful sleep. During the day, the clock struck on the hour and half hour with a coil gong striking sound, but at night the gonging sound never made it into my dreams.
Now, in my den, on the mantle is a little French, battery operated clock that reminds me of Grandma’s mantle clock. In the mornings I find it peaceful yet strong as it regulates my heartbeat and sets the perfect tone to ‘sit ugly.’ Listening to the steady ticking reminds me to relax and slow down before the demands of the day take over. There is so much noise in our world, so many sounds that assault us from morning till night. Alarm clocks, blaring music, angry news, sirens or car alarms to warn us of various violations. Have you ever noticed that even commercials are louder than the television show itself?
The other day, I bolted out the door to get in my daily walk. I was halfway through my route when I noticed that I had been “thinking” or at least having mental chatter the whole time. I almost wasted my walk, my time to recharge. When I quiet my mind and listen to nature, my walk is restorative. When I worry, think too much or rush my walk, I waste the gift of today.
Birdies singing, squirrels scampering, the rustle of the wind through the trees; these are the sounds that heal. Nature heals us if we will let it, if we listen to the rhythmic beat of the earth. Everything and every living being falls into the pattern flow of the earth and if we purpose it, our footsteps are like the clock, peaceful yet strong, left-right, left-right. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist priest and author of Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, said, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” As you walk, you are aware. Aware of your being, your thoughts, your surroundings, and your blessings. The blessings given to you by nature.
Grandma’s mantel clock was one of her most prized possessions. It was the center of her home and the focus of her life, especially as she got older. I think the steady ticking and hourly gonging comforted her and reassured her she was not alone. That classic, black mantel clock stayed with Grandma even in the nursing home, and when Grandma left this world, my brother became the proud recipient. He has it, even to this day, on his mantel, front and center.
We all need to find our rhythm, something that centers us and regulates our insides so that the outside world doesn’t wear us down or threaten our peace. Whether it is the steady ticking of a clock, the rhythmic pace of a mindful walk or sitting quietly with your hand over your heart, this is the day we have been given. We must embrace it. The path to peace is always methodical, never rushed.