Timetable

Timetable

Some mills grind exceeding small. And slow

30 minutes for settling down: 60 minutes for observation: an equal number of minutes for an idea to be born. That ought to do.

Except that it wouldn’t, and didn’t. Neither inspiration nor enlightenment will come according to linear times or demands. They have their own schedule, their own dynamic. It was just a question of finding out what that was. It struck Sarah that predictability and regularity was the killer of transformation and change. They would never come at the behest of the clock. Clock time and creative time were different.

Sarah realised that it all had to do with the size of the cogs. The cogs of linear time were the smallest. They spaced things out regularly: the time of breakfast, lunch and dinner: the menarche, the menopause: the certifications of birth, marriage, divorce and death: the Acts of Parliament: the list of bankruptcies. These were predictable, these were documented. Then there were the medium-size cogs of the weather: the hurricane, the tsunami, the sunny day, the April rain. These too were predicable, in that they were the consequence of physical laws: what goes up must come down, what is starved will die, what is too wet will rot. The biggest cog of all, and the trickiest, was the cog of the emotions. This one went round the slowest. What happened that afternoon twenty years ago, which led to an action shocking in its violence: that moment when the landscape suddenly shimmered with intensity: that August when everything changed from sweet to sour: that late appearance of the big love, seemingly from out of the blue. Sarah saw then that the emotions had a landscape of their own: the peaks, the furrows, the mighty rivers, the dried-up stream. No feeling is without its origin, and its mills grind exceeding small. And slow.

It was the way that the three cogs interlocked that was crucial. Sarah watched her own mechanism carefully. Its successful operation seemed to depend on the rhythm of events in the smallest cog of documented linear time: on the degree of destruction in the second cog of the weather: and on the intensity generated in the big cog of the emotions. Each person had, in the deep recesses of their being, their own machine. In Sarah’s own case, if the events of linear time came on swiftly - the deaths, the meals, the Acts of Parliament - then that cog whizzed round apace, and impacted on the second wheel. If, in turn, there was a dominance of climactic disasters - the fallen oak, the early meltwater - then that wheel would drive the last one faster. Then, and only then - with the memories of lost lovers, shared laughter, hurts that healed - would inspiration come, when the big cog of the emotions was forced to accelerate its pace. Something new could be born.

That was how art was made, that was how pain was annealed, that was how self-knowledge was gained. One day, perhaps, that cycle would come to an end for her, and for those people that she had become. Then the house-builder would no longer be needed. The beams would be broken, the ridge-pole would be shattered. She would be without the desire to make, to do, to feel, to be. But not yet. Not quite yet.