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Autumn is here(photo: Leandro Pérez/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

I never used to go anywhere without my cell phone. It was not only a means of communication, but my sole timepiece, and not knowing the time made me crazy.

That all changed one afternoon when my oldest son was two years old. After four years of living in the Southwest and its two seasons of hot and hotter, we moved to the upper Midwest. I couldn’t wait to experience the change in seasons, so one crisp October day I packed up my son and a picnic lunch and headed to a nearby state park to see some fall colors.

When we arrived, I unfastened the buckles of his car seat, retrieved our lunch, and instinctively reached for my cell phone. Then I paused.

It was one of those rare days when I had no other obligations or deadlines. My husband was on a business trip, so there was no one waiting for us to come home. I asked myself, ‘What if I just don’t worry about time today?’

I returned my cell phone to its resting place among the loose coins in front of the gear shift and turned my full attention to enjoying the afternoon with my son.

After our picnic lunch, we wandered over to a pile of fallen leaves. My son splashed through them up to his thighs, tossed them in the air, and giggled as I buried him over and over. “Wow!” he gushed appreciatively as gusts of wind rearranged the pile and made little leaf cyclones.

While he was enthralled, I felt myself growing bored and impatient. I wanted to pull out my “five more minutes” ultimatum and move on to something I deemed more interesting; but, without my phone, I would have had no way of knowing when five minutes had passed. Then I reminded myself, ‘There is nothing you have to do today except be with your little boy.’

I gave myself over to the freedom of not worrying about what would come next. Right now, nothing mattered except sharing in my son’s joy of as he raced through those leaves.

We went for a walk and came to a bridge spanning a river. I let him run back and forth across it as many times as he wanted, a carefree “Whee!” accompanying each crossing. We wandered farther up the path. He peered at the insects hopping through the tall grass, and I was right there with him. The ability to share in his wonder and curiosity came naturally once I quit clinging to a preconceived schedule.

When he tired of walking, we headed back to the car. I welcomed the delay when some flowers caught his attention. We stooped and examined them to his satisfaction before moving on.

I can’t tell you whether that afternoon lasted one hour or four, but I do know that we both had the time of our lives. Eckhart Tolle points out that humans existed for millennia without clocks. Our modern obsession with time perplexes me when I remember this. I wish for less attachment to time. I wish for more afternoons when time doesn’t matter. I wish for my son’s ability to be fully in the present moment.

I have to live by the clock day-to-day to keep appointments, interact with the adults in my life, and meet my children’s all-important bedtime deadline each night. Whenever I can, though, I put all my clocks out of sight and out of mind. I let my children take the lead and slip into their world, where nothing matters but the present moment and time is reckoned in hugs and laughs instead of hours and minutes.


Leah ElliottLeah Elliott lives with her two sons in Fargo, North Dakota, where she is working on a master’s degree in vocal performance. She blogs about carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism at The Whole of All the Earth.

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13 Comments

Such a beautiful story. I can relate and applaud you.I am working on my own sense of freedom also.
You made my day!! 

 Beautiful sentiment, and great way to start the day.  The photo is adorable, and yet slightly depressing.

Depressing? I had no intention of conveying that sentiment with Leah's commentary.

 Thank you so much for sharing this, and for the warm response.

One of the pleasures of being Sabbath/Shabbat observant (which I'm really only partially so), is regularly indulging in this kind of timelessness.  On Friday evenings, I remove my watch, and set aside my cell phone, and try to live in the moment, not watching the clock, not check, not rushing - just letting myself go with the flow of life.

I had a similar experience to the one described by Ms Elliot two weeks ago, walking home from the synagogue on Saturday morning - he was very crabby, hadn't had enough sleep over the last 24 hours, and was on the edge of a temper tantrum.  My husband and older son wanted to go ahead, so I said "Go on, we'll catch up"...Toddler and I spent the next hour+ (i have no idea how long, as i didn't have any timepiece!!) we looked at things along the path, we waved at cars going by (he gestured and yelled to them "Stop!", and laughed when they went by), we also have a bridge over a creek to cross, and he threw leaves, and twigs on the upstream side, and then ran to the downstream side to watch them float away.  I was able to give him the time and space to be himself, and he never even came close to the tantrum I was dreading.  When we got home, he was so exhausted by the walk, and his baseline fatigue that he fell into a 2+ hour nap, and we all woke up refreshed, and happy.  What a great day!

I raised my children before cell phones became so prevalent, but I still - unfortunately - lived by the clock. I so wish I could turn back those clocks now. If I'm asked for advice from new parents, I only say one thing: Don't rush things.  I sure wish I hadn't rushed.

 Thank you for the reminder to slow down and pay attention to the simple things in life.

music is so much about time ... and faith . how to be
a master of time ? hmm , to exist in the fermata . 

Beautifully written. Thanks for the reminder to just spend the time without counting it.

Nicely written Leah.  I know that between iPhones and iPads and PC's I am rarely disconnected from the daily pressures of modern life.  It is amazing how little time I have for reflection as the result of my time saver's.   

Nicely done, Leah.

(tried to leave a comment on your blog 3-4 times but am having issues with the page loading ...)

I bet your son will always remember that "timeless" day! 

I once visited Costa Rica and during this period I traveled South along the Pacific coast and came upon a place quite remote. Facing west in a tropical wood, next to the ocean, the evening sky beginning to color, I exited my vehicle to spy the beach below. There on the beach quite unaware of my presents were five children and a horse all walking together towards a place. I am convinced that that place would be reached when the sun was subdued by night, not a minute sooner not a moment later.