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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Power of Awe and the Sustainability of Time

One of the nice things about winter (There!  I knew I'd find one!) is that I can take a break from so many garden-related posts and look at some of the larger issues of sustainability. And my latest revelation has been about the importance of our perception of time.

A recent study has determined that experiencing feelings of awe can actually put us more solidly in the moment, making it seem that time has slowed down.  And while nothing slows the passage of time (making it the ultimate non-renewable resource), it is a great feeling when you are so present that you are sure you are using your time wisely.

Recently, my husband and I returned to Key West, our favorite haunt, for a long weekend.  This boondoggle plan of "down on Friday and back on Monday" was born in a sea of November frustration, when work had piled up and the days were growing shorter, and I knew that I'd never make it through the winter if I felt that blue already before the cold truly hit.  We just had to go "back to the island" in January.

As it turns out, I was much more right than I had imagined.  Once Christmas was over, Mr. FC&G and I were pretty much running on fumes, and both of us were exhibiting at least mild self-diagnosed symptoms of SAD.  And so we climbed on the plane in the midst of a white-out snowstorm and prayed we'd get to Key West to recharge.

What I experienced when I was there was true awe.  Now, as you know from reading this blog, we visit Key West regularly, and while it never fails to make me happy, I thought I had seen its beauty.  I had seen the hot, pulsating summer, I had seen the late spring ripe with blossoms on every corner, I had even seen the late "winter" with its promise of a long and humid season to come.  But I had never seen January on the island, and I promise I had never seen anything in my life that looked like this.

As you can see from the above, it defied the ability to take pictures; there was simply too much light.  The sun was so bright, in a clear, humidity-free sky, that the colors simply popped up at you, making the surroundings look like a vivid painting more than a landscape.  The whites of some buildings and roofs reflected the light like a spotlight. The ocean, which I love for its pinks and purples and oranges in summer, was silver.  Everything about it was topped with silver.  It crested silver, and even the teal of its depths was tinged with silver.  I had never in my life seen colors that bright and clean.

And the way the air felt was a revelation.  As someone used to the Midwest, I expect to feel the ground cold and the sun warm in the spring and the reverse in the fall.  When I go to Key West, I expect to feel heat everywhere, even if it is the mild heat of spring.  But January brought with it a very unexpected feeling of heat from the sun and heat from the ground (which has never seen a frost), but a hint of a chill from the ocean breezes.  It lent a certain fragility to everything, like if you tried to reach out and touch things they would crumble as if spun from sugar.

Obviously, I was awe-struck.  And I experienced that pleasant feeling of all the cylinders of time clicking into place and unlocking.  I was reminded that this was one of only two places on Earth that I feel this comfortable.  I was reminded that nothing in life matters more than the people and the places I love, and that money and achievement are only a pathway to those things, not an end to themselves.  And I was reminded of how lucky I am to have found my version of paradise.

Awestruck?  Oh, yes.  Using time to its fullest?  Being present?  Definitely.

I'd say that was a pretty sustainable use of a resource. 

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