Traveling the Wampanoag Commemorative Canoe Passage was an interesting experience for me. I had never paddled the North River and streams above Monponsett Ponds. On the second day of our journey we paddled across Monponsett into a peaceful cove bordered by white cedar trees and swamp maples. The undeveloped shoreline hinted of times past, a snapshot of what once was. It was very beautiful. As our canoe slipped into the boggy entrance of Stump Brook the concept of time began turning in my mind.
My thoughts began wandering into what may have been an altogether different concept, relationship with this ???? we call time. The native relationship, in this case the Wampanoag relationship to time. Today we tend to take for granted our relationship to time. Relationships with distinct divisions between work, leisure and sleep and then further divisions by our clocks into smaller increments of hours and seconds.
How might our continuity of living differ without such small and sharp divisions and the resulting demands put upon our individual and collective minds by them?
Where did our template for time division come from? Have we become servants to a system we designed to serve us? Who were the architects of it and why?
It's funny, thinking such is like paddling a river with an inviting tributary around every bend. If you try to explore each the end of the river may never be reached.
This question of time comes clearest to me when framed this way. If today I am at work, working late at 7:00 in the evening then I consider myself as such, at work, working, doing something other. If I am a Wampanoag tending to a field, fish or game at 7:00 in the evening do I think of myself as working, doing other, or simply engaging in the practice of living, being?
Words and their meaning become valuable to define for thought the difference between "work" incorporated into the continuity of living and being as opposed to incorporating life into and around a tightly wound work schedule. Days diced up....... time to wake up, drive, arrive, break, lunch, break again, drive again and finally home to shoehorn in a bit of living before the cycle begins anew. It's disconcerting enough to write and read such a schedule, never mind live it. Yet many of us do, day in and day out. It is that deep seed of underlying anxiety that we sometimes sense but can't quite root out and pin down.
It is in such places while engaging in such simple activities as paddling that we can step within the tune of a different time scale and realize awareness. Instinctively most are drawn to rivers, oceans, mountains, forests all which have a subtle way of sewing seeds of thought larger than self, reconnecting us with the solar and lunar cycles all which live within us as we live within them. Hmmmmm?
Further downstream our party arrived at the dam owned and abused by the City of Brockton to retain artificially high water levels in Monponsett for transfer to Silver Lake. Silver Lake is headwaters to the Jones River which often runs almost dry from withdrawals by Brockton for the city water supply. No water was passing the dam upon our arrival.
The stream below had drained to little more than a mucky slurry, a thin veil of water covering. As we dragged, pushed, poled and paddled down Stump Brook I said to Nik.... " Well, it is interesting to catch a glimpse of the stream bed here. I have always wondered how deep the water was, it's tea like color hides its true depth during normal flows."
Sitting at the keyboard now, a week gone past the thought stirs in my mind how nature sometimes speaks in peculiar ways when we take the time to listen. Previous to seeing the stream channel drained I had imagined it much deeper, the impression from above suggested water six or ten feet deep, when in fact it was hardly two. The water by way of its tea colored nature created an illusion of depth and distance. It strikes me now that the illusion created by the dark water of the stream is similar to the illusion we create of distance from cycles natural by way of our relationship to time and modern fast paced lives. Though we cannot turn back the clocks and calenders to the time of the Wampanoags, we can by engaging with nature become aware and find ways to better balance and incorporate work into living. It is trips such as this one and simply spending bits and pieces of our busy time in these places that put the breath back in breathing and thought back into thinking.