Luskin: On nature and time

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(HOST) The bear may have destroyed one of her beehives, but it also taught Commentator Deborah Luskin something important about nature – including the nature of time.

(LUSKIN) Every summer, I’m in conflict with time. I don’t just mean the modern day problem of squeezing all the must-dos and want-to-dos into the ordinary hours of the day, but the dissonance between clock time and agricultural time.
For example, one day last year a bear toppled my beehives. I didn’t notice the destruction until late in the afternoon, when I was picking raspberries in a rush, trying to get the day’s harvest of this perishable crop into the freezer before heading off for a meeting.
As is often the case when we negotiate worlds that operate according to different concepts of time, I had to decide what to sacrifice: my bees or my meeting.
I serve on a Community Justice Panel, and we only meet once a month, so my attendance is important. But my bees were in disarray, and I had to do something to protect them before nightfall, when the bear would undoubtedly return for seconds. I left a message at the Justice Center saying, "A bear got into my bee yard." It sounded as feeble as, "The dog ate my homework," but what else could I do?
The bear destroyed one hive and toppled another. Miraculously, a third remained unscathed. A beekeeping neighbor helped me salvage the wreckage and consider how to protect the surviving bees through the night. He urged me to buy an electric fence.
I’d been meaning to install one for some time, but hadn’t got around to it yet. Instead, I’d depended on my dog. She’s a good watchdog: She watches me sleep from the end of my bed, but it’s really my husband she guards, so the two of them volunteered to keep watch overnight. Sure enough, the bear returned, the dog barked, the man beat a pot with a stick, making such a racket the bear took off. The next day, I installed a fence with a powerful current.
Even though I was facing a deadline for work, I postponed the research and writing I’d scheduled in favor of buying and installing the fence, which took most of the day. I had to choose between clock time and agricultural time.
Agricultural pursuits proceed according to a clock whose time is regulated by daylight, weather and circumstance. Neither crops nor livestock respect our household clocks or the timekeepers we strap to our wrists that we watch by the hour.
With the bees back in their hives, and the bear back in the woods, I returned to work and the expectation that I would once again attend meetings and meet deadlines according to the conventional clock. But I know that at any minute, the neatly scheduled order of my day can be upset by a bumper crop of cucumbers to pickle or a fox in the henhouse.
As long as I pursue both working in the human world and working in nature, I’ll often have to choose between clock time and agricultural time, and more often than not, agricultural time will win.

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