Sometimes it drags as slowly as it did when I sat in study hall, watching the second-hand creep until the bell finally freed me. Other times it is fleeting, disappearing like mist in the summer sun. It passes now in similar ways depending on conditions but I find that time is more audible when living aboard.
Always, an early riser, anxious to spend the last moments of moonlight in quiet contemplation of the coming day, I find myself sleeping later, becoming more attuned to the actual rhythm of daylight. Still awake before the sun rises, but just barely now, I consider the different ways that time is marked in the various places we have been.
This morning it is the Osprey announcing that he is starting his day by dismembering a freshly caught fish, perched high atop our next-door neighbor’s mast.
In the Tortugas, time is never silent. Over 100,000 Sooty Terns call the islands home and while they quiet during the night time, there is an omni-present muttering of birds stirring or settling, bickering over the best roosting spots. Their decibel level rises with the sun and continues throughout the day as they swoop and wheel overhead, providing a constantly audible backdrop to the beauty of the island and its surrounding waters. As the sun sinks into the Gulf Stream, their racket softens into a drowsy murmuring once more.
In the Fort Pierce City Marina, time again makes itself known. A series of whooshing thumps against the hull right next to my berth startles me and I can’t imagine what might be making that sound. A fellow live-aboard sheds light on it the next night, pointing out the huge Jacks chasing fingerling mullet up against our hull for their evening meal. You can almost set your watch by the sounds.
The time around shifting weather conditions also has a sound. We can see the approaching storms on our phone screens. We know what time they will arrive and how strong they will be from these scientific predictions but putting the phone aside allows us to hear the moments that announce an approaching storm. The wind starts to smack the halyards against neighboring sailboat masts and their wind turbines spin a crazy song. Strong gusts whuff against our isinglass curtains making them breathe in and out and finally the rain arrives sounding very much the way that it did against the tin roofs of our Camp Ton-A-Wandah cabins when I was a child. Thunder booms across the water and spray is kicked up against boat hulls and as quickly as it came, when its time is up, the storm rumbles away leaving us in an eerie silence.
Other places, time is marked more by man than nature.
In Islamorada, the Lorelei Marina has live music, marking the coming sunset at the Cabana Bar. People sing along to Jimmy Buffet, Bob Marley and Beach Boys covers. Well behaved and enjoying a camaraderie built on shared appreciation of being outdoors, tourists and locals alike join in communal celebration of the sun sinking into the calm, Gulf waters.
The historic town of Eau Gallie (Rocky Waters) marks time in a more European but equally musical way. St John’s Episcopal Church and Palmdale Presbyterian have dueling carillons that softly echo across the water to each other. Strains of almost-familiar hymns mark noon and dusk in a hushed refrain of bells, but only if one listens closely. It is easy to lose the melodies to the more obvious sound of the nearby roadway.
On the West coast of Florida, we have no trains. Not so when one navigates up the Intracoastal Waterway on the East coast. Here, trains are not far from the water and announce themselves at all hours of the day and night. Remaining in one spot long enough, allows me to subconsciously absorb and identify the schedule that starts at 4:30 AM, in some spots, with the deep blare of a horn and heavy rumble of an approaching locomotive. It isn’t unpleasant, just different and once acclimated, it is in fact reassuring, marking the rhythm of the approaching morning.
Time is ephemeral, its experience dependent upon the conditions under which it is contemplated. In each instance, it is my conscious choice to attend to the sounds of time or to ignore them completely. But I feel that these sounds add to my belief that “the joy is indeed in the journey.” While sights are what we remember most, perhaps more concentration on the nature of sound and how it helps to mark time in our worlds, would give us just that much more to appreciate.