June 2, 2020

Finding Time Amid Timelessness

A change in our daily lives has shifted the ways we can mark the passage of time.


Maya Ordonez / The Chicago Maroon

On campus, I’m used to everything being fast-paced all the time. Mondays differ entirely from Tuesdays, and there’s always the possibility for the unexpected to occur. Yet, in quarantine, the days don’t pass in this way. Mondays blend into Tuesdays, and I have begun to feel stuck in a horrible pattern of waking up, studying, eating, studying some more, sleeping, and starting all over again. For me, this loss of spontaneity has been one of the most difficult transitions. Finding something that does transform from day to day has helped me restore a sense of time and thereby has brought me some ease.

Looking for this anchor, something to keep me grounded, I turned to nature. Nature is not monotonous. It’s continuously changing and evolving. By merely observing the trees on the hill outside my living room window, I have regained my footing somewhat, although it did take the majority of the quarter. When I first arrived home in March, the trees were bare, their branches blanketed with snow. I didn’t give the landscape much thought, since I grew up looking at it. Yet, in late April, I began to notice that the trees were growing their first buds. I began to spend a few minutes each morning to see if anything had changed from the morning prior. Now, the entire slope has turned a cheerful chartreuse. Yet, I still take the time to look at it when I wake up—a reminder of the passage of time.

I have also discovered that UChicago has provided its students with this natural clock through the 24/7 webcam of Botany Pond. At first glance, I thought that the idea was somewhat silly and I ignored it. Yet, I kept wondering what made it so special. When I finally got the chance to sit down and open the webcam, I realized why. The ripples washed out my raucous thoughts and, for the first time this quarter, I found a deep sense of calm. I could make out where my friends and I had stood on the pond this past winter when it was frozen over. I traced my eyes along the path where my close friend and I walked during my final evening on campus before returning home for spring quarter. During those times, Botany Pond had seemed trivial, a simple landmark that I never really gave a second thought. Now, I rely on it as a tether to UChicago when everything else feels so aimless and uncertain. Although our lives aren’t changing as noticeably each day as they did on campus, the world is changing. Pinpointing and watching subtle changes serve to connect us, in a small way to the greater uncertain state of the world.

I recommend finding something that seems insignificant, such as a neighborhood tree or even just a dandelion in your backyard, and watch how it changes (or doesn’t) from day to day. It may sound like a somewhat vacuous idea, just as the Botany Pond live stream did at first, yet for me it has made all the difference.

Maya Ordonez is a first-year in the College.