(December 8th 2013)
I looked at the last blog and realized that the dates were wrong, at least from our perspective. The previous three weeks were a blur. November 3-24 were the challenging weeks to get the Seminary and Institute Graduation completed. In those days that were literally around the clock busy, the time flew and we had little time to breathe. And yet, in reality, the clock clicked by just as it had the previous month, year and lifetime. The last blog was actually a blog that covered that span of time. Now it’s December 8th, another week flown by and time for some more reflection on our time here.
This past week the baptism in Francistown, a tiny ant carrying a large load that seemed to be taking forever to get to some place, but where? and a huge tree whose trunk was completely embedded in a termite mound that must have taken a bazillion terms and a bazillion termite lifetimes to create. This week these experiences and sending off a few missionaries whose mission time was up has had me reflecting on time and its meaning and mystery.
I have long been fascinated with the whole concept of time. We know what the past is - time past. We can record it, talk about it remember it and document it. We know about the future. That is the time that has yet to occur and the time in which our thoughts reach to define, design and prioritize. But what of today? What of now - the present time? We talk about it as if it is another dimension of time. Yet we struggle to put a frame around it. Truly that time-frame is elusive.
When we look at the and try to see or show or state the “now” of the present time, we cannot even say “now” before the second hand is past that moment, that split-second, that infinitely small segment of time. Still we talk about the present as a construct to define our current doings and beings and our meantime.
I remember the time or times when I was perhaps 9 or 10 riding up Spanish Fork Canyon in the back of the old 1942 Dodge Power Wagon. It was an old surplus Army ambulance that was the family “Hunting Wagon.” It would do 45-50 mph...at best. It still had the old Army fold-down benches along the sides in the back and blackout driving lights on the front fenders. Dad had outfitted it with a 4-inch channel iron frame around the top and had secured an old bench car seat on top for us to ride and look out for the deer we were hunting for winter meat. (We were all about the meat, not the horns although getting a big buck deer was the childhood adventure of it all.)
Now I have to pause to share that of all the events of the year, birthdays, Christmas, summer vacation (out of school) -- of all of the events, the most looked-forward-to time, the anticipated and yearned for time of our lives was the deer hunt. It was the most important of all the time of the year. It was the time that we young boys felt like men. It was the time that they were with the “men.” For Paul and I, it was the time we were with our dad. He was away from home most of the time Sunday afternoon through Friday evenings following the road construction work and so we only had a little time to be around him. That time was precious then and priceless now as we reflect back on it from a future time we could hardly have begun to image would come upon us so quickly.
Riding up that canyon on those cold, early Saturday mornings once or twice a year was another lesson in time. We looked forward to that time so much that we could scarcely sleep for several nights ahead of the annual pilgrimage to the mountains! Then when the clock finally yielded to our anxiousness and indicated it was time to get up and out to the Power Wagon (loaded and made ready days ahead), Paul and I would huddle under a big quilt as dad and whomever we were hunting with sat in the front seat and started the 4 AM drive that would last just over an hour to get to the previously determined spot we would start the hunt and it would be time to get out and on top of the vehicle to watch as we drove slowly through forest and along the mountain ridges and canyons.
During that hour-long drive, we agonized over how long each minute took for the journey. Time truly seemed to hold us back. It was agony to get to the ecstasy of the adventure. It was during those long drives that we devised a way to speed time up. We would take turns counting outloud to each other, quietly so as not to let dad and ur other companions know what we were doing. It was a secret way to “pass time” to get there faster. It seemed to work, unless one of us looked at a watch.
Little did we comprehend that our effort to speed time was really a process of spending the time doing something being busy and not even thinking about the time - only about the counting. I don’t remember now how far we got…probably into the thousands. But eventually the sun came up and the Power Wagon stopped and then everything changed.
Then somehow the clock went crazy and began running super fast! The sun seemed to race across the sky to rob us of the precious time we had so anticipated and yearned for. Then I was thinking, ‘Can’t I just somehow stick up one of these tall dead pine trees up into the sun to hold it back, to lengthen out the day?’ But alas, all to soon it seemed to be near falling out of the western sky signally that the days adventure and anticipated time of our lives had passed.
On those occasions when we had one or several big 4-point bucks in the back with us as we headed back down off the mountain, we would feel the success and excitement was enough. When we were less successful, we felt robbed and began the anticipation afresh for the next deer season and hunting time. Through it all, the clock ticked on as it always had, and always did and always…
Then, as I became a man, I came to know that it wouldn’t always tick on. Not for me, not for Paul, not for my dad, my mom, not for any of us. I came to understand that time was measured in ticks and tocks only to men - live men. Then I came to understand that even that would one day change, and time would last no more. I came to know that the ticks and tocks of the clock so timed to correspond to the revolutions, days, months, seasons, years, decades, lifetimes and dispensations, all have a sunset. I learned that time is really best described as anticipation, participation and reflection.
I learned that we spend a lot of time anticipating things when we are young. There are deer hunts, birthdays, dates, driving, school, jobs, marriage, children, careers, grandchildren… missions. I learned that anticipation is the hope and expectation of change, progress and better times ahead. I learned that participation is the process of getting lost in the present time and that the more engaged and busy we are, the less we pay attention to the clock or the sun or the time.
I think I am now learning that it is in the moments of reflection when the significance, meaning and real value of time, our time, is best comprehended, appreciated and recognized as just how fast those fleeting seconds of now pass. It is in the momentary pause of reflection that we most wish we could stick a tree up to hold the sun and time back to truly cherish the moments.
As I said, those few weeks leading up to the Graduation event were crazy busy and time few by. Now looking back I get a glimpse of how fast the past three months of “our mission time” have flown. Experience in the Power Wagon and in life warns me of just how fast the next 20 months will pass as well and it will be time to return home.
In the meantime there is much to do and to count to make this fleeting time count. So what have we done these last two weeks since the rush chased the time to blog away? Well, we went last week up to Francistown to meet with the Seminary and Institute teachers and students and to do a Graduation/Fireside process with them. We drove up (five hours north of Gaborone) on Saturday early morning arriving there without incident about 1PM. We grabbed a piece of KFC and went onto the baptisms that were scheduled for 2 PM. There were two being baptized. The older sister (we have been asked not to share their names in blogs - new policy) anyway she had to finally sit in the shallow font to go all under after the fourth attempt. She came up smiling on the fifth.
After the baptism we turned the 55 gal trashcan upside down to create a makeshift braii. I had purchased a bag of wood at the gas station and while it burned down to marshmallow roasting coals, we had a combination fireside and campfire sing along. The group enjoyed it and I believe the message of gathering and learning together in Seminary and Institute helped to build anticipation for the new year classes that will focus on the Book of Mormon. I am sure that their teachers and will do a great job there in Francistown.
By the way, we enjoyed driving the Chev Sonic much better that the little Aveo we had on the last journey north. The seats set up a little higher, more comfortable for longer drives and the larger tires and peppier engine make it easier. We stayed in the Adansonian Hotel. It’s a small Convention Center-like compound. Because it was a weekend we got the room for half price, about BWP395 (about $40) a night. The bed was a standard size and a little difficult to sleep on, but the price was right. We had a good visit with the teachers, students and missionaries. The MLS missionaries prepared a wonderful meal for us and the mission president and his wife who were also there doing training. On Sunday evening, the MLS missionaries prepared a wonderful meal for us and the Mission President and his wife who were also there doing training.
The drive back Monday morning was also uneventful, except for our continued amazement of how a couple of rainstorms could bring on and out the green on the “bush” African desert. We saw less cattle, goats and donkeys on the (and I mean “on” the road) this time because there was more feed for them back away from the road.
We stopped as we got back to the city to get a few groceries and to check into the mission office to pick up a water filter system for our flat. The Church had secured some point-of-use filters (three stage) that will make it possible to use the tap water rather than having to buy RO water each week. I came back and put the filter on. It seems to work great. It is sure to save some Pula and some time.
This week we have been busy working on materials for the Teachers training and reporting books we are putting together for the new year. The Stake Presidency has encouraged the Bishops and Branch Presidents to call teachers who have the time and commitment to do the work this new year. I suspect that we may have ¾ of the Seminary and Institute classes being taught by new teachers. We are also putting together a Stake Christmas program that has fallen into our laps. It will be a simple scripture reading, carol singing and powerpoint thanks, Jen!).
We are told that during the next several weeks we will see the city emptied of people and traffic. Most everyone goes home to their ancestral villages for the holidays. So we don’t know how many, other than missionaries will attend the Christmas Program on the 22nd. It will be worth the time for those who come and worth our time for putting it together.
Perhaps tomorrow I will find time to add a blog about the realization I am having about the ongoing nature of the confirming testimony installments of the spirit. They seem to come from time to time to deepen our understanding, appreciation and commitment to the truths of the gospel. I have had some interesting insights about that realization that may be worthy to share next time.
Right now, however, it is past time for me to put Sister Cloward to bed. So I bid you all a good night time, before you tire of reading and say “It’s about time!”
P.S…Elder C is simply AMAZING! He is so good at organizing and creating and thinking ahead of what is needed when, where and why. He is an amazing speaker, presenter and I am amazed at all the latent talents that are coming to bear fruit out here. I have really enjoyed hearing my wonderful companion sing more and more. We’ve had fun singing together and learning together and growing together as we travel from here to there, north to south, east to west. Elder C has made some incredible dishes out here as well. His latest creations were a butternut soup and fresh tomato basil cream soup that would be a sellout at any restaurant! I feel like I’m eating out at a gourmet restaurant every day :)! He is getting his secretarial skills down to an art now. He was so patient with my tremendous learning curve in trying to get all of the teachers’ records entered accurately. I am looking forward to a smoother road ahead for 2014 and look forward to getting to know our teachers and their students. I do believe Elder C gets our whites whiter than I do…I think I’ll hire him for an eternity or two…he is the love of my life and whom I want to spend my eternity with. I don’t miss the snow and really do enjoy the more Hawaii-like climate out here. I weep every time I hear the saints pray out here and know that the Savior is mindful of His children in this part of His vineyard. I am so grateful to have the perfect companion for me….forever!