November 10, 2006

Name: CAPT Lee Kelley
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: Salt Lake City
Milblog url: http://www.wordsmithatwar.blog-city.com
Email: [email protected]

Isn't it amazing the way time can play tricks on you? Have you ever sat in a classroom, or a meeting, and felt that the clock was taunting you? Or been in a situation where time sped past because you were enjoying the activity so much? Rare is the man or woman who seems satisfied with the passage of time, as if since we created our sundials and calendars we can control it.

How would it be if we didn’t have clocks? How was it?

"I'll meet you at Starbucks at high noon."

"When the shadow is longer than the stick I'll depart."

"I'm being deployed to Iraq for twelve moons."

Time can be seen as both a curse and a blessing, then. When you want something to last forever, your mind perceives it as going by faster; a song you love, the life of someone you care for or depend on, a good book, childhood, a cruise to the Caribbean. And when you want something to end, oh man the time simply drags; your morning commute in traffic, the mother of all meetings, a deployment to Iraq, the time spent waiting for results of a medical test.

The mechanisms inside the clock aren’t wrong. They’re pretty much constant. The cycles of sun, moon, tide, and season are not false. They rule our lives.

Out here in the desert, Time is King; the minutes are his minions, and the months his sabers by which you are knighted. The King controls all that you do, when you come and go, and how long until you see your children. Every mission and order is based on a strict time schedule. We are deployed for a year, "boots on the ground", so 365 becomes a mystical combination of integers, a mantra, a prayer.

We are nothing more than Australopithecus in a uniform, or a burka, or an expensive tailored suit. From the geographical perspective, humankind's time on this earth is less than the blink of an eye. Plate tectonics dismiss us. Volcanoes are too wise to notice our antics.

We study anthropology even as we live within it. We fly and drive and move around this planet, on these continents; we live and we fight. We are caricatures of ourselves, cartoon nations embroiled in our global struggles. The mountains fold their arms and they watch. We used to fight for food or a mate. Now we fight for freedom or money.

When you find yourself as a soldier in Iraq, holding some of the finest tools in your hands, the modern equivalents to stone and flint, to a rock swung from a stick to snare the hunted, you can’t help it, you count the days. It's a reflexive reaction. Hit my knee with a rubber mallet.

You track the hours, the seconds, and the months. X amount of Sundays left. X amount of weeks. I will eat in this chow hall X many more times. This many times I will lie in this bed and stare at the cracks in this ceiling. Like the wallpaper in the home you grew up in, you don’t even notice it anymore. You just cast your thoughts upon its patterns and let your mind roam free.

And just because you're in the desert and the sights and sounds are so surreal, and you’ve forgotten what America smells like at 9:00 in the morning as you walk past your neighbor's garden or the bakery on the corner, you act as if the possibility and difficulty of life is a finite thing, while your true path lays spread before you like a virtual chess board. Pawn or King? Bishop or Rook? Should I move forward slowly, or attack my fate with a flank?

"To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else." -- Emily Dickinson


i'm glad you made it out of that time trap, i'm also glad you chose to share. you're a wonderful writer, you got me hooked. take care.

when I read your post, I thought about a time when my youngest son, who made some unwise choices for a while, served some time as a juvenile for a petty offense. As his time neared to come home, his calls and letters and words spoken during my visits sounded so much like what you are sharing about the passage of time. I remember how I chuckled when he called and excitedly told me he would be home in 'four days and a wakeup!' I received an email from a friend serving in Iraq who used the same term....

Dear Time Watcher, your words are so true, as true as the travelers before and after us, Welcome home, lovin your thoughts


You just put me into some kind of time trip...

...and then it was over

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