By AB Plum
Remember those long summer nights as a kid when you lay outside and stared at the stars and moon moving across the velvet sky?
Tracking the moon’s movement, I felt some vague, inexpressible awareness of time passing. Not much, though. My aunt and uncle’s farm in the back hills and hollers of Southern Missouri existed in a time warp. Sunset marked the end of day. Darkness meant night. Morning came with birds twittering just before sunrise.
The Rhythm of Each Day
Daily chores: caring for the animals, tending the huge vegetable garden, preparing meals, cleaning the house, washing clothes, ironing . . . and more filled every day with its own rhythm.
During “free” time, my aunt and mother would take us kids to wade in the nearby creek—always on the lookout for copperheads. Saturdays, we went “to town” with produce and fresh berry pies with the flakiest-ever crusts baked by my aunt the day before.
Sundays, we attended church, then came home to fry chicken for dinner with half a dozen invited relatives. Of course the day of rest began with caring for the animals. Bringing in the cows for the afternoon milking and closing the chicken house marked the beginning of night’s approach.
This summer life seemed idyllic and lasted until my eleventh birthday when my aunt and uncle moved off the farm to work in the city. By then I’d pretty much stopped lying outside to count the stars or marvel at the moon. I had a better grasp of time and place—though I never imagined setting a book in Finland during summer when the sun never really sets.
Time Is All About Perception
In my novels, time often presents a challenge. What details get left out may be as important as those left in the story. What happened in the past plays a big part in the present time of the story. Ideally, scenes give sensory clues to the passage of real time. In The Lost Days, the two young boys can’t rely on the sun and moon rising to mark how long they’ve been lost.
The challenge was to convey the sense of time dragging without writing scenes that went on and on and on with nothing happening. Time didn’t stop, but it certainly crawled. That crawling passage of time increased, I hope, the tension of a struggle to survive in a hostile environment.
Ironically, I drew on memories of those long, endless, and happy days on that isolated farm. I recalled time was more fluid, but spotting a copperhead slinking off the creek bank could send my heart racing and time flying.
Reading Bends Time
For me, storytelling and reading bend time. I can escape from the here and now just as I did watching the night sky, long, long ago.
What speeds up your day? Do you read to slow down the frenzy? What unexpected circumstance affect your perception of time?
AB Plum lives and writes in Silicon Valley, where time runs at a break-neck pace. Her latest book The Lost Years becomes available on Amazon on March 17--which will be here before she blinks.
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