Aging & Dying, Culture and Art, Zen & Dharma

The schedule is the spine of time

In describing Zen practice Robert Aitken said that the schedule is the spine of time. I am Time’s chiropractor. I bend and straighten the bones. They flex and spring back. Breath and blood flow through and around, bringing the structure to life.

Time is my medium, as for dancers and singers. I build schedules to interlock and tick forward, an intricate clockwork of pulleys and pivots, pendulums and gears.

My Hosting schedule is a straightforward white-and-yellow grid that governs day-to-day hospitality, parties and events. Each square holds a picture of one bodhisattva hard at work, welcoming guests and shuttling luggage and wiping spills from beneath the coffee bar. Responding in the moment to needs that arise. My Resident schedule is a multicolored tapestry of housekeeping, kitchen work, gardening and shlepping; blueberry picking, outings and yoga and adventures, and days of sweet leisure for island exploration.

Hollyhock in high summer is a pitching and rocking vessel, and whenever something shifts — a program is cancelled, an event is added, the blueberries are out of season — everything shifts. It is an ever-spinning Rubik’s cube and it makes me crazy, but when the tumblers click into place I get a hit of momentary satisfaction. And then, everything shifts again.

There was a time when I snubbed the banality of schedule-making. Schedules are for suckers, I said; I am for writing poetry or fighting highways or painting in oils. I didn’t recognize in Excel a medium of expression. I did not see the art in the delicate weft of a well-crafted spreadsheet.

The schedule is the spine of time. I draw up its skeleton in colored bars and lines. Life’s blood flows through and around. Now I do this, now I do that. I make the schedule and set time free, to spin and to spiral as it will.

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