My Grandmother’s Clocks

Four hands
are spiraling
around a circle
breaking time
into increments.
 Resonate bells
 call up dark nights,
ushering in a season
without need
 to harmonize.
Percussive voices
soothe an aching
heart overflowing
with grief.
Chimes intoning
the inside out.

Recently I gave myself an expensive gift. I had my two beloved clocks cleaned and oiled, and now both are ticking and chiming again.

Today they circle time.

One of these, a small valuable antique (I am told), sat on my grandmother’s mantle before I was born. I imagine that as an infant I heard the soothing sound of this clock ticking softly, then breaking that rhythm as tiny hammers hit the bells every fifteen minutes, and finally, ringing in the next quarter with deep resonate chimes that marked each passing hour. My grandmother gave me this clock as a young mother much to my great joy. It chimed regularly for my children, as it once did for my little brother and me…Before I moved to the mountains the clock had stopping working; my children were grown and gone.

After my grandfather died I acquired the second clock. This one, an official ‘Grandmother clock’, stands in my living room. My grandfather gave my grandmother this clock as a gift when I was about twelve. She had wanted one for years. I remember how reverently my grandmother wound the clock every week, and after her death my grandfather continued to keep the clock running until his death twenty years later. When I obtained it the Grandmother’s clock kept time until five years ago when it finally slowed and eventually stopped ticking. I wondered if the clock ceased to run because my grandchildren (kept from me as children, not without a fight on my part) had abandoned me by choice as an adult without ever attempting to really get to know me.  

I missed the chimes so much…

 Today, both of my grandmother’s clocks have come back to life. The mantle clock presently lives upstairs where we spend cold mornings sitting in the warmth of the rising sun in spring and fall… when winter comes this year the mantle clock will join us on the ground floor. On days like this when the wind blows, the log cabin walls mute the upstairs chimes and I find myself straining to hear the music. The Grandmother clock stands on the floor in its usual place in the living room and sings me to sleep every night.

The kindly man who restored the clocks called me last week to ask me how they were running. How kind, I responded with gratitude. When he asked if they were keeping good time he was upset to learn that they weren’t. When I assured him that I didn’t mind because what I loved was hearing the chimes he told me he would return to synchronize them. Both are running a bit behind.

I think that like the clocks, I too am running behind. As I approach my 77th year I am uncertain what the future will bring. On many levels I am clearing the space I live in, letting go of life energy, of things, of dreams of being reunited with people I love. Grief seems to have become a permanent resident in my body, making it difficult on some days to stay with my feelings. When I listen to my clocks ticking I think of my age in linear time, recognizing that time is passing and I am moving closer to my death, but then I remember that the hands of my clocks are also moving around in a circle, and that time has both a linear and a circular aspect… “What goes around comes around” – is that what is really meant by that phrase? ‘Life, death, renewal’ this is the circle of life (Carol Christ).

I think of Nature whose seasons define what’s valuable in my life on both a personal and impersonal level. I take to the woods to find joy and solace engaging with Nature as mother, father, lover, brother, sister, becoming the child whose sense of wonder eclipses all thought. Feeling, sensing, intuiting, being is all there is. Participating in the Greening, perched on the edge of the season of Flaming Maple Fire I feel profound gratitude for the gift of Now. Yes, I grieve my own losses but how do I separate them from the loss of birds and forests, an abundance of clear clean waters and sweet pure air, ‘the peace of the wild things’? I don’t. If aging has taught me anything it is that I am a part of a whole so vast, so complex, so intelligent, so full of feeling, sensing, voicing, so beyond my imagining that all I can do is to keep living and give thanks. As Carol Christ has written Nature is divine.

Isn’t this also what the “Grandmothers” have taught us?


Sara is a naturalist, ethologist (a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.

Author: Sara Wright

I am a writer and naturalist who lives in a little log cabin by a brook with my two dogs and a ring necked dove named Lily B. I write a naturalist column for a local paper and also publish essays, poems and prose in a number of other publications.

9 thoughts on “My Grandmother’s Clocks”

  1. Wonderful photo of a gorgeous clock! I don’t have a clock from either of my beloved grandmothers, but I have a beautiful glass paperweight I found in the garden of one of them when I was maybe 7 years old and an antique lamp with a glass shade from my other grandmother (plus a few other things from her house). Our memories become so precious. Yes, our grandmothers teach us many things. If we’re smart, we actually learn and remember those lessons.

    Bright blessings to grandmothers. Have you got the chimes back yet?


  2. “If aging has taught me anything it is that I am a part of a whole so vast, so complex, so intelligent, so full of feeling, sensing, voicing, so beyond my imagining that all I can do is to keep living and give thanks.” I’ve pondered on this all day. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is definitely something magical about chiming clocks from our childhoods. My grandparents had a chiming grandfather clock that I still remember with great affection. I think it may have to do with the emotional connection to sound, almost like hearing the voices of our grandparents again, or maybe because it symbolized the right order of things – at certain times the family did certain actions and the routine was comforting. Well, I don’t know, but I’m so glad you have been able to re-enter that magic!


    1. What was fascinating to me was a remark the clock man made when I told him how I felt about those chimes. He told me that grandfather clocks are set to mimic the human heartbeat and he believes that we are so soothed by them because some part of us is returning to the womb when we are in their presence – for me at least there is REALLY SOMETHING going on… can’t believe I waited this long to have them fixed – sometimes we just need to spend money – period.


  4. Oh wow clocks. I love how you point out that time is linear but it is expressed in the circular movement of the hands. Its interesting. Digital clocks don’t do that. And as my eyes age, I can’t see digital clocks esp from a distance. But our “old fashioned” circular clocks I can see just fine.

    I had a thought while I was reading this, you are working on such a wonderful legacy for your grandchildren. My wish for you and them is that someday they see those clocks as roadmaps back to you (and their ancestors) and in doing so, finding your wonderful archive of writings and that they stop to ask you about them.

    Liked by 1 person

Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: