I met a fascinating clocksmith on Friday, when he visited my house to install a moon dial. It had fallen off during shipment of the grandfather clock I’d been dreaming about for much of my life.
To me, a grandfather clock, with its carefully crafted workmanship, stands tall for the value of time well spent, art, and old-world charm. Large and unwieldy as it is, it symbolizes the opposite of this fast-paced technological age. Somehow, listening to its pendulum swing back and forth, a second seems longer; time slows down. The peace I feel may stem from childhood memories: spending the night at my grandparents’ house, sweet Grammy tiptoeing around our cozy pallet in the living room floor to silence the mantel clock’s chimes so they wouldn’t wake my sisters and me; or doing homework in our piano teacher’s lamp lit, tick-tocking study during my sister’s lesson.
The clock was given to me for my birthday by my dear husband. He likes small, lightweight gadgets, and even though he is dreading the day we might have to move “Grandfather” to a new house, he went to considerable effort to make my dream of a children’s book clock come true. (Flip through a collection of picture books, and you’ll find grandfather clocks gracing many a page.)
There was no question in my mind about the grand clock’s ability to enhance interior coziness and charm, but I had no idea it might benefit my garden . . . until Friday morning. The clocksmith attached the moon dial (which my husband and I were too nervous to attempt) in a matter of minutes. As he set it, he spoke of moon lore.
I was enthralled as he explained that when the moon on the dial starts to sink (indicating a waning moon), it is the right moon phase for planting anything that will grow underground, such as potatoes, carrots, and radishes. After the new moon, when the moon on the dial starts to rise (indicating a waxing moon), it is the correct phase for planting above-ground crops, flowering plants, and trees. He said the earth expands and contracts like the tide. I was incredulous, but he told me he grew up on a farm. “Ask any farmer,” he said. “You can get a crop to grow if you sow it in the wrong moon phase, but it won’t yield as much.”
When planting, I take into account the appropriate season, soil warmth, and rainfall—but the moon? Most nights I don’t venture outside to drink in the scent of my moon vine’s blooms or to soak in moonbeams. I go through most of my life without knowing what phase the moon is in, without opening myself to the wonder of the night sky. I feel a fun experiment for the kids coming on this spring. What an enchanting suggestion the clocksmith gave as to why some of my plants grow twice as large as expected and others remain unusually dwarfed and delicate!
I suppose it is just folk lore, but it is freeing to “suspend disbelief” for a moment and breathe in a mystery. Inhale and exhale, like the tide; like the soil? I’m reminded of Jason Gray’s song, “The Name of God Is the Sound of Our Breathing.” (Consider listening, here.) The clocksmith planted a beautiful idea in my mind: Even the earth breathes the Creator’s name.
The moon is full tonight as the grandfather clock ticks the song of time. It is a gentle ticking, a comforting ticking, for before, during, and after time, is God.