A sense of time

I had a boyfriend in high school who could tell you the time of day off the top of his head within ten minutes or so. He was an aspiring actor (back then) and attributed his unnatural skill to his performer’s sense of timing. Ummm ….. maybe.

I have a husband now who can do the same thing. He’s a former math teacher who considers it an ability derived from his close relationship with numbers. Well …… maybe that, too.

I have less of a sense of time. Hours pass unnoticed when I write, minutes last forever as I stare at a blank page. I attribute this to living more inside my head than out of it. But if hours and minutes confound me, years and decades are worse. Today, I reviewed a book called Deep Sahara. It takes place in 1980, which I shrugged off as being nearly current fiction when I began reading the book. Then characters who lived during World War Two began to play a role.

Geez, WWII was like 80 years ago. What are they doing still alive? Wait, 1980 was nearly 40 years ago, now, wasn’t it? Yeah, it was.

My sense of time (or lack thereof) is front and center this week as I vacation at an old house on the beach owned by my husband’s family. The house was built in the 1850’s and the deck looks out over Charleston Harbor, and directly at Fort Sumter. The first shots of the civil war rang out here, when Confederate artillery opened fire on this federal fort in April 1861. Family members who are history buffs love this fact. I find wars sad, not fascinating, and secretly think the view would be so much more pleasant if it didn’t have a reminder of a bloody, painful conflict right in the middle of it.

The house itself contains an old and a new part. The old portion is lovingly maintained as it looked in the 20’s and 30’s when this was a small beach shack used to escape the summer heat of the city. Creative relatives have decorated the walls with tools used to handle the ice blocks that provided precious refrigeration back then.

The rest of the house is circa early 1990’s, built after hurricane Hugo tore through the area. Parts of this are deemed “worn and in need of replacement” as opposed to historical. The cynic in me thinks that if they just leave the indoor-outdoor carpet on the stairs another forty years, it will become too treasured to remove. It’s all relative, isn’t it?

As I sit here studying the various ages of what I can see, I think I’ve figured out my problem with time. I’m trained as a geologist, fascinated by the formation of the earth 5 billion or so years ago, and intrigued by the first forms of life to emerge over four billion years later.

Old? Rocks formed from tiny creatures in the inland Cretaceous sea are a 100 million years old. In my home state of Kansas, we used that 100-million-year-old limestone to build houses in the mid 1800’s, about the time when shots were being fired over this beautiful harbor and you could have watched Fort Sumter being attacked from this deck.

Maybe I would care more about this if 150 years weren’t mere seconds to a geologist. To those who study the earth, everything that’s happened since 10,000 years ago is pretty much considered debris. It could be I don’t lack a sense of time, I just have another way of looking at it.

(For more of my recent thoughts on time, see my post Spending Time.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Latitudes and attitudes

oil spill from space

oil spill from space

Three years ago this month, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the  Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people were killed and it took experts three months to stop the flow of oil onto the sea floor. Those living along the gulf suffered significantly, and t shirts saying FUBP were selling well in New Orleans. You could see the oil slick from outer space.  We held our collective breath at the unexpected experimenter in what 5 million barrels of oil discharged rapidly at on ocean depth of 5000 feet might do to the world’s ecosystem. Those of us who write science fiction in our heads all day came up with plenty of possibilities.  None of them ended well.

fubp

Best Seller

It was a significant to me for more reasons, however, than concern and outrage. My day job is in the oil business. I consider myself a pragmatic environmentalist. Over the years I met people who worked for BP, and they were as reasonable and ethical any other group. The fatal combination of cost-cutting, bad decisions and eventually bad responses was tragic, pointing to the need for better regulation, better enforcement, and far less hubris when we pit ourselves against nature.

The novel z2 takes place during 2010 and Alex, the hero of the novel is married to a geophysicist.  When I wrote z2 I let his wife Lola express some of my own concerns on the subject.

Alex was used to listening to Lola fret about items in the news, and had long ago accepted that she took world events to heart in a way he simply didn’t. But tonight she was especially distraught. A drilling rig called the Deepwater Horizon had just exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, apparently killing eleven workers and leaving undetermined amounts of oil spewing out into the sea.

“Geez, those poor men. Their poor families. You know, I’ve stood out there on the rotary floor, feet away from these guys. Alex, those roughnecks are amazing.” She thought for a second. “I could have been out there.”

“But you weren’t there,” Alex said calmly. He knew that Lola’s fervor was only partly fueled by her concern about the injuries and deaths. Nigeria had a horrible history of largely ignored oil spills, and Lola was passionate about her industry’s need to operate without such destructive mistakes.

“These are my people,” she said sadly. “Most of them want to do things right. But they just f**ked-up big time.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself here,” Alex tried to comfort her. “They’ll probably have it plugged back up by tomorrow and everything will be fine. “

I wanted the book to also present another point of view. Each of my books includes links to nine songs that serve as a sort of “soundtrack” and reflect the different tastes of each novel’s protagonist.  Alex likes pop music and one of the songs I chose for z2 was Jimmy Buffet’s “Changes in Latitudes.” I like to link to a video, and I was able to find a great version of Jimmy Buffett performing “Changes in Latitudes” at a concert in Gulf Shores, Alabama on July 11, 2010 designed to raised money for those damaged by BP’s ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a great counterpoint to Lola’s perspective.  Please enjoy it here.