Sunwise, clockwise

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I live in a land called Aotearoa. Here we are in what has been named the south. As all people, we look to the equator for the fullness of the sun, and for us the equator is north by the compass.

Many of our ancestors came from the north, beyond the equator. There they looked to the south for the fullness of the sun. And there they invented sundials, which over time became abstracted into the faces of the clocks we are still so familiar with today. And here begins the confusion.

When our people came from the north, they brought their clocks. They overlaid clocktime on the suntime of this southern land. They didn’t alter the orientation of their clocks – there was no real need, clocks were already an abstraction, separated from the lived experience of a day governed by the hours of lightness and darkness in the world.

So if we practise any kind of natural alignment with the lived reality of the natural world, perhaps in the form of sacred circle, we might deepen our understanding of this abstraction. We might connect our bodies with the daily appearance of the sun, to the east. We might face north to the fullness of the sun, and feel the warmth of the end of the day of the left side of our bodies.

I wonder if the clock is even more of a confusion here in the south. I wonder if the people of the south are even less meant to imagine a wheel turning clockwise to guide us through our days. Of course now, our clocks are mostly just numbers on a screen, the next step of abstraction away from the bodily experience of time. Will our children even understand the relationship of clock time to the natural cycles in the sky? Only if we teach them.

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