01 January 2008

The hourglass bridge



I’m in the basement of my rented house in Sydney’s northern suburbs and it’s 9 in the morning. Last night was another gorgeous night in Sydney with 70-degree temperatures at 1 a.m. as Patty and I along with another couple made our way home from a night on the town. We had eaten dinner at 9, and then walked down to the foreshore to see the fireworks display, which was very much worth seeing.

Now today is Patty’s and my 31st anniversary. I look older, but she doesn’t, and we have three children who still take up a lot of our time, and they are very much worth all we can give. We couldn’t be prouder of our kids.

On the bridge stretching across the harbour the designers of the New Year’s show often put a symbol. We’ve seen a coat hanger (the nickname of the bridge itself), a diamond (for the 75th anniversary of the bridge) and even the word “Eternity”. This year the designers attached an hourglass as the symbol to remember. It makes a good reminder of time running out.

A la the ball in New York’s Times Square, the hourglass made sense. Slowly the electronic balls made their way from top to bottom and finally the top was empty… Happy New Year! And revelry ensued. Actually revelry had been the word of the day all day already. From early morning, men and women staked unmarked sites near the shore, with tents and blankets, with full eskies and radios, readying themselves to welcome friends and frolickers to a fun-filled day and night. The dictionary tells us that revelry is “lively enjoyment or celebration, usually involving eating, drinking, dancing, and noise.” Sydneysiders join in this revelry with fervour and great energy.

According to this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald, “Ninety-four arrests were made across Sydney during the course of the night and the early hours of the morning, resulting in 92 charges - mostly for offences relating to anti-social behaviour.”

Walking down to get a good view of the fireworks, our friends and we noticed the thick blanket of discarded bottles and cans along the roads. Sounds of revelry filled our ears as drunken teens shouted and sang songs with great gusto. And across the way, the hourglass stood as a beacon.

Hourglasses are usually filled with sand not light bulbs. Last August, I walked next to one in Budapest near the National Monuments. The Time Wheel opened in 2004, when Hungary joined the European Union. It is an 8-meter-tall hourglass embedded in a granite and steel wheel. The sand goes down in exactly one year.
It’s very impressive.

When I grew up time was much more limited, not a year, but minutes. During games like Boggle and Yahtzee, we used those egg timers, plastic, still filled with sand, but less impressive.


So here I am, hours later, well-rested and happy to be celebrating with my wife another year. But the image of the hourglass stays fresh. Its impression is not its grandeur or even its location on the bridge. What impresses me this morning, and hopefully throughout 2008, will be the question. The question is begged by the time-reminder and stands firm, long after the glow of the bridge has dimmed. What will I do with time in 2008? Since time is running out, what will I do to make the world a better place? Since my time is running out, what will I make of my life?

Will I waste time in revelry and police lock-ups? Will I waste it on meaninglessness, or will I spend it with family and friends? Will I spend my time on bringing good news to people? Will I seek to benefit the world as its time is ending, or will I spend it on myself?

Good questions to ponder as the New Year begins. Won’t you join me in this pondering?


This is the ending of this blog for us in the South.







For those up north, in New York and London and Tokyo, it’s seriously winter. So maybe for them the words of Paul Simon’s song will help. As time is such a serious part of the thinking of New Year’s Eve folks.

Sidebar: Words by Paul Simon. Song is “Hazy shade of winter”
Time, time, time, see what's become of me

Time, time, time, see what's become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities
I was so hard to please

Look around, leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hear the Salvation Army Band
Down by the riverside, it's bound to be a better ride
Than what you've got planned, carry a cup in your hand

Look around, leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hang onto your hopes my friend
That's an easy thing to say
But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend that you can build them again

Look around, grass is high
Fields are ripe, it's the springtime of my life

Seasons change with their scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won't you stop and remember me

Look around, leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
Look around, leaves are brown
There's a patch of snow on the ground
Look around, leaves are brown
There's a patch of snow on the ground
Look around, leaves are brown
There's a patch of snow on the ground

Also for history, check out: http://wilstar.com/holidays/newyear.htm

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