Time Passing - Montana Academy

Montana Academy
May 6, 2013
Letter from Lost Prairie
Time passing
When students arrive at Montana Academy with the prospect of staying for
over a year they are often overwhelmed and time stretches before them like a never
ending exile. As they approach the end of the stay their view of time spent in
Montana has almost always altered. Most graduating students remark how quickly
time has gone by and how surprised they are to have arrived at their graduations.
This subjective sense of time is pronounced both in youth and in age. Who
among us does not remember the feelings of eternity stretching before us on
childhood summer days and the shock that it is time for school again in the fall.
Age brings perspective but no less confusion. Where did all those years go? We
often tell each other that the years are speeding up with age as the months roll past
us and our children grow up. Yet during times of worry and sadness time seems to
crawl along and races only at moments of great happiness when we seek to capture
and hold it.
John and I made the decision a year ago that we would take some weeks away
from the ranch to spend in Cambridge, England where we met and spent those
fabled “golden years.” We have just returned to Montana in time for graduation.
In Cambridge it is easy to get in touch with another aspect of time, much more
ancient than those of our personal histories. Here, visiting the Parker library at
Corpus Christi College I found myself in the presence of the books collected by
Matthew Parker, appointed by Queen Elizabeth I as the first Archbishop of
Canterbury in 1558. Parker’s role was to ensure that the fledgling Church of
England survived the difficult transition away from Rome in the years ahead. To
do so he took advantage of the dissolution of the English monasteries under Henry
VIII and culled books from their ancient collections to build a paper trail back to
the older practice of Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England. His was the first
antiquarian selection ever assembled and it included early versions of the Bible in
English and traced a lineage back to St. Gregory who sent the Gospel book to St.
Augustine to help him with his mission to convert the English to Christianity at the
end of the 6th century. This gospel is the oldest illustrated Latin Gospel in
existence and all Archbishops of Canterbury now take their oath upon it. When I
saw it it had only just returned from the investiture of Justin Welby.
John and I attended several concerts in Kings’ College chapel during our
sojourn in Cambridge. Sitting beneath the exquisite fan vaulted ceiling gazing up at
the emblems of Tudor England, the rose (white rose of the house of Lancaster) and
the portcullis and listening to the choristers singing one feels oneself once again
part of a great unbroken chain of hymn and prayer stretching back into the Middle
Yet Cambridge was also home in my lifetime to the great DNA discoveries of
Watson and Crick and it remains in the forefront of scientific discovery today. Not
surprisingly then that the newest symbol of time there is both modern in its
mechanics and ancient in its appearance – the Chronophage – eater of time. The
Chronophage, set at street level in a corner wall of Corpus Christi College, the
home of Parker’s library, consists of a grim mechanical monster – part demonic
grasshopper, part locust – that rocks back and forth along a golden disc, toothed
like a lizard’s spine. Its movement triggers blue flashing lights that dart across the
clock face and, with each slackening of the monster’s jaws and release of its claws,
another second is devoured. This terrifying and beautiful clock accurately captures
the horror of time passing before our very eyes and reminds us to make good use
of it.
Montana is devoid of such extravagant symbols but this does not make us
unaware of time’s passage or of the inevitable changes to come. Not unlike
Matthew Parker, we are focused in our 16th year since our founding on the issue of
creating a durable institution which will eventually function without its founders.
We continue to put resources into creating a school which will last and at the same
time we treasure each new incoming student and outgoing graduate from Montana
Academy in their time with us. We celebrate their maturation at graduation and
hold them close in our well wishes for their future lives.
Warm regards,