Friday, May 3, 2019

Chapter 4: Timepiece

Read-aloud version of this chapter.   

Playlist of the whole Fernie's World series.

Fernie made her way down the back path to the Northern part of the estate. The sun was a bit higher and brighter now, but it was yet early. She would have ample time to explore and collect and draw her finds.

She often thought she would have ample time, only to discover that it felt as if there was never enough time! She could lose herself for hours and then find herself late to tea, with an admonishment from Mama. Papa had given her one of his pocket watches, but she had not yet mastered the telling of time beyond being able to tell if it were noon. As much as William had tried to explain it to her, it was a difficult task to her. She was adept at learning all manner of difficult vocabulary, but the numbers of the clock seemed to swim in front of her. She was frustrated at this lack of comprehension on her part. Papa told her that it would make sense to her eventually. “For,” he remarked, “There was a time when you didn’t know about time or even that there was such a thing as a timepiece. Is that not so, Fernie Girl?”

Fernie had nodded. “Yes, Papa.”

“When you are ready, it shall come to you. Your m” and Papa paused and cleared his throat. “Your mind works differently, and that is how it is. I would have you be no other way than as you are, my dear girl.”

“Mama says,” Fernie began.

“Yes,” Papa had agreed. “I am familiar with your mother’s position on such topics as these. However, you possess a great many natural skills and talents and gifts that others mayn’t ever have. If you are late to telling time,” he said, striking a match for effect, “I advise you to enjoy it!” and he lit his pipe.

“Yes, Papa.”

“I rather suspect,” Papa continued, “That there are two kinds of time in some minds: Now and not now.” He looked down at his daughter.

Fernie had never thought about it before, but that was exactly how she felt!  When she was studying a fern intently, nothing else mattered. She forgot about hunger or thirst, or if she were hot or cold. She cared not for anything else. When she was drawing or painting, she was focused only on that.

“That is the main point,” he concluded. It is why,” he said, patting his pocket, “I am so diligent in the keeping of my own timepiece!”

Fernie laughed, as he knew she would. “Truly, Papa?”

Papa nodded. “Truly. And there are others like us, even if you are not yet acquainted with them.” He winked at her and gave her an affectionate pat on the shoulder.

Fernie paused as she reached the top of the first hill. She looked down to survey her path, and took a deep breath in. How fresh it smelled! She turned and continued into the shade of woods, to find one of her favourite fern places. It was on Queens Brook, but higher up. She found a place to sit; albeit a bit cold and damp. She examined some different ferns at their beginning stages of growth, and pulled out her field notebook and her pencil.

Ferns unfurling. Photo from

She spent the morning drawing different ferns and from different angles. She was careful not to collect any this early in spring, as she wanted to make sure they would grow and thrive. Papa had told her never to take all of any plant, and if there were only a few, to find more or only take one, if need be. He had told her that if she were going to study ferns, she needed to do it properly.

She pulled out her field flask and took a drink, reflecting on Papa’s teachings. “Proper” to Mama, and “Proper” to Papa had two different meanings, ‘though they were the same word!  

Papa was concerned with procedure and following directions in a correct order. “Proper” meant following the rules of Nature; seasons and weather patterns and the natural order and conditions in which all things grew.

“Proper” to Mama meant “What would the neighbours think?” 

Papa cared not for what the neighbours thought. They already thought him a bit peculiar, ‘though he didn’t seem to mind; for he had said, “Indeed, they mayn’t say it to me directly, but botany is not a science that interests everybody. However,” he had emphasized, “Those it does interest, are my truest friends.”

Fernie thought about friends, too. She counted Cook and Mrs. O’Brien as her friends, ‘though they were adults and worked. William was her friend, ‘though he was her brother. She did not have any friends who were girls or her own age, much to Mama’s dismay. She did her best to force Fernie into layers of petticoats to go visiting with her when she attended teas. But, as she overheard Mama and Papa discussing one evening, “It is as though she were in another world entirely!  Fanny’s World where she says nothing, but I surmise she must be thinking of something amusing and then laughs at her own jokes. It is unconscionable. There we were at Lady Constance’s and Fanny refused to so much as look at dear Florence!  Conversation was out of the question. And Florence was making such an effort to engage her! Why, she even asked her about ferns. But Fanny said nothing and then found something about which to be amused because she laughed so much she snorted, which was very vexing to Lady Constance, especially.”

Papa replied with, “Lady Constance was vexed, was she? Oh, dear.”

Mama continued. “Indeed! And all I could think to say was, ‘If my eyes were closed, I would think it was Frederick sitting here with us, for father and daughter have the same laugh.’ But still Lady Constance remained vexed. We left shortly thereafter. And still Fanny said nothing on the way home, in her own world, still!”

Papa had found this whole tale very amusing. “Yes,” he agreed. “She can be in her own world for a while longer. Why disrupt it? It is a wonderful world to be in.”

Mama had not replied, but Fernie understood her silence to be that of disagreement, while at the same time one of acquiescence that there would be no use in further discussion.

After that, Papa had taken to referencing “Fernie’s World,” with Fernie. 

Mama was not pleased.

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The "Now, not now" time distinction comes from A.D.D. and social media expert Peter Shankman, author of Faster Than Normal* and host of The Faster Than Normal podcastHere's a video:

Really great article about growing up "not normal," like Fernie.   

*Affiliate link

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