Monday, January 19, 2015

Back to the River: Beside the Dam, Thomaston


Beside Seth Thomas Dam

Built, they say, for clocks to pass the time of day, though the day kept passing anyway, differently in every city and town. They say, if you stood on a hilltop you could hear time changing from steeple to steeple as the sun went down and the earth spun round.

Time was money and there was money to be made in time. Seth Thomas sold time pieces, others sold time; standardized it, regulated it, packaged it in pulses on wires following rails to every train station and jewelry store, with train-catching accuracy, and the Pullman’s smile. And the steeples chimed together, though after the roads were paved people stopped hearing them.

Of course time today is heaven-made, they call it Terrestrial Time and they calculate it from astronomical observations, computed with precision and corrected to be free of bumps, lumps or wobbles in the earth’s rotation. The duration of the second is set in cesium with nuclear accuracy; its measured decay transmitted to our technology in packets from satellites that spin with the moon and earth to keep us harmonious.