A Sun Dial and a Swiss Watch: the Story of a Relationship

I am a sun-dial. I start and end with the sun, with light and shadow. Just as a sun-dial’s time differs from “clock” or “watch” time, so do I. Time is not important by the minute or hour, but by the event. As long as I get there, that is what really matters.  I’m all about the event and was conditioned from an early age to sit for hours on charpais (rope beds) waiting, listening, waiting, talking, waiting.  I was, and am, a sun dial.

I am married to a handsome, expensive Swiss watch. The Swiss watch is an administrator par excellence. He can remember details that are mind-boggling. He has the ability to march 25 students around Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank and run multi-million dollar programs. My Swiss watch creates order out of chaos and excels in this. No detail will be left undone.

As in any cross-cultural marriage, occasionally the sun-dial and the Swiss Watch collide, and other times they make each other crazy. When the collision occurs, it’s often about time and details. The sun didn’t come up on time, so the shadows cast their light and the sun-dial “just didn’t get it done, don’t worry about it”  Or the Swiss watch is running fast and needs to be reset back a few minutes.

But overall, this cross-cultural relationship works.

My Swiss watch allows me to be a sun-dial. It is that attention to time and detail that keeps our bank account balanced with no overdraft or overdraft fees. It is the Swiss watch that ensures FAFSA is filled out and our kids have i’s dotted and t’s crossed for financial aid from overpriced colleges. It is he that makes sure oil is changed, weird noises in the car are seen to, bills are paid on time, and that there are always enough snacks on Sunday night to keep kids lunch bags from being too empty during the week.

It’s the sun-dial that makes sure the candles are lit and flowers are in the cylinder vases in the window. It’s the sun-dial that stays up late when the kids are home making sure there are chocolate croissants rising overnight from Trader Joe’s, ensuring a delicious and leisurely breakfast. It’s the Swiss watch that makes sure we’re all at the movie on time.

It’s the sun dial who blogs at odd hours, it’s the Swiss watch who voraciously reads and says “You should blog about this!” encouraging the obsession all the while making sure said blogger is operating on Swiss watch time. A strange and wonderful partnership that ensures balance. The reality is, if I had married a sun dial, one of us would be redundant.

21 thoughts on “A Sun Dial and a Swiss Watch: the Story of a Relationship

    1. Thank you and thanks for reading! I do find our responses to time fascinating. It is an area that can cause so much conflict but it so culturally based.


  1. Marilyn…. I need John to read this – I tend to be a sun dial when it comes to getting places on time and getting things done “manjana is good enough”, but when it comes to details, I am the one with the memory for dates and details. Our differences drive John crazy sometimes, yet because he is a finely tuned very expensive swiss watch, we get places on time (yes, esp. airports and cathing planes and ferries) and things get done!! I agree both are necessary and can balance life in the fast lane. It makes life interesting when we work in different time zones most of the time too! The swiss watch rises with the sun whereas the sun dial continues to find light late at night! Great post.


    1. Sun dial’s unite! The one thing I forgot to add is that after taking hundreds of plane trips through the years both internationally and domestically, the only time we missed a flight was when the Sun Dial decided when they should leave for the airport. It almost ended in tragedy but thankfully we made it to Cairo, a day late.


  2. Marilyn – I love how insightful you are! This short rendition enables couples to understand their differences rather than wading through an entire book!! Thanks for continuing to give her ideas, Cliff. Keep it up, both of you…..and ‘thank you.


  3. What a lovely, loving commentary on your marriage relationship! As you well know, I tend to be the Swiss Watch, and your Dad the Sun Dial. But he always wanted to pay the bills, believing it part of his male responsibility. And I, well, living in Pakistan all those years conditioned me to slow down and be willing to just sit and talk and wait and…you know the rest. I think we in the west with our too time oriented culture could do well to slow down and just let people be who they are, and appreciate them that way.


    1. So the question is: Was the sun dial ever late with the bills??! And I remember that you were the one that taught me a lot about sitting, and waiting and asking “Ijazat hai?”


  4. Oh, Marilyn, how delightful this is. I was the Swiss watch in our marriage and John the sundial (but he did like to be early for things – that fits I guess as sundials take no notice of daylight savings time.)

    One good thing about being the swiss watch is that I was the one who saw the bills got paid so didn’t go through the agonies of many women who don’t know how to deal with finances. John’s wife who died was a maths teacher so she had it all sussed out too!!


    1. Wilma – this is great! And I will remember as a sun dial that I might best be taking lessons on the finance piece! Your John sounds lovely. I wish I had met him. You must miss him very much.


Add to the discussion...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s