Time weighs heavy on our minds like the hat of clocks she carries on her head, bearing symbols
from pre-history to more contemporary timepieces. Each element provides a different
perspective on time and our place in the great scheme of things.
A brief chronology of chronographs:
At the peak stands the Horologion of Andronikos Kyrhestes. Also called the Tower of the
Winds, or simply Aerides (the Greek word for winds). Built sometime around 50 BC, this
octagonal marble tower was home to a sundial, a water clock and - originally -a wind vane in
the shape of Neptune's trident, which was lost somewhere in time. The tower still stand in
Athens, in the old Roman Agora, a testament to the skill of its reputed builder, Andronicus of
Below the tower is a dedication to Clesibius (285-222 BC), first head of the Museum of
Alexandria and inventor of the clepsydra ("water thief"), a water clock which for 1,800 years
was the most accurate timepiece in the world.
The elephant clock to the right celebrates the ingenuity of the human mind. The brainchild of
al-Jazari, the Muslim polymath (1136-1206) whose mechanical and artistic genius covered the
gamut from camshafts and automata, to clocks, water pumps and miniature painting. Here his
famous elephant contains a weight-powered water clock whose elements are hidden in the
howdah - the housing on the top - which were designed to move and chime at each half hour.
Below the elephant, the Astronomical Clock in Strasbourg, Alsace, France provides a link
between a medieval past and a progressive future. This is the third clock to stand in that place.
The first was from the 14th century, the second from the 16th. The one shown here dates from
1843 and features a perpetual calendar and a planetary dial, showing the exact position of the
sun and moon, useful in predicting eclipses. A six-tune carillon and moving statues grace this
mechanical marvel, while large, painted panels celebrate the three Fates, Urania (the muse of
astrology) Nicholas Copernicus, and various sacred themes. Here, the inscription on the
bottom panel bears the name of Jean-Baptiste Schwilgué, the man who built this clock.
According to legend, the constructor of the astronomical clock was blinded by local authorities
so he could never again build anything so magnificent. In tribute to him, the girl who wears
the hat has no eyes.
The doors at the base of the hat are those of the oldest clock factory in Germany. Most
cuckoo clocks come from the Black Forest, whose symbol is the white stag which grazes next
to the doors.
Finally, at the top and to the extreme left, a strange creature perches on a balcony. This is
Aurornis Xui, currently the world's oldest known bird. A prehistoric link between the lines of
dinosaurs and avians from nearly 160 million years ago. It is a stark reminder of how long life
has existed on Earth and, in contrast to the clocks, a comparison that makes humanity's few
thousand years suddenly seem a drop in a vast, unknown ocean.
Jim Croce sang about saving time in a bottle. The jars at the bottom hold symbols of personal
and universal time.
My first friend loved angelfish, so the first jar is dedicated to her.
Next stands the jar with two flowers reaching out for one another, symbols of eternal love.
Diamonds are said to be forever and the precious stones within the next jar remind us of the
beauty of life. Yet, the worm is also a reminder that nothing truly lasts forever. Memento
The candy in the next jar is in honor of my grandmother. Taste and smell go hand in hand as
the strongest links to our past. Sometimes the slightest aroma, the faintest trace can evoke a
flood of memories that carry me back to those precious moments we once shared.
The jar with the rhino represents a link to the myths of the past. The first unicorn is thought to
actually be a rhino. This one is surrounded by books of myth, poetry, religion, and
metaphysics, universal elements which tie us all together.
The legends and beliefs of the past are balanced by the next two jars. The one with the eye
represents science, the firm foundation of all natural law, while the empty jar stands for the
future, waiting to be filled with the actions and choices we make today.
The final jar holds a seahorse, symbol of both perspective and awareness. It teaches us to take
a look around, gain awareness of the passage of time using not only our physical senses, but
our spiritual ones as well.
To the right of the jars, nestled in the grass, the patient snail reminds us that time flies and we
need to slow down, take in the sights, and enjoy every moment of our life while we can.