Wind the Clock

ClockSchool children and working folk alike often greet Monday with a groan. Monday tears us from bed and hours of leisure. If rain patters the leaves, we can’t curl up with a good book but must navigate slick roads to the office. If we turn on a computer, we need to scan reports or data rather than the latest kitten videos. We have become programmed to abhor Monday.

Let’s change that today, this Monday, with a lovely message of hope from E. B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web, where another often reviled entity — a spider — saves the day.

E. BIn 1973 White answered a letter from Mr. Nadeau, a stranger, perhaps a fan, who worried about a bleak future for humanity. White advised him to take heart and to wind the clock, invest his faith in another week, another day:

“Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.”

I love that implicit understanding with fate that we will still need to tell time tomorrow so we may as well wind the clock today. How often do we all wind the clock, mark dates on our calendars, or book tickets for a future trip?

Taped to the inside of my closet door is a plastic sandwich bag containing a little more than £15 in British bills and coins, a promise to myself that one day I will return to England to spend those few pounds on a ticket on the Tube, a scone with a cup of tea or a stack of postcards and stamps to tell all my friends at home that I returned to my favorite storied land.

So this Monday, embrace your day and wind the clock.

Thank you to the wonderful website Letters of Note for sharing this letter.


30 March 1973

Dear Mr. Nadeau:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.


(Signed, ‘E. B. White’)

5 thoughts on “Wind the Clock

  1. Jeanne Lambson says:

    What a great letter! Strangely enough, I like Mondays. They mean a fresh start for me. A whole week lying ahead to fill with productive activities. Of course, now that I am retired, I can decide what productive activities to do. But even when I was working, I enjoyed my orchestra teaching job enough that I loved going to work. (well, going to the high school. The middle school was another story entirely!)

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