Wordsworth’s Spots of Time

In The Prelude Wordsworth describes the cultivation of his poetic mind using what he coined ‘spots of time’ as the reasons for his poetic inclinations.

Now, what confused me for the longest was what a spot of time was or wasn’t. One of Wordworth’s spots of time included rowing out into a lake late at night and seeing a mountain seemingly lean forward, like an optical illusion.

So what is a spot of time? It depends on the person. Each person has their own experiences and each person will remember things differently. A simple definition is, a memory that stands out as something special, but you can’t quite put your finger on why it’s special.

Many confuse this with the sublime: something so grandeur it’s inspiring. While traveling in Alaska each time I looked out of the window of my RV I was in awe of the vastness of the mountains; the beauty in each frame. This is sublime, but not a spot of time. This is where it gets confusing, because something that is sublime in and of itself isn’t a spot of time, but a spot of time can include the sublime.

It’s something you really have to wrap your head around a few times to begin to understand it.

A further definition is: a spot of time is a moment in your life when it’s as if you feel the order of the universe as God created it, a sense of peace and understanding. You can’t define why the moment is so important, or why it differs from other, it just is. Wordsworth emphasizes nature a lot, not because he believed God was nature, but because God ordered nature.

A spot of time can be as simple as genuinely noticing the sun’s warmth on your skin, because it’s not how special the moment seems on the outside, but what it causes in the mind.

A spot of time in my life that I remember the most includes the sublime. I was in Dawson City on top of a mountain overlooking the city that sat next to the bank of the Yukon river. A city with history deep into the gold rush era; a gold rush city that survived when many others did not. So here was the sublime. An awe-inspiring view of the top of the world, a mighty river, and Dawson City: a place that pinned itself in time.

But that wasn’t what made it a spot of time–I’ve seen beautiful places. This was made a spot of time because the nagging feeling within me that told me that there was something about this place, and I couldn’t say what. Instinctually, it felt like home in a way my real home never had. In that moment of looking out over the expanse I felt an overwhelming sadness that I’d probably never be in that moment again. It was as if a I had found where I was supposed to be my entire life and couldn’t do anything about it, but at the same time couldn’t understand what or why I was thinking that way.

It’s a moment you can only guess to define.

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