The small clock that Robyn Davidson takes with her on her trek serves as a symbol of her devotion to—and eventual rejection of—the strict schedules and structures of mainstream society. During the first few phases of her trip, Davidson glances at her clock constantly, always trying to maintain a routine and stick to a schedule, even when doing so is unnecessary and stressful. She writes that the clock helps her manage her fear of “something like chaos,” even as she perceives that it keeps her from being fully present in the moment. Davidson continues to struggle against her own need for external order, gradually becoming more comfortable relying on her senses and instincts, as well as the moment-to-moment realities of the land around her. Finally, Davidson is overcome by the joyful urge to pause and roll naked in the dirt with her camels and dog, after which she abandons the clock on a tree stump and calls it an “infernal instrument.” At this point, she gives herself over to the new reality of the natural world and its deeper order, surrendering her previous commitment to exerting control over herself and her surroundings.
The Clock Quotes in Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback
I had a clock which I told myself was for navigation purposes only, but at which I stole furtive glances from time to time. It played tricks on me. In the heat of the afternoon, when I was tired, aching, and miserable, the clock would not move, hours elapsed between ticks and tocks. I recognized the need for absurd arbitrary structures at that stage. I did not know why, but I knew I was afraid of something like chaos. It was as if it were waiting for me to let down my guard and then it would pounce.
I was being torn by two different time concepts. I knew which one made sense, but the other one was fighting hard for survival. Structure, regimentation, orderedness. Which had absolutely nothing to do with anything. I kept thinking wryly to myself, “Christ, if this keeps up it will take us months to get there. So what? Is this a marathon or what? This is going to be the best part of your trip, having Eddie with you, so stretch it out, idiot, stretch it out. But but…what about routine?” and so on. The turmoil lasted all that day, but gradually faded as I relaxed into Eddie’s time. He was teaching me something about flow, about choosing the right moment for everything, about enjoying the present. I let him take over.