Wind your spring


A spring is what a mechanical watch uses to store energy. There is a lot of interesting engineering involved but at the end of it, the winding of the spring is what builds up the energy that is then used to run the watch. I was reminded of this by a small passage in Norwegian Wood (which I finished last week) when the main character talks about how they wind their own spring.

“Just as you take care of the birds and the fields every morning, every morning I wind my own spring. I give it some 36 good twists by the time I’ve got up, brushed my teeth, shaved, eaten breakfast, changed my clothes, left the dorm, and arrived at the university. I tell myself, “OK, let’s make this day another good one.””

There are plenty of memorable passages like this in the book and I enjoyed most of it, in particular the middle third where the main character visits the retreat in the mountains. A week after finishing it, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the main character chose to organize his days simply and methodically, against all the chaos life throws at them, and despite that they struggle with how little they can control.

“Today’s Sunday, though, a day I don’t wind my spring. I’ve done my laundry, and now I’m in my room, writing to you. Once I’ve finished this letter and put a stamp on it and dropped it into the postbox, there’s nothing for me to do until the sun goes down. I don’t study on Sundays, either. I do a good enough job on weekdays studying in the library between lectures, so I don’t have anything left to do on Sundays. Sunday afternoons are quiet, peaceful and, for me, lonely.”

I’ve read that a lot of people think that the main character in the book is modeled after the author, Haruki Murakami. Seems likely. Here is a bit about Murakami’s routine in Daily Rituals by Mason Currey:

“When he is writing a novel, Murakami wakes at 4:00 A.M. and works for five to six hours straight. In the afternoons he runs or swims (or does both), runs errands, reads, and listens to music; bedtime is 9:00. “I keep to this routine every day without variation,” he told The Paris Review in 2004. “The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.””

The details of how the characters in Norwegian Wood go about their days is a memorable takeaway from the novel. Just like the description of Murakami’s routine, it brings them to life. You can tell this detail is important to the author.

When, and how, do you wind your own spring?

Comments welcome!

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