Wow, our readers can write! We received 34 entries from all around the world, ranging in style from poems to dream journals to short stories and much more. Every single piece was from the heart, and in that regard they were all winners.
Voting took place between Oris and Beyond The Dial’s staff, and we simply tallied up the votes and here are the results:
First Place: “Three Journeys Across The Ocean” by Nik Vanley
Second Place: “Journey Back In Time” by Steven Brown
Third Place: “Oris Adventure Essay” by Jose David Zapien
Our first place winner will receive one of the Limited Edition Oris Carysfort Reef Limited Edition Aquis Divers, and our runners up will receive an Oris x Momataro denim tote bag.
With no further ado, here are the wonderful essays!
“Three Journeys Across The Ocean” by Nik Varley
It’s 9:23 A.M. in the main offices of the Florida Reef Revival Foundation, and I am seriously so fucked. My fingers are racing across my dirty MacBook keyboard as I hopelessly try to finish the final ten pages of a NOAA grant proposal that I confidently assured my boss I would have ready before our meeting at 9:30. Across from me, my coworker Caroline has just slouched into the office and sprawled her coffee, notebooks and data sheets across our shared desk. Ignoring my expression of panic, she strikes up a conversation.
“Oh my gosh, are you wearing the watch?”
It’s true – I’ve put on our office’s display copy of the Carysfort Reef Limited Edition watch that ORIS has produced to commemorate the success of coral reef restoration in Florida. Taking the watch out of its glass case at the front desk will probably get me in more trouble than I’m already in, but wearing it makes me feel successful. The kind of people who buy these watches can probably write ten pages of high-quality grant jargon in seven minutes with time to spare, and right now I need all the help I can get.
“Yeah uh-huh,” I respond, not taking my eyes off my screen. “Hey, what’s a good synonym for ‘data-driven reef restoration methodology’?”
Caroline, heedless of both my question and my rapid, shallow breathing, keeps her eyes on the watch.
“That has got to be the most ironic watch that anybody’s ever made”
“Huh?” I reply, not looking up. I’m wondering if my boss will go easier on me in our meeting if I start crying.
“Yeah, it’s super ironic,” she muses, leaning back in her chair. “A watch made for coral reefs? Don’t they know corals reefs are 500 million years old? They don’t care about like, minutes and seconds and stuff.”
“Oh yeah, right”. The watch now reads 9:24 A.M.
“Like, imagine if you actually made a watch that worked on a coral reef’s time scale. The whole history of human civilization would only be like, on the minute hand. That’s the ironic part.”
“I don’t think it’s meant to be used by a coral” I reply, half-listening. “It’s like inspiring people to try and help.”
Caroline snorts. “The only way that watch is going to help a coral reef is if it can make time go backwards.”
She’s right – the past five decades have been a catastrophe for the Florida Reef Tract, and every day the situation gets worse. Only three percent of the coral that once lived here remains, and what’s left is still battered by constant diseases and stressors. That’s what my grant application is all about. If we don’t get more funding to meet our outplant goals by the end of the summer, we might not have enough time to make up the difference for the year before the winter storms come through. Every second counts.
“But you know,” Caroline continues slowly, her data sheets untouched, “It’s kind of even deeper than all of that. Because coral reefs are already big clocks in and of themselves. With spawning, they keep track of time for an entire year just so they can all release their eggs and sperm on the same night. They’re the largest, most complicated clocks in the world”.
In spite of myself, I look up from my page. “Hold on, but that’s not really fair. That’s like saying that the Earth is a clock because it goes around the sun once a year. It’s predictable, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the same kind of thing as this watch.”
Caroline shakes her head. “A coral colony’s internal body organs work all year long to keep track of time until a specific night, when they decide it’s the right moment to squirt out a bunch of eggs and sperm. How’s that any different from your alarm clock counting down until 8:00 A.M. to buzz”?
“It’s more like 8:45, actually.” Mentally, I kick myself for not waking up at 6:00 to squeeze in a few extra hours of writing, like I’d vowed to when I went to bed last night.
“I rest my case,” Caroline laughs. “Reefs are big clocks. They were probably the first clocks that ever existed on this planet.”
Is this how Earth’s earliest reefs first conquered the sea? In my head, I picture thousands of ancient corals biding their time, waiting for the perfect moment to release their progeny into the ocean currents. No wonder it took them 500 million years to get to Florida.
The watch has advanced to 9:26.
“But,” Caroline continues, leaning across the table conspiratorially. “Humans basically did the same thing, too. With clocks.”
“We waited a year to all release our eggs and sperm on the same night?”
“No!” Caroline thumps my arm, leading to a gross misspelling of ‘differentiated coral outplanting procedures’.
“What I mean is that they used clocks to cross the ocean. In the 18th century, people were trying to use latitude and longitude to navigate the Atlantic, but you can’t tell how fast you’re going or how far you’ve gone without a really accurate clock. So King George III offered a huge prize to build the first marine chronometer, and eventually somebody did.”
“Wait, but haven’t we had timepieces since forever? Like old grandfather clocks with pendulums and stuff?”
“They weren’t good enough!” says Caroline, exasperated. “That’s why sailors never knew where they were going! In 1707, the British Navy lost 1,500 men when they sailed their armada directly into the island of Sicily. It just goes to show that a swinging pendulum won’t do you much good on a rocking boat.”
“Wow, that’s awful.”
There’s a moment of silence, and the clattering of my typing fills the room. The page count reads 6 of 10. I’m trying hard not to think about the scorched trail of typos, repeated words and botched semicolons that my fingers are leaving behind.
“They both used the stars, too. Or the heavens, I guess I should say.”
Caroline looks up from her notebook. “What?”
“Humans and corals,” I reply. The paragraph I’m writing is a single, ten line run-on sentence. “Corals use the phases of the moon as a trigger to synchronize their spawning, kind of the same way old sailors used the sun and the stars to navigate their ships. They were both relying on what they could see in space to get across the ocean, and to tell time.
“Mhm. Very cosmic.” Says Caroline approvingly. “Time is probably tying itself in knots up there.”
My heart sinks as the minute hand on the Carysfort Reef Limited Edition locks into 9:28. If I’m lucky, maybe a cosmic time knot will fall down from space and give me another few hours before my boss walks through our office door.
“And obviously, another point is that this luxury watch is totally a symptom of the Western commodity fetishism that’s killing coral reefs around the world –“
But I’m tuning Caroline out again, staring down the final stretch of a page that could have been written by a bowling ball rolling across my keyboard. As the watch’s second hand advances punishingly across the dial, my mind drifts back to the 18th century explorers, striking out across the ocean armed with their chronometers. There must have been some inky summer night when a ship sailed directly over top of a coral reef, and, as the sailors looked up at the stars to place their vessel in the vastness of the ocean, the reef beneath became alive with floating sperm and egg bundles as the corals, waiting all year for the moon’s signal, took their own step forward on a voyage around the world. It must have been the closest their two journeys had ever come.
Oh god, 9:29.
“But now that I think about it, maybe all this is actually pretty unironic,” says Caroline. “Because the coral reefs could all die within the next few decades. That’s a timespan that your fancy watch could make a dent in. I guess corals could use it after all”
“Not unless we do our jobs” I grimace, my fingers still dancing painfully across the keys.
Caroline’s face falls, seeming to notice my plight for the first time. “Reef restoration is such a terrible time crisis. Imagining the fate of a million year old reef being decided in a forty hour work week is just cruel. I wonder if we’ll ever stop feeling like we’re racing against the clock.”
“It’s true,” I mumble, willing myself to somehow keep pushing out words. “The 18th century is over – humans and corals are all on the same timescale now. We’re gonna make this journey together, whether we like it or not. Maybe that’s what this watch really represents.”
“That’s what keeps me showing up to work here every day,” Caroline nods, returning to her notebooks. “Oh, which reminds me: Eric’s not coming in today, he’s out sick. He wants to push your grant meeting to tomorrow.”
“Journey Back In Time” by Steven Brown
My mother has been gone for almost a year. She passed away last August after a long, difficult fight with a terrible disease. My dad died nine years before her and with their passing I lost more than my parents, I also lost a connection to my past. As I began the process of sorting through my parents’ personal items, I was overwhelmed with the history I encountered. Inside envelopes and tucked into manila folders was the history of my family. Photos, marriage certificates, letters and documents of all sorts not only from my parents, but from their parents and their parents’ parents.
With my mom and dad gone, I can no longer ask them to recount stories or recall the history of our relatives from long ago. As I poured over those papers, some over 150 years old, I found myself wanting to know more about family. As I sat on a plush couch, in an air conditioned room, with an ice cold drink by my side I wondered what life was like for the past generations, all of whom had a life far more difficult than mine.
My journey would take me to the United Kingdom, specifically Northern Ireland where my mom was born and raised, and Scotland, the land from which my father’s family immigrated. I would travel light. Comfortable hiking boots, camera, a backpack with copies of the letters and documents to guide me to those places of my family’s past and my Oris watch to keep me on schedule as I travel by rail, ferry and foot.
I want to wander the streets of East Belfast where my mother played as a child. I can only imagine her pouring out onto the cobblestone streets from the modest row homes to meet up with the kids in the neighborhood. It wasn’t until a few years ago that my mother related the story that one of her playmates from down the street was a boy named George Best; a boy destined to become a legend beyond his club, Manchester United, and to this day is considered to be one of the best football players the world has ever seen.
I would continue down to the shipyards of Harland and Wolf, famous for building the Titanic, but more important to me, it’s where generations of my mom’s family worked. It was hard, dirty work building ships and during World War II, the shipyard incurred the wrath of the Luftwaffe who bombed it for two months. I’m often humbled by the thought of how easy my life is compared to those who came before me. I think I would end my journey in Belfast with a pint at a local pub and a glass raised in tribute to those who laid the path for the life I have now.
From Belfast, I would take a ferry over to Scotland. The family on my dad’s side last lived in Scotland in 1908, before immigrating to the US and joining family that sailed over in years prior. What information I have doesn’t provide a complete picture, but enough to at least investigate the life of my Scottish ancestors. Marriage certificates indicate town names like Carlisle and Coatbridge, places I’ve looked at online, but never visited. My distant relatives worked in quarries and in mills, places I am sure are long gone, covered by highways, shopping centers and other developments. But, perhaps in what little free time they had, my great grandparents or great aunts and uncles sat on hills overlooking the towns as the sun set. Maybe they took walks in parks on Sundays or finished the week at a local pub to enjoy some fish and chips. I would visit those places, in hopes, that I could catch a glimpse of what they experienced a hundred years before me.
As much as I want to visit my ancestral homelands, I wouldn’t need to spend too much time in Northern Ireland and Scotland. A week or two would suffice. As proud as I am of my past, and as much as I want to be more connected with it, I also think it’s important to stay connected to the present. I have a wife I adore and three boys who are quickly becoming young men. Time needs to be spent with them and memories can be made today. As my parents passing has reminded me, our time here on earth is short. One day, I’ll just be a distant memory. But perhaps, someday in the future, a yet to be born relative will be staring at a picture of me, perhaps cradling my Oris watch that was passed down from generation to generation, saying, “Who was this man?”.
“Oris Adventure Essay” by Jose David Zapien
- Oris Carysfort Reef Limited Edition
- Leica M9 camera with a f2 35mm Summicron
- 2016 Triumph Bonneville Black Motorcycle equipped with green vintage French military saddle bags
- Backpack (essential items)
- Two casual outfits
- One dress outfit
- Swimming trunks
Destination: Cardenas, San Luis Potosi, Mexico
My name is Jose David Lopez; or at least it was until I took matters into my own hands. Born in a small town in Wisconsin and now at 41 years old, my life has been a beautiful collection of wonderful blessings and tragic losses. All is well, blissful even considering we’re in the middle of a pandemic and civil unrest. My wife and I just added twin girls to our duo of boys for a total of four kids under age four (pass me a drink please!) All kidding aside, I have my health and the ability to provide; these are simple but vital life requirements.
I’d like you to come with me, on a journey back to 1978. Francisco, my father, is determined to relocate his four children and pregnant wife from a small town in Mexico here, to the United States of America. You’ve heard the story a million times. Only his goal is not to create a better life for himself but rather to lay the groundwork so his children can have the opportunities he never did and so he, can relish in a bit of freedom.
November 24, 1978 during a standard issue Midwest blizzard Maria welcomes her fifth and final child, Jose David…Me. Growing up in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin was not glamorous by any stretch yet it was idyllic, thanks to the vibe and life my mother managed to create.
My mom was a teacher back in Mexico but arriving in the States, speaking just a few words of English. She worked as a seamstress for Oshkosh B’Gosh earning only enough to provide the necessities; roof, food, clothes. Despite working for a children’s clothing company where I imagine discounts to be plentiful, my mother was frugal which meant I’d run with the neighbors, drowning in my brother’s hand-me-downs. My dad spent much of his time on the road taking odd jobs and really, making his best effort to do anything he could to keep him from actually having to be a dad. This meant it was just us kids and our mother, who somehow had a gift of keeping it all together. Now, as an adult and father myself, the magnitude of her commitment to us has fully registered. She was the picture of selflessness; every moment of her life dedicated to making us happy. Because of her, life was good, and I grew up thinking it would always be that way. Until one day it wasn’t. Until the day time stood still; time ran out. There was no more time with her, my mother suffered an aneurism and in the summer of 94’, just like that, the life I knew was over. I was robbed.
By this time, my three sisters had moved out and started lives of their own. With my dad somewhere in Mexico, my brother stepped in as my legal guardian. I was 15. I did my best to not be bother. I went to school every day and I clung tightly to the friends I had since the 1st grade. The friends I still have to this day, although this pandemic has really cramped our style I must say.
We lived in the house that my Brother and Mom has purchased together. It was me and my brother’s soon to be wife. My brother was and is a hard worker. He taught me what it meant to work relentlessly for the things you want, that handouts were a fantasy. Frank put my pieces back together showing me artfully, the path to boy becoming man.
I get into a private college graduating with a Bachelors degree in Business & Art in 2002.
2003 – My dad gets sick and my sister figures out a way to transport him from Mexico to a hospital in Milwaukee, WI. I quit my first job out of college so I can move nearby to be with him. He passes away a few months later.
I loved my dad for bringing us here to the US, there is zero doubt that my life has been better due to his decision. However, there is no denying the fact that I was a mama’s boy and still would be if she was here today which is why I so desperately looked for a way to honor her. Ultimately, I landed on legally changing my last name to her maiden name, Zapien. I’ve since been married and have four children that have the privilege of so to, being called Zapien.
And here ends the emotional rabbit hole that I have gone down. We have arrived at the present day where the circle of life continues. My beautiful life. Gorgeous wife, children and health that allows me to work and travel to amazing places driven by an obsession with time, and how fleeting it and life can be. I am compelled to collect watches, for years. I collect moments, memories and stories. In my world, watch selection carries weight. Before each adventure begins, I mull over which watch will ‘experience’ the journey with me.
Romantically, watches help me relive moments, recollect places… recapture time and I believe it’s this same romanticism that compels me to always “wear” a camera. This infatuation with time, a result of experiencing tremendous unexpected loss at a young age has seasoned my soul. Recognizing fully, that we all have loss and lows to move beyond, my preference is to live within, as a friend to.
This tale I share isn’t crafted to win the watch on offer, rather it is to weave another memory into my quest to capture time. And thus, my ‘adventure’ would begin. Oris Carysfort watch in tow, I would arrive to the small airport in San Luis Potosi. I would gear up and hop on my Bonnie that has been patiently waiting for me not to embark on an adrenaline soaked adventure but to reconnect with my roots. I would see my Aunt Elisa, my mom’s closest living sister. Her health has been on the decline for the last few years so to be with her would be nothing short of amazing.
From photos I’ve seen she looks like my mom or at least what I think my mom would have aged to look like, I frequently imagine moments with people that knew my mother, specifically her family hanging on every word and recounted tale of how she came to be who she would be in my life. Longing to know her, my mother before me. Her favorite food, music, interest any and all details which were offered up I would welcome. See the thing is, when my parents brought us here, we came alone. While it brought much opportunity, it required great sacrifice. The absence of ‘familia’ – no bustling Mexican household. No aunts, uncles, cousins so my ‘adventure’ so to speak, would be a desire to allow every sight, sounds and memory to reinforce my make-up.
As the stories would swirl, I’d plan to slip off my timepiece travel companion, and present it to my Aunt…not for good, but for a moment, to anoint its form with ‘familia’. There’s something very transcendent of the idea of touching a physical object that a loved one once held, that makes time travel possible.
The visit is epic yet the gravitational pull of my beautiful life back home beckons. I depart, but not without a detour to send me into reminiscent overdrive. San Luis Potosi is home to what is known los puentes de dios, or the bridges of God. It’s here, a place surrounded by extraordinary waterfalls that I would introduce this watch to the blue foreign waters. Cerveza in hand, Oris on my wrist breathing life in knowing I am as close to my mom in that moment than I ever will be again, wearing a time piece…making peace with time.
After all, real Adventure is living a life worth reliving.