Chronos + Kairos


A quest begins before the quest itself.

Over the course of last week, I was tucked into the Eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, USA on a Wilderness Quest, with the support of Ann Linnea, Christina Baldwin and Deborah Greene-Jacobi. My intention was to rewire the reptilian in me, to awaken my whole being to what scarcity looks and feels like, so I could more fully see and appreciate – and embody – the abundance in life.

My drive to the Cascade Mountains was full of scarcity, and so began my learning journey.

Here’s what I did.

I wake Thursday morning to have breakfast with my husband and kids as they head off to work and school, then jump in my car to begin the 15 hour drive (the route: Edmonton, Crowsnest Pass, Fernie, Eastpoint border crossing, Spokane, Cascade Mountains).  At this end of the drive, I can move quickly and efficiently.  I can drive faster than 100km/hour, which means that I when I factor in the odd stop I can still travel on average 100km/hour. This was the case for the first 5 hours of my trip, on open highway.

As soon as I entered the Rocky Mountains at Crowsnest Pass, the highway goes through a series of towns and I am forced to drive slower. Once through the towns, I am forced to travel the speed of the slowest driver. When there is an opportunity to pass, I take it. I have a long drive ahead of me and I have to make best use of time. Moreover, I am keeping track of how much time I am ahead of my 100km/hour schedule. I am also noticing how I am losing time.  I hit a construction zone and have to sit for a while. I open my windows and enjoy the smell of the ponderosa forest, but truly, I am anxious about how long I will have to sit. I am losing time.

The hardest part was exactly where I knew it would be – in Idaho, north of Coeur d’Alene where there are traffic lights on the highway every mile. Then where the highway is in the middle of an urban area and the traffic crawls. I find myself appreciating all the transportation officials I have worked with in Alberta and Manitoba who limit the number of roads that have access to highways, allowing the free-flow movement of vehicles. I think to myself, if you are going to build a highway, let it be a highway.

It takes me 11.25 hours to cover 945km and reach Spokane, my stop for the night. Much less than my 100km/hour average that is my goal, or the 10.75 hours it should have taken according to Google. But I have arrived, found my hotel and the gym. I find some supper and go to the gym. I have a schedule to adhere to here too – I am training for a 200km bike ride in 2 months and I have been unable to train due to illness. I am at last well enough to get some time in on a bike. I find myself back on the treadmill for another 32 km.

Then back on the treadmill in the morning, for another 20 km, then a 4 hour drive to meet up with my fellow questers and guides.

And after all the rushing, and watching the clock, I find myself in beautiful Skalitude, nestled in green, lush mountains, longing to go for a walk and explore, but I don’t have the energy.  And during our free time the next day, I set up my tent for a nap in the warm sun; the perfect antidote to rushing in chronos time.


Chronos = time. The passage of time. The measurement of time. Related words: chronology, chronometer, chronic, anachronism, chronicle.  Quantitative.  A specific amount of time. An day. An hour. A minute.  (Link to Wikipedia.)

Kairos = the right, or opportune moment in time. The supreme moment.  Qualitative. A moment. A season.  Crises that bring opportunity. The crucial time.  (Link to Wikipedia.)


And in my exploration of chronos and kairos in Wikipedia, I come across Madeleine L’Engle, author of a book I read at about 12 years old that still resonates with me: A Wrinkle In Time. (A 1962 Newbery Medal winner that was rejected by publishers 30 times.) Her works are divided into chronos and kairos frameworks. The chronos stories take place in primarily realistic settings; the kairos books in realistic and magical settings. They are not separate worlds, for the characters travel in between…


As I drive home, I find myself receiving the gift of time, of many, many moments, to simply be with myself.  The time the drive will take is the time the drive will take. And there is so much to notice along the way. Notice the conversations I have with myself. Notice when I feel like singing. Notice the birds that are shepherding me northwards, to home: the hawks, the raven on the Crowsnest Pass sign, the crows on fence posts, the pelicans on the lake where I had a picnic, the eagles all over the prairies. Notice all the little things that remind me of the people I explored the wilderness with for a week.

I camp by the Moyie River between the border and Cranbrook on my way home.  A swollen slumber. I get up in the morning, and after so much stillness, it is hard to move fast.

I settle in to travel in both chronos and kairos time, enjoying the abundance of moments.

The quest continues after the quest.



4 thoughts on “Chronos + Kairos”

  1. Thanks Beth for offering two doors of Time through which to glimpse your Quest. Funny how Chronos feels so linear and demanding and Kairos so expansive and inviting. Makes me think about the different realities and meanings we give to both experiences of Time. I am going to notice how much Kairos can expand my enjoyment of today. Welcome home – in a timeless way?

  2. Thanks, Marilyn and Kathryn 🙂 It was liberating to hear about another way of looking at time. Once that resonated throughout my quest experience. And beyond!

  3. Since both appear to be a Greek words, apparently the Greeks identified the difference between what we might call “objective time” and “subjective time,” though clocks are a really recent invention by humanity.
    Some say time is our most precious resource, so to me it is really meaningful that your exploration of abundance and scarcity would start with time itself. Such a difference for you, thanks for so well-describing the difference in the two trips’ time-sense.

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