The Swiss Precision of a Rusty Nail

solar clock
Never needs winding or battery change!
There is solace in failing performing below par in subjects like chemistry and physics in high school. Though your understanding of the natural world is certainly impaired, there's compensation in other, more abstract, realms of being.

Like wonder and amazement at phenomena easily comprehended and explained away by one of your more scientifically inclined peers. You don't have a clue about the process—and tortures, I imagine—that light has to go through for a rainbow to appear in the sky, or a corroded slab of metal to mark the time of day with dogged precision.

solar clock, Kefalonia, Greece
The writing time is on the wall!

Introduction to "complicated but made-to-look-easy"science

I wasn't thinking of my scientific shortcomings when I raised and pointed the camera to the southern wall of this Greek island village church. This was not a place to reminisce or lament about academic woes;  the Greek sun is adamant about keeping negative thoughts at bay!

Since I had already seen and photographed the simply stunning interior, some external shots seemed almost obligatory—if only for future reference and proper archiving purposes.

Beautiful as this structure was, it seemed a bit too ordinary compared to some of the other little marvels of architectural art I had seen and captured earlier in the day—including some amazing portals, gates, coats-of-arms on buildings dating back to the Venetian Era, two small chapels dated as far back as the 10th and 11th centuries, another church of greater fame, some Roman tombs, and the now-deserted family home of a renowned archaeologist.

By now it was after 4 p.m. and despite this being November, the sun that mercilessly shines on the hill of Kontogenada village on Kefalonia Island was turning from friend to foe. That and the harsh shadows that were beginning to form on the wall distorted my vision and understanding of what I was seeing etched on there, passing it for just another coat-of-arms.

Aware of solar or sun clocks but never having seen one, I imagined them to be more elaborate and on the ground, much like a flat super dial. Moreover, I never thought that they actually work, at least not with any reliability.

Well, this one did! That headless rusted nail cast a shadow that told anyone in the vicinity that it was 4:20. More amazing than that, the shadow actually moved, perfectly synchronized to my wristwatch and time app on my cell phone!


Since then, out of curiosity, I've done some research on sun clocks and their development by those sun-loving, sun-worshiping, wise Ancient Egyptians.

Still, I can't figure out how an entire building can be erected with such precision in its orientation to the sun that the shadows of an old nail can keep Swiss time. It must be that Physics course never completed back in high school.

Yes, old sins have long shadows!