I have no idea if it’s actually going to be the darkest evening of the year or not, but it’s going to be the longest even if only by a few seconds. I post about the winter solstice just about every year knowing full well that the coldest days of winter are still a few weeks ahead. Maybe it’s important to me because I’ve always been more a worshiper of the light rather than the heat. Getting back to a schedule that feels a little less mole-like is just incredibly appealing after weeks of rising in the darkness, working in a cave, and returning home again in darkness.
The solstice at least marks where that trend starts slowly to right itself. You can say what you want about Christmas and the reason for the season, but maybe there’s just enough pagan left in me that solstice feels like something that should be a celebration. Solstice is the hope of spring and growth and warm afternoons tending the yard. The irony of the fact that I’m currently also working on a future blog post about hope and why it’s bad isn’t lost on me in the least as I type these words. Despite what I’ll soon tell you about the problematic nature of hope, for the moment, hope is going to have to be enough.
The winter solstice arrives at 11:49 PM EST and with it the longest evening of the year. That means tomorrow there will be fractionally more daylight time than there was yesterday. There are still a few weeks where sunrise will keep getting later in the morning, but that will be offset by gains made in the afternoon.
This is actually the second post I wrote this evening. The first took on an altogether too bleak feel that was neither desired nor intended, but that nevertheless hung over it like a shroud. Take two, here, is an effort to redeem myself by striking a slightly less emo chord.
This time of year always reminds me of a long ago English class and Robert Frost’s melancholic snowy wood. Even now twenty years later Mr. Frost’s words and Mrs. Butler’s voice are stuck firmly in my head on nights like this.
Long, dark nights didn’t bother me much back then, but the older I get the more I find myself in favor of those languid summer nights when twilight seems to hold on for hours. They’re a long way off yet, but by morning we’ll have turned the corner – sometimes that’s enough.
While I’m sitting here at 9:30 with most of the items on my list knocked off for the day, I’m enjoying the “extra” hour today. Sure, now I know most people want to use that hour for rest, but lying in bed wide awake for an hour just isn’t my speed. That being the case, the solution was obvious – get up and start getting stuff done at 5:30 this morning. The baseboards are ready for the heating season, the air conditioner is ready to haul down to the basement, the living room and kitchen got cleaned – but not before there was a real ham and eggs breakfast, the leftover ham is now in salad form chilling in the fridge, and a leftover chicken bits from last night are simmering themselves into stock for eventual noodle soup. All days should be this productive.
Check back with me in about 7 hours when we’re approaching dusk and I’ll sing you another tune. That part of the “extra hour” makes me crazy – if for no other reason than needing headlights to get home from work for the next five months is so damned dispiriting. With the impending end of yard work and a lot more dark hours to fill, it’s a good time of year for writing. If there’s any real silver lining that’s got to be it. I guess it’s time to drag out the sweaters and wool socks and kick this whole hermit thing into high gear.
It occurs to me that when I wake up at the customary weekend time of 6:30 it’s going to be absolutely dark again at a time of day I’ve just started getting use to having light. Tomorrow, though, the sun will follow me up in short order. The big problem is coming on Monday, because 6AM looks awfully bleak when it’s pitch black outside.
There’s probably a fine balance that we could strike between springing forward and falling back. As I’ve covered before, I’d say just do away with the whole mess completely and let the time and daylight operate independently of one another rather than making a hash of yoking them together as we have for the last hundred odd years. Surely tinkering with the time could simply be solved by letting individuals adjust their own wake-up time to accommodate the mount of daylight they want earlier or later in their respective day.
Frankly the whole concept of daylight saving time feels like a concept that has outlived its usefulness. Now that we’re well into the 21st century and even farming can be done by GPS in the dead of night, why we can’t simply pick one or the other and stay there is simply beyond my meager abilities to understand.
1. Logos. People use their cars to broadcast things that are important to them to the rest of the traveling public – their favorite sports team, the fact that they’re memorializing a lost loved one by plastering their birth and death dates on the back window, or their affiliation with PETA, the NRA, or their great love of some random geographic location. What I never really expected to see was someone driving past with a two foot tall Under Armor logo affixed to his back window. I’m sure they make some very nice clothing, but for some reason it feels pretty much like me having a giant Fruit of the Loom logo emblazoned across the back of my truck. No matter how comfy they might be, it’s a safe bet that almost no one on the planet actually cares about your choices in underwear… but maybe I could interest you in a nice Dale Earnhardt “3” with angel wings if you’re really looking to class up your ride a little.
2. Printing. It’s apparently the hardest function known to network engineering. I don’t generally like having hard copies floating around, but there are just some moments when you can’t avoid needed a paper copy. Sure, that’s mostly because we’re woefully behind the curve when it comes to adopting ultra-portable computers and tablet technology, but that’s a different rant for a different night. All I really need is a printer that works reliably on the three days a month when I actually do need a dead tree copy of something. I can manage to keep a 99.99% up time on my home network with a history degree and a reasonable dose of common sense, surely the cast of hundreds who theoretically have advanced training and education in networking can come up with a way to make the bloody printers work.
3. Darkness at dawn. I’m ready for the cool, crisp evenings, but I’m not in any way prepared for the 6AM darkness that comes along with the end of summer. Over the last week I’ve regretfully noted the darkness encroaching a little further into the morning routine. At the end of July, the sun sparkled on the dew covered grass long before 6AM. Here at the end of August, there’s barely enough light to make out cars and houses on the other side of the road. In another few weeks it’ll be pitch black for the entire morning routine. A few weeks after that, it’ll be dark for the evening routine too. Maybe there’s something poetic about 10 hours of work and commute bookended by pitch blackness, but I trade in prose, not poetry, so the long, dark nights can bugger off because I’m nowhere near ready for them yet.
1. Power everything. As a rule I appreciate the power accessories that Toyota has jam packed into my Tundra. What I don’t like is that now that the days have turned brisk, my “automatic” power window has an annoying habit of going down about a third of the way and then stopping. Press the button again and It sluggishly goes down the rest of the way. It’s obviously some kind of issue with the electronics, but it means I spend most mornings hoping that it won’t get stuck halfway down when roll though the front gate at work on some 35 degree, rainy morning. I’m going to try nursing it though another 1000 miles until the truck goes in for its next oil change so I can kill both birds with one trip. Until then, I’m going to nostalgically wish that I could just make the necessary adjustments with an old fashioned hand crank rather than a rather suspect electric motor.
2. A cold dark place. Getting dark at 5PM sucks. It sucks worse when it’s accompanied by the temperature dropping like a stone. When I moved back to Maryland, part of me was happy at the idea of having an actual winter again. As the nights get longer and the ambient temperature gets colder, I’m beginning to rethink that particular part of my rationale. Since this is one of those gripes that there is absolutely no way to do anything about other than turn on every light in the house and throw another log on the fire, this has served no purpose other than making me feel slightly better by voicing my distinct displeasure at the current state of affairs.
3. Something to do. For the better part of the last week, I’ve had the overwhelming feeling that there was something I was supposed to do. I have no earthly idea what that might be, but it’s still a nagging thought in the back of my head. My Google calendar isn’t screaming that I missed anything important and I’m not getting any foreclosure or impending disconnection notices, so it can’t be anything too pressing. Knowing that it’s surely nothing important, though, doesn’t make it any less annoying.