Of darkness and light

After having tolerated the required ritual of setting the clocks back every fall for the past however-many decades, you’d think I would be prepared for the end of daylight savings time. As the dreaded Sunday approaches, I prepare myself mentally.

ME (in a semi-convincing, soothing tone): Don’t worry! You’ll get used to it. Plus, you get an extra hour of sleep!

OTHER ME (snarling): Yes, but only on this one night, and that’s just not worth the tradeoff. You know it’s true.

ME (grasping): Oh, come on, but it’ll be light in the morning, and you know that makes it easier to wake up, right?

OTHER ME (going in for the kill): Sure, for a couple of weeks, then it’s dark when I wake up, too.

On and on goes my inner monologue. I do savor the extra hour of sleep (who doesn’t?), but that first Sunday afternoon of Eastern Standard Time drags, and just as I’m noticing the sun is setting in a totally different location off my back porch than it does in the summer, it quickly drops below the horizon, flipping off the lights on its way down. I find myself looking repeatedly at the clock starting around 5:00pm, wondering if it’s too early to go to bed. I mean, what’s the difference? The day is basically over, right?

After an endless evening, bedtime finally – mercifully – comes. I tuck in at a reasonable hour, congratulating myself for surviving the first short day. As the sun rises the next morning, so do I, and each morning after that for a couple of weeks, at first appreciating the early sunlight, then cursing it for accenting the streaks and smears on the inside of my windshield. But soon enough, both ends of my waking day lack daylight.

The darkness begins ever earlier each evening, which means commuting home from work in what would feel like the dead of night were it not for my fellow commuters, all of us vaguely disoriented by this shift in our routine. And thus it’s been since November 6 – one month ago. I keep thinking I’ll get used to the new daily rhythm, but I noticed last night that I was watching the clock again, waiting for it to strike ten so I could go to bed without admitting defeat.

You wouldn’t think the adjustment of the clock by one hour would make such a difference, but it does. I try not to wish my days away, because each one really is a gift, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting down to the winter solstice. Just before my alarm rings on Wednesday, December 21, we will cross the point at which we gain a minute or two of precious daylight each day. I’ll put my head down and charge into the new year, only to suffer through January’s many insults. And don't get me started on February (that bitch). At some point, though, I’ll notice it: It isn’t totally dark when I leave the office. And hey – the sun is right in my eyes during my commute again! These are signs of new life, of renewed hope. Can Springtime be far behind?

Until then, I’ll stubbornly use incandescent bulbs inside my house of the highest wattage I’m able to purchase. Damn the Light Bulb Police! I don’t care that they hog energy; I’ll pay for the extra burn in exchange for their warm, glowing light. Also, it’s fireplace season, and we have wood to spare, begging to be burned. And burn it we shall, and we will savor the warmth and light that only a fireplace in December can put forth.

It’s *only* 9:30pm as I finish this post. I’d crawl into bed except that I still need to do the dinner dishes and retrieve some clothes from the dryer. Those activities will distract me until a proper bedtime, and tomorrow I will begin again the cruel countdown to the solstice, at which point we are offered hope, and the promise of longer, brighter days in our near future.

First snow dec 2009 013





The Winter That Wouldn’t End

YOU KNOW HOW Autumn is so nice? The evenings get cool, the leaves turn colors, and there's a distinctive scent in the air. You get excited to build that first fire in the fireplace. As it drags into November, it starts to get cold outside, and Thanksgiving comes and goes, and then you direct your attention towards the Christmas season. (I'm talking to my fellow Mid-Atlantic / Northeast residents, not you lucky folks in SoCal and Florida with your year-round pedicures and convertibles and whatnot.) By that time, all the leaves have fallen off the trees and you feel like you're viewing the landscape through a sepia-toned filter. And then it's three blurry weeks of evergreen boughs and red bows and twinkly lights and gift wrap and egg nog and carols and parties and cookies and gingerbread houses, and you start to think:

MAN, IT WOULD SURE BE NICE IF IT WOULD SNOW! Some snow would really put me in the Christmas spirit!

And maybe it *does* snow. Or maybe it doesn't. But by the time Christmas rolls around, it's winter here, and sometimes, we get snow. But never quite enough snow, for some! We all watch the weather forecasts and wish and hope, and children wear their pajamas inside out and flush ice cubes (when did this start?) in hopes of invoking enough snow to cancel school. And then maybe, if you're lucky, we DO get enough snow to cancel school! Children rejoice and parents fight over whose turn it is to stay home rearrange work schedules to telecommute.

That's fun the first couple of times, right? There's something about snow that's magical. It's entrancing as it falls to the ground, covering up the midwinter grayness with a fresh, blinding blanket. It makes most of us pause, and in the rearranging of weekday schedules, we are forced to slow down a bit and take it all in. We light yet another in the fireplace and spike our hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps snuggle up beneath fleece blankets. We often get snow around Presidents' Day, and then it's pretty safe to put away the snow shovels and start thinking about Spring.

Today is St. Patrick's Day. March 17.  Three days before the first day of Spring. It is also the 9th day school has been canceled since before Christmas. Outside it's all


and all



Usually by now, we have daffodils  blooming! They were trying their best last week to give winter the proverbial middle finger:


I really don't want to complain about the weather. That gets old. We do enjoy the four seasons around here. As much fun as summer is, I'm always ready for it to end.

But: I remember driving to PA in sleet and freezing rain the week before Thanksgiving, and I recall that same episode of wintery precipitation kept my sister's family from making the trip from New England to join us for Thanksgiving dinner. And that was damn near four months ago, and we've been dealing with unusual cold and more snow than normal ever since.

Dear Mother Nature: YOU WIN. I get it. I promise I will never wish for snow again.

(Until next December.)