Down with the clocks

Today is the best day of the year. Today we all decide at once to say: down with the clocks, give us the sun. 

The first day of Daylight Savings Time is one of my favorite days of the year. But maybe I’m just in a good mood. Because a warm sun puts me in a good mood. All I have to do is go outside, stick my face up, and frown into the light. Just go to a park and you’ll see it. That solar infection: joy. 

On Wednesday, I sat on a bench at a park until my butt got sore. I watched people walk from one end of the park to the other. People. I soaked in the energy of other human beings without speaking to them. And dogs. And cats on leashes. Three of them. 

One of the leashed-cats was a small orange creature. His owner let him ramble forward, stop and sniff, then keep rambling around. I watched this beautiful cat from afar. He was the perfect combination of curious and nervous. When people shouted nearby he would shrink back, then when the danger was gone, keep moving forward. 

The cat approached me. I tried to hide my excitement. But the cat’s owner saw me smiling, and we struck up a conversation. 

“Do you lead the cat, or let the cat lead you?” 

“I let him lead me. Is that right?” 

She asked me as if I were a leashed-cat expert. I didn’t tell her my own cat would sooner crawl underneath our sink than ever go on a walk in the real world.  

She told me how nice it was to see the world through her cat’s eyes. When he picks a path to prowl, it’s never straightforward. Whenever he stops to examine something, that means there’s something worth examining. Out here, the owner is completely at the will of her cat. The cat doesn’t know that cats aren’t supposed to be on leashes. The cat doesn’t care where sidewalks go. 

It’s nice that we can just decide for time to move forward so we get more sun. A “real day” has solar noon at noon. We get equal amounts of sun before and after solar noon. A “daylight savings” day makes solar noon happen at one o’clock instead. The sun shifts into the evening. 

This makes me wonder: why don’t we just have life start one hour earlier? 

The workday starts at nine o’clock and ends at five. More sun shines before our day starts than after it ends. 

We like our evening events. They start late and end late. But what about morning events, which would be in better symmetry with solar noon? Why does the thought of that make my lungs shrivel? 

Is there something about staying up past midnight that people like? To live until the next day? To get two days for the price of one?

I’ve been trying to wake up earlier so I can have more sun in my day. I’m trying to create a morning ritual. Alarm clock on the other side of the room. Read a poem or a short story from bed to avoid getting up. Wash my face. Gargle mouthwash. Put on coffee and go outside while it brews. Look at birds and stretch.

But it’s hard. Evening events — even Zoom events — don’t want me to go to bed early. And I tend to wake up in the middle of the night with a weird three AM energy. By the time this energy goes away, sometimes at five, my six o’clock alarm approaches and it scares me.

Before electricity, people used to sleep in two “shifts.” It’s called biphasic sleep. They would sleep for four hours, wake for two to three hours, then go back to sleep for four. They had no evening events in the dark. When it got dark, they went to bed. This historical fact makes me feel better about waking up in the middle of the night. I read and I feel like a woman in a Jane Austen novel. But it makes mornings hard! 

When you set your own schedule, you need to choose time. To decide what makes a morning and what makes an evening. To decide that three o’clock is going to be a good time for reading and that eight o’clock is a fine wake-up time. 

In the end, the best mornings are the ones when I feel well-rested and ready for the day. The time it begins doesn’t matter so much. 

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