Sunday, November 4, 2007
Clocks "Falling Back" and the Search for Bright Light
Did you remember to spring forward, and now, this weekend, fall back? Even though we get an "extra" hour of sleep--or work, or weekend--I really dislike this end to daylight savings time. I love the sun, and its warmth, and its brightness--after all, I even named my blog "searching for bright light." Living in the Northwest, we have greater extremes of light than most of the US, and FAR greater extremes than I grew up with in Los Angeles. But even there, I recall being thrilled and delighted as the summer solstice approached, and the light lingered until 8:30 pm. Here, in the Seattle area, the summer solstice brings light until 10 pm, and the sun comes up by 5.
And of course, winter brings the reverse. We wake up in the darkness starting in early October. Even after daylight savings time leaves, with that "extra" hour in the morning, it's not light till 8 am. But of course our famous cloud cover often means it's never truly light at all. And then, by 4:45, it's dark again.
Lots of people buy "light boxes" to stave off "seasonal affective disorder," which is depression caused by lack of light. I bought one myself, though it's stayed in the closet many years because I just don't have time to sit there in front of it. The light box perches on my table and emits really strong, bright light in the sun spectrum. I purchased it from a place called "the Indoor Sun Shoppe," renowned for its uber-selection of mood-enhancing light boxes. (I call it the Indoor Sun Shop-ee because of that silly spelling).
When God made the world, He said "V'yhee ohr," Let there be light. Not, "let there be rotations of the earth around the sun, creating night and day," though that did happen later. No, the creation of light is something special, something symbolically spiritual. "I see the light!" means, "I understand!" We require light to see, for our eyes to work. The pop song goes, "I can see clearly now, the rain has gone...gone are the dark clouds that had me blind...It's gonna be a bright, bright sunshine-y day!" In other words, light=happy and good and insightful, while dark=ominous, sad, blind, stymied.
In Scandinavia, Lucia Day celebrates the return of lengthening days after the winter solstice, and once the days reach their peak, the Midsommer Festival revels in the brightness through the night. The universal association of winter with death, and spring with rebirth is a direct result of darkness and light, cold and warmth.
We love Chanuka, the festival of light, because it illuminates the darkness not only with candlelight but with the strength of Jews who fought the Hellenistic assimilation that threatened our connection with God.
So I really must fight the negativity that comes with turning back the clocks. I'll just doff my thermal underwear and several layers and put on my jammies early, cozy by the fire...ok, I'll sit right here by my computer, space heater inches away, drinking hot chocolate (with chocolate chips and almonds, of course) and focus on gratitude for every day I'm healthy, every moment my family's safe, every opportunity I have to express myself, accomplish important tasks and live in this great land. The good news is that even in the darkest time of year, neighbors are putting up colorful lights and singing songs and welcoming friends. We're all certainly too blessed to complain about such a small thing as having to reset our clocks.