Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Dark Times


I've moved around a bit in this life - mostly in those not-married-or-attached-to-anything-and-trying-to-outrun-my-brain years.  But this morning I was thinking about it and here it goes:

Latitude-wise, I grew up at 50o16', moved to 49o13’, lived at 30o17’ for two years and now am at 52o58’ – by far the furthest north that I’ve spent a significant amount of time.  I’ve travelled both further south and further north, but unless you spend a year in one place, you really don’t get a feel for the change of seasons.

It was a shocker moving from Vancouver, BC to Austin, TX.  There were lots of shocking things about it.  Fire Ants were one!  And of course, temperature was another big one!  But one of the more disturbing was the constancy of the daylight hours.  Okay, they change a bit, but the longest day is from 6am by 9pm in the summer and the shortest from 7am to 6pm.  Frankly, that was weird!

Around here, the longest day is 4am until 11pm (and it actually stays light a little later than that), but the shortest day, which is a mere 9 days from now, is from 8am ‘til 5pm.  And that’s first light ‘til complete darkness.  If you discount dusk and dawn, our day is more like 8:45 until 4:15.  So in the summer, our day is a full 4 hours longer than Austin’s, and in the winter, we are two hours shorter. 

(This morning I woke up at 8 and didn't know it because it was still dark!)

This isn’t that big a deal.  In the winter, we’re not out in the evening much anyhow.  It’s a bit frustrating getting up for work in the dark and coming home in the dark, but it’s the rhythm of the seasons.  It is part of the routine, time lapping up on the shores of our daylight hours.  We’re at low tide right now … and that’s how it should be here.

The most frustrating thing for me, personally, is the angle of the sunlight.  It gets right in your eyes.  Comes through the kitchen window at a blinding trajectory.  When you’re driving or walking facing south you have to squint … tight!  It’s annoying.  Like having a sliver that you’re not quite aware of.  It’s there, but you don’t know it’s bugging you until you realize you have a headache from the squinting.  Sunglasses are maybe even more important in the winter than in the summer.

Thing is this … you don’t get the bad without the good.  In the summer I can be out in the garden at 9pm with no issues.  The plants grow far faster because of the extended daylight hours.    It’s light when you wake up – no matter what time you wake up.  And that is cool. 

I like living somewhere  far enough north that the changes in the seasons can be perceived not only by the changes in the weather, but by the changes in the sun.  It’s a palpable way to move through the year.  A proof that even though it’s snowing in April, the summer is still coming because the days are longer. 

Living in a place where it was always pitch dark by 9.  Well, for a Canadian girl, it was strange.  Mind you, Christmas shopping in shorts is a “strange” that I think back on longingly at times.

1 comment:

  1. Architects have called Alberta's winter light 'punishing'

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