Going to the Dark Side

This morning I’m enjoying the extra hour of sleep, but tonight I’ll be hating the early onset of darkness. I’m an unequivocal SAD (seasonal affective disorder) person. I chalk it up to being born a Leo. Give me sun, give me light.

This year’s switch in time comes after a crazy week that brought us eleven inches of snow, a nor’easter, power loss and a scary night that had nothing to do with Halloween. The scariness came  when trees tumbled and crashed all over our house, including one that  exploded with the weight of snow and came through our bedroom window at 2:30 a.m. I woke from sleep to the gunshot sound of a tree cracking, followed by the brittle cacophony of breaking glass. Miraculously, we survived without cuts. I cleaned up glass shards from our bed and then took to the couch in the living room, away from the direct path of windows.

No one wants to go without power — no light, heat or water. The temperature ran around freezing outside which brought the inside down to the fifties. Loss of power meant that we had no hot water; we had no water at all because a pump drives our well. Still, as our house settled into blackness pierced by candles, a sweet hush took over our lives.

First, I noticed that there were no digitally driven numbers glaring in red or blue. Did you ever count how many times a day the insistent glare of clocks affronts you? In our kitchen, there are clocks on the coffeemaker, stove and microwave. In our family room, weather monitor, TIVO and clock. Bedroom, we each have a digital clock on our matching nightstands plus there is a CD player.

Despite the cold, I found a peacefulness in the natural flow of night, sans light. Sleep came more easily and held me deeply. There’s plenty of research about the value of sleeping in true dark. I had only half believed it until this week. I had grown up in the country streetlights didn’t exist. It was pre-digital days so night fell dark and full. But then I adjusted to city life in New Haven where streetlights shined all night and porch lights were left on. Safety lights would trip to brightness when a cat or possum or raccoon ambled through the back yard.

This week, the power returned after three days. Digital clocks now scold again from every corner. And to add to the confusion of light to dark, we’re shifting with daylight savings time. Designed to give more daylight in the summer and regulate time back when the railroads were running the country, it was the brainchild of G.V. Hudson. Most of us have been “springing ahead” and “falling back” since 1895. It’s not mandatory–Arizona and Hawaii never adopted DST. They might be on to something.

I’m wondering what it would be like if we let our days flow naturally. What if we didn’t change the time in spring and fall? What if we turned off digital clocks? Even more radical, what if we went to bed in quiet darkness and enjoyed a true rest?

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