Welcome back to standard time! I have one clock I always leave on standard time, even when we borrow an hour of daylight every spring. I especially refer to it in the week or so before we "fall back" every autumn. I need time to mentally adapt to reality, especially in the late afternoons in early November.
Novembers can be tough on us northern folks as we watch light diminish and chilly snows fall on our leafless forests. There are some who are happy, especially hunters and ski enthusiasts. But even they have a bit of an adjustment to the new time and weather conditions. And the government keeps us honest, requiring us to pay back that hour of light we borrowed two seasons ago.
What wildlife knows
Wildlife knows nothing about our clocks or our daily rituals inside our homes. Unless it has something to do with their welfare, they move about their lives, oblivious to our adjustment quandaries. The squirrels and birds I feed every morning welcome me at the same real time, squawking in the trees, darting along the branches anticipating breakfast at breakfast time, not specifically at 6 or 7 or 8 in the morning. They are gathering food for the winter. They are hunkering down.
Our children are like those animals, in some respects, too. A 2-year-old knows nothing about clocks and so opens her eyes when morning comes, ready to start her day. Her parents need to adjust immediately, adapting every fall to real time once again. Kids' days are shorter, all of a sudden. Suppertime is now mostly a dark time, and bedtime at a reasonable hour can be more readily accepted.
What our bodies know
Our bodies know the seasons, and in our genetic code somewhere is a memory of life without electric lights and late-night television and constant online communication. Animals are supposed to sleep more during our dark time, yet we do not. Therein lies one of our problems. We never take the down time we're programmed for to actually rest.
Instead, we ramp up. We plan events. We go to basketball and hockey games. We watch football and eat junk food. We keep the lights and televisions on, we are constantly online, or texting or talking on the phone and like the little cities our homes become, we're busy doing what we do long into the artificially lit night.
What the marketers know
Somewhere in this mixture of adapting and not adapting to the seasonal change, marketing for Christmas begins. It starts with a subtle overheard Christmas carol somewhere, maybe in a store, maybe on television. Then it happens again. And again. This year I noticed the Halloween candy and costumes being moved about in stores, with Christmas garlands, lights, candy canes and cards filling in behind them. This was taking place in October, two full months before Christmas. It feels like a bad dream sometimes. Who are they selling to? Obviously there must be marketing studies done to validate these actions, this loss of appreciation for about a month of fall, but how does this impact the human animal trying to adapt to the natural evolution of the seasons? We're singing "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas" when I'm mowing my lawn and it's still Daylight Savings Time? Sorry. I feel a huge disconnect here.
What I know
I say we find a way to honor this return to standard time first. Make a harvest meal and invite the neighbors to celebrate autumn. Turn off the television at night once or twice a week, and see how you feel, unbound by the noise and news and advertising. Wash the windows and let the autumn light sparkle in. Listen to music, read a book, go to bed early, as our species was intended to do. Every day, find a few minutes to spend outdoors in nature, breathing cool fresh air, listening for migrating geese flying and honking overhead. Remember we are animals on this planet, and this is our time for rest.
Novembers can be tough, as I said. Darkness outside our windows when we get home from work often gives us the need to summon up enough energy to make it to bedtime. But let's use some natural cues for unwinding. When you look out a night window, you usually see a reflection of yourself. Do some reflecting on your own to make the dark time a positive healthy experience. Be kind to yourself. Rest. Welcome back, standard time. It's good to be on track again.
Randy Lewis lives in Paul Smiths and is the author of "Actively Adirondack: Reflections of Mountain Life in the 21st Century," Adirondack Center for Writing's People's Choice Award for Best Book, 2007.