Solar winter arrived Sunday as most of the country returned to standard time. While the pace of light loss is actually slowing down, when we move sunsets an hour, many feel as if the darkness is accelerating.
I’m going to take a different stance on the earlier sunset and the light in general. When we move back to standard time, we temporarily gain more light in the morning. The sun, which was rising well after 7 a.m., is now rising before 6:30. This is a brief reprieve but makes it a little easier to get the day going. In the afternoon, sunset is approaching 4:30 p.m., putting an early end to outdoor activity with natural light.
I see the reduced daylight as an opportunity. Since there’s nothing we can do about it, we might as well embrace it. The planet revolves around the sun at an angle and seasons are a natural part of living in this part of the world. If you don’t want the sunrise and sunset to change very much, you have to live close to the equator.
In the warmer months when we have around 15 hours of daylight, there’s pressure to be outside and take advantage of it. That time of the year, when the sun is up early and sets after 8 p.m., sitting inside reading a book, watching a movie, cooking, or just cuddling on the couch can feel like a waste of good daylight.
The next several months give us the opportunity to take our cues from nature and change the way we spend our time. Plants and animals slow down and rest. We can do the same. Yes, work is a part of most of our lives, but there is time for leisure, too. The winter months provide a chance to read that book you didn’t get to this summer, or tinker on some of the indoor projects you meant to do when the weather was warmer. We can just watch the lower-angle light dance across the walls and not feel guilty.
We can take care to notice nature’s subtle beauty. Cardinals, bluejays, juncos, and other birds provide interest and bursts of color as they forage for seeds and other autumn treats. There are still plenty of leaves on trees and shrubs. Colorful berries with shades of red, orange, and yellow adorn many of the ilex branches. The bark of stewartia, birch and maple trees are taking center stage, along with many varieties of dogwood shrubs.
On dry and sunny days, try to spend at least 30 minutes outside letting ultraviolet light do its thing. There are studies showing natural light can help mitigate seasonal affective disorder more than exposure to artificial light.
But if you’re not buying any of this and simply want more daylight, take solace that we are just over a month away from sunsets slowly getting later. This time of year will be gone before you know it, so take a moment to pause. Nature does.