July 7, 2022

Fighting About the Light

Rehoboth Ramblings


“Every year the same surprise, the same lift in your heart as the days lengthen, and you look at the clock and back out at the garden and the sky, and it is as if you spirit comes out of a cave it did not realize it was in, because Look! The Light!”

To this spring-time observation by Irish author Niall Williams I can only add “Yes! Exactly!” Mr. Williams’ new book, written with his American-born wife Christine Breen, is called “In Kiltumper: A Year in an Irish Garden”. I also highly recommend his most recent novel “This Is Happiness,” a beautifully written book about growing up in rural Ireland that is heartfelt without being sentimental.

Speaking of light, what a fuss people are making about the idea of making Daylight Savings Time permanent! Though compared to feeling tied up in knots about recent Russian atrocities in Ukraine, just arguing about something as mundane as DST is a relief. It’s something that’s merely contentious, not deeply disturbing.

It always surprises me that so many people don’t seem to realize how wide   our time zones are in the U.S. In our Eastern zone, the arrival of sunrise and sunset can vary by well over an hour depending on how far east or west you live within your time zone. In other words, and I speak from experience, the sunlight arrives about 45 minutes earlier here than in central Ohio, so winter mornings are darker there and evenings lighter, compared to southern New England. And of course, Maine gets daybreak even earlier than we do.

In December, the shortest day gives us only about 9 hours of light and 15 hours of dark, approximately. In June we reverse those hours for 15+ wonderful hours of light on the longest day. The inescapable fact remains that Decembers   are too dark. There is nothing we can do about this except be glad we’re not in Alaska in the winter. There is a reason that Christmas and other festivities that celebrate light take place in December in the Northern hemisphere.

 By the way, if we did not observe Daylight Savings Time, in mid-June it would start to get light around 3:30 a.m. here, with the sun rising at 4 a.m. and setting at the early hour of 7:30 p.m. This would not be an improvement. So I say either go to full-time DST, as currently proposed, or leave things as they are now with the twice-yearly time changes. But as for permanent Eastern Standard Time, just say no. My view is that North America needs one more time zone. How’s that for a controversial proposition? Imagine the squabbles that would cause.

Speaking of Ireland, on our first visit there in June a few years ago, we discovered that the window shades in our Dublin hotel appeared to be made of rice paper. After waking up to the sun at 4 a.m., we managed to hang a bedspread up to use as a sun-blocking curtain. On the other hand, it was amazing to be walking by the sea in Galway when it was still twilight at 10:30 p.m.

The first days of spring around here were a pleasant surprise, with not just crocus popping up but even daffodils already blooming in a few spots. The late March chorus of the spring peepers was already loud and clear, such a cheerful sound. All along the East Bay bike path, pussy willows were on display while song birds were trilling happily. This of course was followed by the obligatory cold snap but such is spring in New England.

Big bird update: The herons seem to be flourishing in their treetop nesting colony in the wetlands between Home Depot and the Runnins River on Rt. 6 in Seekonk. Since the wetlands are behind a sturdy chain link, herons are safe in their nests and seem totally unbothered by humans staring at them from a distance (binoculars are useful).

Unlike the customers at the store, the herons don’t need to shop and can find their own home repair tools. They can be seen flying to and fro with sticks in their beaks to use for nest repairs, though it does look like a laborious process. Soon this year’s chicks will appear, clamoring for food, and it will be harder to spot the birds with new leaves appearing on the trees. Welcome birds and welcome spring!


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