Sunday Will Be Different

Scientists have sealed people away from the world for weeks and have found that they drift naturally into a 25-hour cycle of wakefulness and sleep. This is our circadian rhythm, the bodily analogue to the Earth’s astronomical time-keeping. That nature has given us an internal clock which runs an hour slow each day seems cruel at first glance — especially on the Vineyard as it anticipates spring, when we begin to gear up for the annual cycle of commerce, the shift to a frenzy of preparation when even 25-hour days seem too short for the work at hand.

Adding insult to this injury comes the decree that on this snowy weekend in early March we must set our clocks ahead an hour in the name of Daylight Saving Time. Just as we need it most, the federal government swipes another sixty minutes from our sleep.

The best argument for Daylight Savings Time harks back to the winter months when darkness fell before the working day was fairly through. Consider Emerson’s proposition that to the noxious effects of society, “Nature is the antidote. The man comes out of the wrangle of the shop and office, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again.” Now picture our Emersonian friend in those cold months of Eastern Standard Time, emerging from that wrangle into the gloom, with at best a glimpse of woods by moonlight for his antidotes. Enter Daylight Savings.

It comes earlier than it used to, before the redbuds and forsythia, before the green buds puff from the trees, indeed while we are shoveling fresh snow; yet the timing is good for an hour more of evening light each day, an opportunity to relish the last of the slow times, an hour to be abroad in this miracle.

A new hour of light waits quietly at the end of every day, but we must drink of its magic to be renewed. Our bodies will still feel the pull of their internal 25-hour clockwork, but this is a healthy tension, reminding us that each hour, like each life, is precious and all too brief.

Daylight Savings Time is only a sleight-of-hand after all, a neat palming of morning sunlight and its transfer to an hour when most of us can enjoy it better. Yet the change has power to surprise us each spring, and if we seize the extra evening hour of sun and go out walking in this brisk, bracing Island air, the benefits of Daylight Savings aren’t illusory at all.