All summer long, I woke up to the morning’s sunlight and sat out on the front porch with a book and my cup of coffee. The lazy mornings seemed to stretch endlessly. I’d enjoy an extra chapter of a good book while my neighbors took leisurely walks with their dogs. Cars that drove by didn’t seem in a hurry to be anywhere. Long days with 15-plus hours of sunlight helped us relax and feel the luxury of summer. As the summer wore on, my lazy mornings were less bright and I could see and feel that the sunlight was starting later and fading earlier.
Though I work most of the summer, the start of school ensures that my days take on an all-together different pace. I like the quiet of a longer morning but to steal those moments for myself means that I awaken at 5:30 am. In September, that hour is still dark. I don’t have time for 3 cups of coffee and endless page-turning on the front porch but the mornings are still warm, so I take my first cup of coffee outside. It’s dark and I have to read a few pages by the light of the porch lamp. I’m not the only person whose day has begun.
Neighbors walk their dogs, but with purpose now. Cars drive by in a hurry to get wherever it is they are going. As the morning’s darkness fades and the sun rise ensures a growing sliver of light to brighten the day, I slip inside and move with a purpose myself: I turn on NPR and make breakfast, empty the dishwasher, feed the cats, read a few work e-mails, dry my hair, and get ready for work. My long day has begun.
There is a Pam Houston essay (“Breaking the Ice”) in which she refers to the autumnal equinox as a day that induces, “….nothing but a flat-out panic that we are about to enter the long slide into darkness that feels like an annual survival test.” I know that feeling; I sense that I am not alone on these dim September mornings when the world starts its hustle in the darkness. By the end of next week, we’ll be down to 12 hours of light a day. The minutes of sunlight will shrink in the months ahead. Eventually, we’ll leave for school in the darkness and come home in that same dark.
I remind myself that soon enough December 21 will arrive and though it will be winter, the shorter daylight will gradually begin to lengthen. The days and months on the calendar will slip by and March will arrive. As Houston writes of the spring equinox, “…March 21 is the only truly joyful day: twelve hours of daylight and nothing but clear sailing ahead.” I feel the same way. Year after year, come fall I remind myself that Mother Nature marks time as she pleases; we’re all along for the ride but on the matter of daylight we are not in charge.