Hour After Hour

Attention, my fellow passengers. Welcome back to Standard Time. Please make sure all clocks have been restored to the fallback position, and …

OK, I’ll wait for the grumbling to stop.

Twice a year we do this dance. Twice a year, half the country complains about it. And 10 years out of 10, nothing ever changes. Back and forth we run the time-shift tennis match, Standard Time to Daylight Time to Standard Time again.

We all know it’s crazy. But we don’t seem to know how to stop.

We’ve tried with logic, whether it’s “lighter mornings are better for your body” or “lighter evenings are better for the economy.”

We’ve tried with safety, noting the brief surge of traffic accidents when the clock changes in any direction.

We’ve tried jokes, memes and satire – though I should note that a satirical piece by Ben Franklin is partly what got us into this mess.

We’ve even tried legislation and ballot issues, pursued with much fanfare and little efficacy. The one time we did see a change – shifting to year-round Daylight Saving Time for two years in the Nixon administration – the popularity quickly soured amidst wintertime images of kids going to school in the dark. (The counter-experiment of nationwide year-round Standard Time has yet to be run – except of course, for all those years before 1918.)

So whether you’re singing “Here Comes the Sun” with the Beatles or “Thank the Lord for the Night Time,” with Neil Diamond, we seem destined to confusion and disappointment for at least part of the year. Kind of like being a Rockies fan, but without the hot dogs.

But there’s something else we can do.

Maybe we can’t figure out how to set our time. But we can consider how we spend it.

For a people who live by the clock, we’re really good at letting it get away from us. It’s easy to let minutes blur into hours into “Where did the week go?” Most of the time, it’s gone to the routine – some of it necessary, much of it just habit.

That’s part of why big events shock us. Aside from any inherent wonder or horror they may hold, they force us to break out of our reflexes and notice. (Or if you’re a Talking Heads fan, to ask “Well … how did I get here?”)

Remember when the pandemic started? Those first couple of months that never seemed to end? With most of our usual options for filling time gone, we had no choice but to notice every single minute and figure out what the heck we were going to do with it. Sure, some of those choices were a little strange, but hey … what wasn’t?

There’s still little bits of that rattling around in our “normal” today. A reminder that our moments hold more than we sometimes realize.

The thing is, it doesn’t require a pandemic. (Thank goodness.) But it does require some conscious effort. Stepping out of the flow always does. But if we take a moment to see beyond the schedule, we can put those moments where they belong: with the people we care about and the calls that need us. To live, not just exist.

If we do that, then we really can define our time.

No matter how shifty it may be.

Getting Tick-Tocked Off

Is this the year we finally lock the clock?

I know, I’m an optimist. (Hey, it comes with being a Colorado Rockies fan.)  Twice a year, we go through the whole “spring forward, fall back” ritual. Each time I keep hoping it’ll be the last. And every year, I keep getting disappointed.

I know I’ve got company. Oh, the argument about how to end Daylight Saving Time goes on and on, between the Standard Time folks who want to wake up to morning light and the Daylight Time ones who want to push back the night as far as possible. But if the debate goes on long enough, it always ends on the same point: “I don’t care where they set it as long as they quit moving the clock around!”

Well, it just might happen this time. There’s a bill …

Yeah, yeah, I hear the groans. There’ve been bills before. This one, however, wants to take the initiative – a ballot initiative, that is. State senators Ray Scott and Jeff Bridges and State Rep. Cathy Kipp have introduced a measure that, if adopted, would ask Coloradans to vote on whether to stay on Standard Time permanently. In other words, to “fall back” and stay back.

Why not permanent Daylight Time? Because federal law doesn’t allow it. A state can either do the biannual flip-flop or it can stay on Standard Time, but anything else requires an act of Congress. And if you’ve seen Congress’s ability to work together lately … yeah.

Still. Think about it.

No more confused pets wondering why feeding time has suddenly changed.

Fewer drowsy drivers in the early spring, boosting the accident totals.

No fumbling with the microwave and stove clocks, trying to remember (again) how to reset them.

We’d even get a slightly better utility bill out of it. Studies have shown that year-round standard time would lower heating and cooling costs, especially in the fall near the end of DST. (Lighting costs, which have become much lower in these days of LEDs, would barely tick upward in comparison.)

It makes sense. And therefore it’s probably doomed.

Still, one can hope. After all, if these last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that time is what we make of it.

Sometimes we barely notice it pass. (“How did she get to be a high school senior already?”) Sometimes it seems to drag forever. (“Welcome to March 57th, 2020.”) We measure time for our convenience, to keep some consistency as we move through the cycles of the world, but it’s our attention and our activities that define it.

So yes, we grumble in annoyance when a little of that consistency gets jerked away. But the bigger question isn’t where we set the clock … it’s how we fill the time. What are we doing to give that time meaning?

That doesn’t have to mean writing the Great American Novel or filling our days with constant activity. But there should be something that brings a little light into existence, and not just because of a time change. It might be reaching out to a neighbor. Or taking joy in something you love, whether it’s a book or a garden patch. It could mean creating, conversing, walking, or simply finding a quiet moment to just be.

The efficiency expert Frank Gilbreth was once asked why he wanted to save time  – what was it for? His response, recounted in Cheaper by the Dozen, was simple:

“For work, if you love that best … For education, for beauty, for art, for pleasure. … For mumblety-peg, if that’s where your heart lies.”

Whatever time we’re given, let’s use it well.

And if it can stop jumping around while we’re trying to use it, so much the better.

In the Still of the Light

Heather’s had a lot of brilliant ideas in our marriage. This one happened to be literal.

Which is why, after 22+ years of talking about it, we’ve finally put up window lights.

Sure, Christmas was two and a half months ago. So what? These happen to be springtime lights, in pastel-pink and green. After all, March and April still have their share of cold dark nights in Colorado, and a string of lights shines just as brightly against near-certain springtime snow as it does against a semi-mythical “White Christmas.”

Besides, it’s not like we don’t have company. Drive around Longmont for half an hour or so, and you’ll still find enough dazzling domiciles to make a pretty good light run. Maybe not the outright Walt Disney Apocalypse extravaganzas (“Mad Max 13: It’s A Small World After All”), but at this time of year, even the simplest display stands out.

But it’s not about showing off. Not really. Speaking for ourselves – and possibly for many others – these winter-ish lights are born of a very spring-like impulse.

Impatience.

It’s not the sort of thing that goes on a greeting card. But it’s true nonetheless.

Why else would we rob ourselves of an hour of sleep for eight months every year?

If you’re a longtime reader of this column, you know I’m not a daylight saving fan. Part of it is because I genuinely love the nighttime – early sunlight gets me going when I need to, but a delayed sunset steals something special. Part of it is because, like many people these days, I see the time-jumping as outright ridiculous and would just as soon “lock the clock.”

It’s been argued on grounds of ecology, economy, Founding Father wisdom and more, and none of it holds up. (Ben Franklin’s famous piece on it, for the record, was a satire.) It’s not even all that necessary – left to itself, light extends into the evening as spring and summer roll on, anyway, without disrupting the suppertime of confused pets.

But a lot of us get impatient. We want the light now. Even if it means wearing ourselves out a little to get it.

I think that’s a sentiment that a lot of us can empathize with now, as we complete our first pandemic year.

We’ve been walking in the dark for a lot longer than four months. We’ve had stress and strain on every side as we try to last just a little longer, to adapt and constrain our lives until we’re sure we’re in the clear.

It’s hard. Absolutely. And every so often, there’s a temptation to jump the gun and declare “We’re ready NOW.” We know better – we’ve seen the results – but it still happens.

But it’s also a time when we share light.

In a hundred different ways, a thousand, we’ve pushed back against the darkness. From the smallest acts of consideration to the greatest acts of generosity, so many of us have kindled a light for others to see.

To the choir teacher who finds ways to share a collective joy of music online rather than let voices go silent … we see you.

To the neighbor making a necessary trip for someone who can’t safely do it themselves … we see you.

To everyone who’s been holding a family together in a time of stress beyond belief … we see you.

To you and many more besides … you are the ones who inspire joy. Who light hope. Spirits like yours are what will help us reach the other side, and will make it a place worth reaching.

We’re all impatient for the light. Let’s find the best ways to share it, the ones that make a brighter world for all of us.

And if it’s lit in pastel colors – so much the better.  

It’s About Time

Time marches on. Except about now, when it decides to run an obstacle course instead.

This is when the Great Christmas Invasion continues the offensive it began about three weeks before Halloween, driving Pilgrims and turkeys into a distant corner to mutter and reflect.

This is when baseball peeks ever so briefly into November, long enough to confuse hardcore football fans, and add the sting of frozen skies to a world Series defeat. (Well, as frozen as it ever gets in Los Angeles, anyway.)

And of course, inevitably, this is the time of the Great Sleep Restoration. Of the Real Time Revolution. Of the End to All Clock Mockery.

Or, more simply, the end of Daylight Saving Time. Thank goodness.

I’ve never been a fan of the twice-a-year clock jumping. It saves no energy. It makes drivers a little more groggy and a little less safe. And it confuses dogs and cats across the country who have no idea what the silly clock says, they just know they’re hungry NOW. (Granted, our Big Blake is always hungry now. But go with me on this one.)

I used to offer my lifetime vote to any politician who succeeded in ending the madness … preferably (in my opinion) by falling back and staying back, so an hour of sleep wouldn’t fall permanently into the abyss. And slowly, the country seems to be getting the message. Over the last few years, bills to lock the clock have been seen in Utah, in Canada, even here in Colorado. The latest effort, out of New England, involves three states trying to coordinate a change, and maybe jumpstart a movement.

Granted, none of them have won yet, not counting longtime holdouts like Hawaii and Arizona. But Bill Murray didn’t get it right the first time in Groundhog Day either. Or the second time. Or the … all right, it took a while, OK?

In fact, if there is any value to Daylight Savings at all, it’s in reminding us that time is what we make of it.

As usual, Missy sets the example in our house. For most folks, the Christmas season starts after Thanksgiving (unless you run a superstore, of course). For our developmentally disabled ward, there is never a bad time to play Christmas music. Pop in a Pentatonix holiday album a week after Memorial Day? Why not?

For most folks, an evening activity at 6 p.m. means a certain amount of time on your hands until then. For Missy, it means keeping an eye on the door and the window in breathless excitement, even if it’s 2 in the afternoon, in case the world changes and it’s suddenly time to go.

And of course, the notion of the clock governing bedtime is approximate at best. We manage to hit roughly the same time each night, but the real deciding factors are things like: Is it dark? Have I listened to enough music? Have I had my story yet? Do I feel tired? Scared? Frustrated? Did I get my evening’s worth today?

It can be a little disorienting. But it’s also more than a little freeing, as you start to sort out what HAS to happen now and what can be displaced. Sure, the world goes around, the seasons go by, everything changes and ages. But how we greet it all, how we mark and measure it, how we fill the time and make it our own – that’s up to us. We can make it a mess or a joy. (And since Colorado can have four seasons in 24 hours, we may even get multiple opportunities.)

With that kind of freedom, why spend any of it in reprogramming car clocks and microwaves?

Think about it. Make your time what you want it to be.

And if you want it to be without a certain spring-forward-fall-back ritual – well, that’s clearly an idea whose time has come.