Clocking In

Twice in a year.

Once with winter staring us in the face and once on the edge of spring.

An event that shakes things up and marks a changing time.

Yes, of course I’m talking about the Denver Nuggets going 2-0 against the league-leading Boston Celtics. What did you think I meant?

OK, to be fair, I have written about the clock changes associated with going to and from Daylight Saving Time until I’m blue in the fingertips. I’ve argued for “locking the clock” on health grounds, safety grounds, common sense grounds, and probably even the number of coffee grounds that could be saved each year by just letting people keep their sleep patterns intact. We’ve seen the movement have its moment … and then come and go with our bi-annual temporal insanity left intact.

At this point, I’m throwing up my hands. Basketball makes more sense than the twice-a-year time change ever will.

Even when it’s something as wild and wacky as this.

We used to be pretty sure what would happen when the Nuggets and Celtics shared a court. Sure enough to bet money, anyway. Go back through the previous 10 years and Boston has a 14-8 record. And three of those Denver wins were grabbed in a row about five years ago, so there’s been a lot of barren country before and after that.

Until now.

Two and oh.

Not without effort. Not without a bit of luck here and there. (Is any win in sports ever claimed without at least a little luck?) But enough to create a consistent Wearin’ Out O’ The Green … and maybe some much-needed reassurance as the playoffs loom ever closer.

Last season, in retrospect, was practically a coronation. We dominated the West from December on and still managed to surprise everyone in the playoffs, especially the army of sportscasters who were convinced that any brilliance from the Rocky Mountain way had to be a fluke. The only moment we didn’t get was a championship series against Boston when the Miami Heat – who really did pull off something of a fluke – snuck into the Eastern Conference championship instead.

This year has been harder. We know it. The West has been a tussle with the Timberwolves and the Thunder for the top seed with a bevy of others close at our heels waiting for the first mistake. There have been injuries and should-haves and moments of doubt.

But the same tools that took us to the title are still there. Tight teamwork. A strong bench. A jaw-dropping star in the Joker, whose many talents include making everyone around him better, and a teammate in Jamal Murray whose rapport with him is darned-near telepathic.

And just like last year, they’re a heck of an example for those of us in the larger world. The one where we don’t get millions for our aim with a basketball.

We succeed when *we* succeed – working together, interlocking our strengths, compensating for our weaknesses. That’s true whether we’re talking about a team … or a company … or a community … or a nation.

It’s never all about the leader. It can’t be. Sure, having a Jokić  or a Jordan on the team makes a huge difference – but if the rest of the team isn’t there, it’s just a lost opportunity.

Hard work. A common aim. Being ready to take advantage of the breaks that come your way. And most of all, a mutual earned trust.

It’s not easy. But it’s how you build something that lasts.

Best wishes to the Nuggets. And to all of us.

May we all do the most with our moment in time – wherever we finally set it.

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.

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.

A Hitch in Time

Phil Connors, the fictional weatherman, once lived Feb. 2 over and over. No matter what he said or did, he’d wake up in the morning to find it was Groundhog Day all over again.

What an amateur.

If Phil popped by Casa Rochat these days, he’d find more time loops than an episode of “Dr. Who.” Lately, it seems like everyone has their personal piece of calendar turf that just refuses to go away.

For the dogs, of course, it’s the daylight savings business. Like most canines, Duchess the Wonder Dog and Big Blake aren’t too sure about this whole “Spring Forward, Fall Back” business – especially when it messes with their feeding time. So while I’m rejoicing at the return of a stolen hour of sleep, they’re filling 30 minutes of it with big eyes and urgent tails, wordlessly asking “Don’t we get Food Time yet?”

For Missy, our developmentally disabled relative, it’s Halloween that’s getting recycled. Which is a novelty, really. She’s often gotten locked onto Christmas, ready to play carols on the car stereo at top volume until the back-to-school sales hit. But Halloween used to be a holiday she preferred to avoid – at least, until she made an inordinately successful re-entry into the Trick-or-Treat field this year with the world’s coolest Harry Potter costume. Now, she parades her chocolate-covered winnings for all to see, wanting to know why we can’t grab the glasses and wand and go out for another candy run.

And then there’s the larger world. The one that sometimes seems stuck on Nov.4.

I don’t just mean the phone callers, though that has been a little exasperating. Life in a swing state as it approaches Election Day tends to be filled with polls and surveys, to the point where it seems more worthwhile to unplug the phone, ask friends to text or email, and spend the evening watching an ad-free DVD. But once The Day has gone by, the phone usually becomes safe again – or so I thought until it rang at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

“I represent an independent market research firm …” Click.

But it’s more than that, really. If you take a look around the press or Facebook, it’s obvious that for many, the election still isn’t over. The fight goes on, My Side and Thy Side, regardless of where the ballots fell or who now occupies the big desk with the box of American flag pins.

I’m not always sure how I feel about that.

On the one hand, I can’t argue with the passion. There once was a time when Americans seemed locked in political apathy. Not anymore. Social media especially seems to enable the launch of a dozen crusades a day, all of them armed with zeal, determination and catchy quotes of dubious origin. Politics needs people who care, and we have no shortage of that these days.

But so often, it feels like an ideological version of the Indy 500. Lots of energy, dedicated to covering the same ground over and over again, without making any real progress.

Please don’t misunderstand. I do care. I’ve got my own candidates and causes that I consider vital, my own list of names that I consider to be utter disasters. I’ve got my own hopes and worries based on the way the ballots came down.

But come down they did. And now we have to find a way forward from there.

Together.

I suspect that the biggest issue for most voters this year was not the economy or terrorism, but simple fatigue. Most of us, I think, are tired of seeing a government whose members dig in their heels and go to war with each other at any excuse or none.

There are a lot of reasons, some of which need serious attention. But the simplest thing that most of us can do is set the example we want to see. We need to still care, to still strive – but without hating our neighbors who have cares of their own. Don’t surrender to evil – but don’t be quick to interpret disagreement as evil, either.

It is not easy. It requires judgment, kindness, endurance and understanding. But if we can do it at a ground level, maybe we can drag Washington along with us – or at least make its bickering irrelevant while we all work together to do what needs doing.

We don’t need to agree. But we do need to live with each other, work with each other, learn from each other. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

And maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll find an extra Trick-or-Treat bag along the way.