A Little Something from Edie Clark
November 1, 2015Today, we’re on the other side of daylight saving time, and our days will be short for the next few months. As we turn our clocks back – officially at 2:00 A.M. November 1, we’re reminded of this column about changing clocks.
Daylight Nuisance Time
“Spring Forward, Fall Behind,” my mother used to say, and it was an easy way to remember this business of Daylight Saving Time. On the first Saturday night in April, we advance the clock, making mornings come earlier and evenings longer. Or is it darker? I get confused about the purpose of moving our clocks forward and backward. Is it to give us a longer day? If so, I can’t figure out how it can do that. A day is as long as it is going to be. No moving of the clocks can make a difference in the length of our days.
I know of a farmer in this state of New Hampshire who does not observe this ritual. The cows know milking time, he says, in spite of what the clock may say. He calls this Daylight Nuisance Time and lives half the year out of sync with the rest of the country. The novelist Carolyn Chute doesn’t set her clocks back or forward either but keeps them on Standard Time year-round, which raises problems when she has to travel. I have contemplated doing that. It appeals to me. I like to think of time and the arrival of the seasons as something celestial, a cosmic occurrence understood only by the likes of Albert Einstein and The Old Farmer’s Almanac, rather than something voted on by Congress.
Daylight Saving Time was first suggested by Ben Franklin in 1784, and over time we have waffled back and forth in our appreciation for the idea. The war years and the years 1967, 1972, 1975, and 1987 all show up as banner years for its evolution. In those years Congress and various presidents have gotten into the act, signing bills and changing it around, all the while justifying its existence. One theory is that it saves energy. Another is that it gives farmers more daylight hours in their fields (which, by the way, the farmers refute). The British go along with it, too, though they call it Summer Time, a nicer way of putting it. Still, the fact that all this rearranging of the calendar comes from politicians rather than astronomers (or farmers) makes me somewhat nervous.
But then, time is what we make of it. I like to get up at first light, no matter what the clock says, and often those first hours are spent in the garden. It is cooler than in the hot part of the summer, and it is time I feel is my own, rather than that of my employer. I don’t think of it as an hour, but rather as daybreak or dawn or sunrise, the finest part of any day. It is also the quietest, when few cars are out on the road and I am urged on by the enthusiasm of the birds all around me.
And so if we want to work an extra hour in the garden, we can. We don’t have to change the clocks to do so. Time and calendar are our own inventions, just a method to keep track of things. The sun rises and the sun sets according to that great astronomical wheel about which we can do nothing. Isn’t it just like the politicians to want to get in there and change the hands of time? And when they have made their decree, no one is really sure where the benefit lies.
In spite of my objections, I have grown to like this semiannual occasion. I look forward to it, in fact, not for what it does to my daylight hours, for I hardly notice that. But, more than New Year’s Eve, I like it for the demarcation, the new beginning it offers. It’s a head start on a new season, a chance to start fresh and get a little bit ahead of myself in the garden. Who cares if it’s a politician’s invention? To spring forward is a good idea.