Daylight savings time starts on March 13th. Before that, we’ll have some enlightening experiences here in the Canadian Maritimes. Daylight will come by seven am. This is a Big Deal, considering that in winter, most of us go to work in the darkness. On the other end, before the clocks change, it will be light-ish outside until seven. And when the big shift happens, of course it will be light until eight pm. Unfortunately, the sun will also be rising at eight am (again). Living on the far western edge of the time zone means something different than living in, say, the middle of the time zone.
But messing around with the clocks is one of those time-honoured things that logically makes no sense whatsoever (you gain an hour? lose an hour? Not really…..twenty four equals twenty four) but we do it because everyone else does it. What makes a bigger difference for most folks is the actual change in daylight hours, which is a function of seasonal change and the tilt of the earth’s axis.
On a practical basis, early morning light means I don’t have to carry a flashlight along with the poop bag when I walk Max the Labrador in the morning. It means that when I head home from the gym in the early evening before supper I don’t have to turn on my headlights. It means that outside activities can continue later into the day. It also means that my internal clock, which appears to be set to “hibernate” from the short days in December, has re-awakened.
I love that re-awakening process. I like to watch it in the world and in myself. Today, gray and cloudy and peculiar as the light is for late February, I can look out the office window and see the buds on the silver maples. They are near to bursting: silver maple buds form in the fall and when the juices start flowing the tress flower very early. You do have to look pretty closely to see those flowers: these are not flaming hibiscus calling for attention. They are pretty subtle, feathery dark red things that open far earlier than most. I’ve been living side by side with silver maples for ten years now, and I love that they are a very early reminder that the light has changed and that spring is coming, just as inexorably as winter came a few months ago.
Another sign that I am waiting for is the song of chickadees. Chickadees are a very common bird here; so common we might miss what signals they bring. The characteristic “dee-dee-dee” call is heard all winter in our woods. But spring brings another sound; a two-pitched dropping tone….maybe like from the fourth to the second of a major scale? Yeah, my music theory is a little sketchy…but the sound is also characteristic of late winter/early spring in this part of the world. I have an ancient association with it from my own children’s childhood. There was a little segment on Sesame Street about tapping maple trees. The horses pulled a sledge through the woods, while the farmer gathered the sap, and the sounds were of the animals, the sledge and the “dee-dee” of spring chickadees. My Dearly Beloved, who knows about this stuff, tells me that chickadee call is all about finding a mate. It is most decidedly a spring thing, and becomes increasingly rare as the season wears on, birds are nesting and raising young, and that biological urge goes underground for another season.
I notice signs in myself. I am eagerly awaiting the first of March so I can start feeding my houseplants again. This is a rule I internalized from somewhere…stop fertilizing in October and start again in March. I have no idea if there is a good reason to give them a break in the winter but I am willing to do it, as it supports my need for seasonal rituals. The other thing I notice is my sudden interest in gardening again…what shall I try THIS year? Where shall I put the tomatoes, for example? What flowers worked best in the boxes last year? Those thoughts, like the silver maples, have been in something of a dormant state for a few months. I actually remember being relieved when I put the garden to bed in the fall…but a little time off from something can make it more attractive.
There is something, for me, at least, in seasonal awareness, and seasonal ritual. We put little fairy lights on a timer in a big houseplant in October when the days get short. When March 13th comes, it will be close to the time when we remove them, because the sun provides the light we seek. There is comfort in these seasonal rituals, small as they are, comfort in listening for the chickadees and watching the maples bloom. The world around us may be full of chaos, but earth turns, seasons change, and we go on.
Chickadee and Silver Maple blooms are Creative Commons licensed
Winter maples, Leslie Ann Costello