/Into the darkness

Into the darkness

By Jim Poling Sr.
From Shaman’s Rock

The clock ‘falls back’ one hour Sunday Nov. 7 when Daylight Saving Time (DST) is suspended for the winter months.

I’m not unhappy about that, but some people are. They hate the idea of changing their clocks every spring and every fall.

There is some evidence that the time changes that come with DST create some individual health concerns. Several clinical studies have reported increased risk of heart attacks and strokes with DST time shifts.

It is believed that time changes can upset circadian rhythms, which are physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These rhythms are natural processes that respond to light and dark and affect most organisms, including plants and animals.

Just one hour of time shift can make it harder to wake up in the morning and fall asleep at night on a set schedule. This can lead to loss of sleep and a decline in alertness, which have been linked to auto accidents and workplace injuries.

Ontario has voted to eliminate the semi-annual time changes but has not done so, saying that neighbouring Quebec and New York must do likewise to avoid confusion and complications.

Nine of 10 provinces and two of the three territories observe daylight time, which has been around in Canada for 113 years. It was first introduced in Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay and my hometown) after businessman John Hewitson campaigned for it, saying people wanted to enjoy an extra hour of summer sun.

The idea of DST was attractive back then because candles and gas lamps were still used for lightning in many places. That extra hour of daylight gave workers more daylight for working and saved employers some money on lighting.

Those aren’t important factors nowadays but still one-quarter of the world observes daylight time. Some areas have gone to permanent daylight time, following it 12 months of the year and avoiding biannual time changes.

I like the idea of daylight time in the spring, when we get more daylight at the end of the day. However, I’m not so keen at this time of year when DST brings darkness about 5 p.m.

The darkness of November and December can be depressing, but it also can be uplifting.

The fall time change gives me a warm feeling of change. With the dark days comes the satisfaction of accomplishment. The docks are pulled for winter, the boat is serviced and stored, leaves are raked, summer furniture put away and the house and its surroundings are buttoned down for the first snowfalls.

Switching from summer to winter footing is hard work, but when done right it pays you back with that good feeling. And, when everything is put away and you are prepared for winter there is more time to do things that you were too busy to get to during summer.

There are books you wanted to read, movies you hoped to watch and calls to friends you had put off because summer is such a busy time.

The really uplifting part of autumn DST change and its early darkness is the down time it provides for reflection. Time to think about what’s been happening over the past year, and what might lie ahead.

There is so much happening in the world – and our individual lives – that it is good to have more time for reflection. Life moves quickly nowadays and having less time for thinking can lead to bad decisions.

This time of year also brings the excitement of knowing that after this period of shorter days another change is not far away. Come Dec. 21 – only 44 days after the start of autumn DST, Mother Nature starts the sun moving north again, creating increasingly longer days.

Longer and brighter days will bring more time for winter sports and other activities. As the sun gets warmer and stays up longer, we know that March and the time to ‘spring forward’ are not far off. 

Daylight time has been a controversial subject for an entire century. It has both benefits and disadvantages, but I have no interest in trying to figure out whether it’s a good or bad thing.

All I know is that we borrow an hour one night in spring and pay it back in the fall.