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Jon Mark Beilue column - Posted February 24, 2017 9:19 a.m.
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Artwork by Andy Chase Cundiff

Let us see the light – and see it longer

The second Sunday in March is right up there with the most meaningful days of the year. No, it’s not Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving. It’s not the Fourth of July, either. But after that, it may be the most anticipated day of the year.

I give you the return of sunlight. Daylight Saving Time, oh, how I’ve missed you the past four months.

For those keeping score, March 12 is when we take a major step back to livability. It’s a day that unofficially ushers in spring, waves bye to winter, and allows us to do something each night right after work besides close the curtains and watch “Wheel of Fortune.”

One night about a month or more ago, I had to take a bunch of trash to the dumpster. It was pitch dark, a north wind cutting through me. Only the street lights illuminated anything. It was lonely and quiet. Then it hit me.

It was also 8 p.m . – an hour I often started mowing the grass in the summer, when a baseball practice was finishing at the park across the street, when owners were walking their dogs, when sprinklers were going, and the sights and sounds of long days were still lingering.

For just a moment, I felt a bit warmer.

March 12 throws down the flag on a march to all of that. It’s a hard one-hour shove to later days, longer evenings and the stalling of darkness.

It’s as good a time as any to throw a nod of gratitude to a New Zealand entomologist. Back in the 1890s, George Hudson’s shift work allowed him to pursue his hobby of studying insects – except he couldn’t see because it was dark too early in the day.

Eureka! Why don’t we tweak the clocks? He presented two papers to the powers-that-be on that very subject in 1895 and again in 1898. He is known as the modern father of Daylight Saving Time.

It’s been this way, DST from March to November, and standard time the rest, in the U.S. for 50 years. It has gone uninterrupted since 1967 except for Arizona. Indiana was a holdout until the state – ahem -- saw the light in 2006.

Driving to work in the dark and returning in the dark is not a good thing. If it’s 6:15 p.m. and the sun has been down for a while, what is there to do?

It turns a lot of us into nocturnal hermits. More evenings than not, I’m in a flannel pajama bottom, a hoodie, and white socks by 7:45 p.m. I have mentally, if not physically, checked out. That should be a crime against nature, but more accurately, I’ve just given up until spring.

Some of us sunlight evening lovers have asked the time-honored question: Why not DST year-around? We actually did in 1974-75 during the oil embargo to save fuel. I don’t remember anything about it other than it probably meant an extra hour on the tractor.

But you rob Peter to pay Paul with year-round DST. Not having a sunrise in early January until after 9 a.m. would make it seem like the onset of Armageddon. It’s best just to suffer through the winter months knowing the payoff starts in the middle of March.

It could always be worse than those 6 p.m. sunsets in winter around here. It goes down at 2:40 p.m. in Fairbanks, 4 p.m. in Maine, 4:12 p.m. in Boston, and 4:20 p.m. in Chicago. Shoot, cross the border into New Mexico, and Mountain Time takes it to before 5 p.m.

Then, again, I’d like to be in Anchorage in mid-June and not see the sun set until 11:40 p.m. just to be totally freaked out.

So here in a couple of weeks, we’ll go from 6:53 p.m. to – boom! – 7:53 p.m. and be on our way until mid-June’s 9:05 p.m. There will again be outdoor life after work.

Yeah, I know, there’s the “spring forward” thing and a loss of an hour of sleep. It seems like it takes about five of those to get totally acclimated. But anything worthy must be earned, not given.

It only took three verses in the Bible to get to the importance of all this. God said in Genesis 1:3, “Let there be light,” to which I give a hearty “amen” and gladly adjust the clocks.

by Jon Mark Beilue

Jon Mark Beilue is an award-winning columnist for AGN Media. He can be reached at jon.beilue@amarillo.com or (806) 345-3318.
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