My first job, post-college, began in the autumn, the year I turned 22. Needless to say, I was new to the whole workday commuter routine when that first Monday after the end of Daylight Saving’s Time arrived. And every autumn since that year, when the reminders pop up about setting the clocks back, I think of that long ago late afternoon–sitting at my desk and watching the sun set and the street lights flicker on, hours before quitting time. And me, blinking back unbidden tears.
Because here’s what I also distinctly remember realizing, on that first dark workday Monday–I’d spent nearly every moment of the available daylight indoors, at my desk, on the phone, in a meeting. It was a first brush with the reality of working life that I didn’t much care for. I was an outdoor girl, after all, small town and sporty. I hadn’t expected to end up in a city, riding subways, living in a dingy apartment on the back side of Beacon Hill. Until that particular “Fall Back” Monday, I’d never faced the notion of an entire day without a moment to at least feel the sun on my face. I remember wondering if I’d ever be old enough to not be taken by surprise by the Monday in November when the the sun started setting around tea time.
Well, here I am, lo these many years later. And I have to say, it still shocks me, that first post-daylight-savings Monday evening. The Sunday sunset, the night before, slips by unnoticed somehow, but when the sky goes gray around 4:30 on Monday–ouch. It’s just so abrupt, so definitive. A week ago, you could see where you were going, you could go for a bike ride, you could make dinner without turning the lights on. This week–boom.
Yes, the shock remains. But what I’ve gotten better at, over the years, is coping with the dark. I’ve learned, for instance, that it pays to make excuses to be outside while the sun is setting. If I’m fully aware of the sun slipping away, I can make peace with its early exit. It’s a whole world better than just glancing up from a phone call or an email, and realizing that the light left while I was otherwise engaged.
Anyhow, that’s my plan, these days. Get out while the getting is good. Be one with the sun.
Here’s just a little of what I’ve seen, this first fortnight back on Eastern Standard Time:
This shot was dumb luck. I walked to Porter Square and missed the bus heading back to Harvard Square. It was one of those sunsets that didn’t hold much promise at first, lots of low clouds, probably wouldn’t amount to anything…and then, wow.
Twice last week I dropped everything to get to Mount Auburn Cemetery for a quick walk before the sun set. That, and to get in and out before the gates close, at 5PM. I took this photo at about 4:45, and all but needed a headlamp to make my way out before the sky had gone from pink to black.
Here’s an image from a bonus visit to Mt. Auburn, courtesy of an errand in nearby Watertown (Bon Ton Rug Cleansers, remember them?) and a chance encounter with an open gate on the far side of the cemetery. The long shadows, the carpet of Japanese maple leaves–achingly beautiful in that light. A lovely calm carmine puddle of autumn foliage, before the wind and the maintenance guys intruded.
Aha! The silver lining to these dark late afternoons. If you get up early enough, the light paints wonderful morning landscapes and cityscapes. Worth peeling out ahead of the rest of the world, to see the day dawn. Which happens an hour later than it did in October!
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Bottom line: there may be less of it, but the light this time of year–the gold light through yellow leaves, the sun low in the sky and brilliant early and late–is its own gift. You’ve just got to make sure to get out in it, and soak it up.