Driving home through a nice autumn shower, the first decent rain to hit in 5 months, I heard on the radio, “Weather: Well, I’d like to tell you it’s going to be 80 and sunny…”  I shook my head and turned it off.  We had just finished about 150 straight days with 80 or about and sunny, except for a few days with morning fog.  During that time, about half million acres of the state burned, and the two large fires left burning in the country today are both in Oregon.  We had several days with awful air quality from smoke and dust in plowed fields.  It was the first summer where not only did it not rain in both June and July, it didn’t rain in August, either.  It was miserably hot at 44 degrees north, and I couldn’t imagine why people wanted more of it.  

But they did, for weather forecasts usually are of the “rain is bad, sun is good/winter is bad, summer is good” variety.  The previous autumn, I heard on one station that it would soon be Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then in a couple of months, it would start to be spring.  Wow, I thought, a month later it may be 90 and soon after we might be getting wildfire smoke.  What is wrong with rain?  We have had a year’s worth of rainfall deficit in the past five.

Anyway, on to Standard Time.  Why do we only have four months of it? Come to think of it, why do we even have Daylight Saving Time (DST)?  The Northland wilderness writer Sig Olson once wrote about spring in Minnesota as having to be earned.  One couldn’t just spend the winter in Florida and come north in March, he said.  One had to earn it.  He was a spring person. I say that early sunsets also ought to be earned by waiting, not delayed for months until shoved in our faces by fiat the first Sunday in November. 

DST was a downside of moving to Oregon.  Its end and the return to PST will be good.  I like standard time better, and I never like having to deal with clock changing, usually missing one or more clocks. I’m leading a hike this Sunday, and I had to put on the trip description a reminder about turning the clocks back the night before.  I hope nobody shows up an hour early.  In addition, we have to be off the trail at a reasonable hour, so it won’t be dark when we come home.  Whose daylight is being saved?  Fo those who live in Minnesota, New England, or the Pac NW, it’s dark in both the morning and the afternoon this time of year.  Days shorten to 9 hours in the north country.  I lived in Tucson, and Arizona has no DST.  Few want more daylight in an Arizona summer.  At 9 pm in summer, it was still hot, but it was at least dark.

Additionally, when I was doing science as an amateur astronomer, measuring variable star brightness, I had to use Universal Time for my results, and we were always 7 hours behind Greenwich, GMT-7, no matter the date.  It made life easier.  True, we had to figure out whether we were on the same time as New Mexico/Utah or California, but that wasn’t too difficult.

What I like about standard time is the symmetry and continuity. DST suddenly moves local noon to 1 pm, and that just isn’t right (it is actually about 12 minutes after the hour where I live).  At noon, the Sun should be due south, not east of south.  One pm should be afternoon, not where the Sun culminates.  I know, most people don’t really care where due south is, but I do, not just when I am hiking.  Days should gradually lengthen or shorten without a discontinuity in March and November.  South should remain south, not southeast. I admit it, I don’t like discontinuous functions in math, either.

Most of my time in Arizona, I figured on having five months of bad summer—from May to September.  Before I left, I had added on half of April and half of October to make it an even 6.  Symmetry.  May occasionally was good, and there used to be one year a decade where it didn’t hit 100 in May.  The second week of June, we had the earliest sunrise of the year, which is how the Earth’s orbit works.  The date is about a week sooner in Arizona than Oregon, but after the 15th here, sunrise is later.  I like that.  That’s a step in getting through summer.  The solstice is the next step where the days won’t get any longer, and the Sun won’t go further north in the sky. The first week of July,  sunsets start occurring slightly sooner and the day begins to shorten from both ends. Early August is mid-summer, the hottest time of year here climatologically, but the celestial changes towards winter are visible in the sky even if the temperature hasn’t budged.

Those changes aren’t much, to be sure, but in early August, there is the first morning where I say to myself, “it’s still dark,” and the first evening where I say, “it’s starting to get darker sooner.”  I read without a light at 9:15 pm. in early summer.  Then it becomes 9 pm, then 8:45 pm, then earlier. When it got too dark, I would turn off the light to watch dusk gradually unfold. Each night, there was a slight change that I couldn’t notice, but every week I was aware of a change.  In the night sky, the autumn stars are visible in the middle of the night. Every day, the stars rise about 4 minutes earlier.  Night to night, I can’t see a difference, but in a week, it’s about a half hour earlier. The Earth, the Sun and the night sky are all gradually changing.

But the first Sunday in November, WHAM, there is an abrupt time shift.  Sunset is earlier, and it is…well, still dark in the morning.  But the animals are expecting their breakfast, and my body does, too.  Some clocks are changed; others won’t be found for awhile. Sunsets are finally early, but I haven’t earned that.  It feels a little like cheating.  The rhythm has been broken, and it just isn’t right. 

It’s supposed to rain Sunday.  I’ll take that any time–standard or saving.  It will be welcome.


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