Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Saturday, January 20, 2007

This Little Light of Mine

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
—Leonard Cohen


Pre-electricity, people rose and rested in tune with the cycle of light. Since then, things have gotten both easier and more complicated. Light and heat at the flick of a switch can mean both warmth and waste, both comfort and amnesia about how it feels to be uncomfortable. Some thoughts on the light in our lives:

  • -In an effort to save energy, Daylight Savings Time will be extended this year. The mid-March start and extension into November is anticipated to save about 300,000 barrels
    of oil.
  • -Here’s an easy step to light and energy conservation at home. Each compact fluorescent bulb that replaces a standard bulb should save you about $45, not too mention doing your part to cut down on atmospheric carbon dioxide. See Eartheasy for more details.
  • -If you’re like me (see Prose below), you are counting every extra minute of daylight as a hopeful sign. The Navy has a great online tool for generating a sunrise/sunset chart specific to your area, and watching those days (very gradually) lengthen.
  • -Andrew Weil suggests use of natural light (or mimicking natural light cycles when needed) as one way to promote restful sleep. Here’s his article on natural approaches to better sleep.

Waiting for the Light

Tom installed compact fluorescent light bulbs to save energy (and, of course, lower our electric bill). With the new lights there is a split second of waiting for full illumination. For the first few weeks I found myself flicking the switch on and off and on again until I remembered I simply had to wait, the light would come a bit more gradually.

We had our first real snow of the season yesterday, and I have to brace myself for months of the stuff here in Connecticut. But each day when I leave work, it’s just a little lighter. Each morning that light starts just a minute earlier. I take the almost imperceptible lengthening of days and run with it. Yesterday I recalled long summer days with enough light for walks at sunrise and sunset, like bookends. If I wait, those days will come again.

Maybe someone who was truly living in the moment would embrace the winter, instead of trying to hurry it along. But as I sat chilled, despite the blasting portable heater, in my uninsulated basement office yesterday, I could not feel that noble or enlightened. My son Gavin brought me back, as he often does, to the joy of the day at hand. There wasn’t much snow on the lawn, and he was wholly disappointed that a snowman would have to wait. But we took the time to tilt our heads, extend our tongues for snowflakes and caught several, delicacies of singularity, small doses of cold that made me feel warm and reminiscent. I still crave longer, warmer days, but in the meantime I know this season will bring more of those frost-tinged joys. It doesn’t come naturally to me, this venturing into the cold with a willing heart. I’ll still spend my idle moments calculating how long until longer light and warmer days. But in the meantime I am glad to have Gavin as my pretend-Eskimo guide.


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