It's May. Awesome.

May 3, 2007

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A photo I took on a very nice evening in May 2005 from the top of the Empire State Building.

For a long time now — I'm not sure exactly how long — I've obsessed over the length of the daylight. All year long, my internal way of marking the passage of the year (aside from obvious things like, you know, calendars) is observing how long the days are. I've noticed the length of the days for as long as I can remember, but I'm not sure when I really started obsessing over it.

I know that I started noticing my obsessing (and commenting on my obsession openly to my friends) somewhere around the time I graduated from college, which now is nearly 8 1/2 years ago. Maybe there's something about getting into the working world — where you no longer have the artificiality of semester breaks and summers off — that you really begin to notice the passage of the years in different ways.

Maybe not. Maybe I'm just obsessed with summer getting here already.

To me, the worst thing about Daylight-Saving Time is when it ends. I always dread the following Monday when I leave work at 5 p.m. and it's already dark. Having no daylight after work is probably the biggest downer of winter. I can easily deal with the cold and even the snow, since I don't have to work in it.

That's why the extension of Daylight-Saving Time this year is just fine by me. Three more weeks in March/April and an extra week in October/November — sounds good to me. It means an hour more light in the afternoon after work for an extra four weeks of the year. In fact, I vote for year-round DST. So what if it's dark at 8 a.m. in December? Those kids can walk to school in the dark! Isn't that what street lights are for? I want more daylight for me after work! Me, me, me!

As Dec. 21 approaches at the end of the year, it's like a gradual lowering into an abyss. Sunset gets earlier and earlier, and I know it's going to be months until I get to see daylight well into the 5-o'clock hour again. And once Dec. 21 has passed, it's all about the slow uphill climb — being pulled out of the abyss — to longer daylight in the late afternoons and early evenings.

Every day I'll step outside after work and think, gee, it's 5:XX and it's still light out! That time gets later and later. Eventually sunset passes the 6 p.m. mark, and then finally it's time for DST to return. It's light for two, then three, hours after work. The days start climbing toward the apex — toward June 21, the longest day of the year. It's light until 8 p.m., and finally 9. By the end of June, dusk lasts until 9:30. (I once was in Ohio at the end of June. They're in the western part of the Eastern time zone, which means they get some of the latest daylight of anybody. If I recall, I think sunset was after 9 p.m., with dusk lasting until 10. Now that's something.)

I think that's why I like May so much. The days get longer, the temperatures get warmer, the leaves are out on the trees ... and yet I know the best is still to come. June 21 is still more than a month and a half away. The days will continue to get longer even though they're nice and long already.

I went for a drive Tuesday evening around 8:15, and it was just turning to dusk and the weather was great, and my windows were down, and I drove around the outer loop of town, going 60 mph with the wind blowing and the music blaring. I love the renewed novelty of that, after spending all winter hiding behind closed windows and jackets and heaters.

And yet, I know that if I were to move somewhere like Florida or southern California, I would miss winter. I need my winter. I need it so I can look forward to spring and summer. I need the cycle of the seasons, the gradual change from one extreme to the other, the ebb and flow, the promise that there will be a tornado season.

And once June 21 has come and gone, I find myself, over the course of the next four months, comparing every day to the longest day of the year. It's 7:45 and already getting dark. This is what 8:45 is supposed to look like, not 7:45! And it goes on and on through September and October, until DST ends and I'm trapped in the darkness again.

The human lifespan has often been compared to the seasons. Spring always represents youth or the prime, and winter is always old age and death. That seems about right. Maybe that's why I obsess over it: Maybe subconsciously I'm obsessing over my own mortality. Spring always feels like a rejuvenation, and winter feels more like an approaching drudgery of coldness, creakiness, and death. Maybe that's too extreme. It's not like I hate winter or retreat into a depression.

But I want it to be May. I want it to be May for as long as possible. I want that promise — that the best is yet to come — to last forever. I want to be able to look forward to it.

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    Regarding Ohio: it's even better in Michigan. :-P (Although not by much in Detroit. Near Grand Rapids, though, and even more near Houghton in the western Upper Peninsula, it's great. Sunsets are around 9:30 at the end of June.) And of course, during the winter it stays light out for much longer too -- but that's only because the streetlights reflect off all the snow, so it's basically cheating. But it is more than enough to see by, as long as you're not trying to drive.

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