World War I made people take seriously the notion of setting the clocks ahead. The point then was saving coal. If you spend more of your waking day in the daylight, you use less gas and electricity. That’s the theory. Having more daylight for a late round of golf would come later. During World War II, Britain advanced the clock by two hours. They called it double summer time.
Ever since, there’s been a debate. Fans of daylight savings like the opportunity to enjoy a late round of badminton or some quality time in the garden. Not much energy is saved these days, thanks to air conditioning and commercial lighting, but restaurants, shops and parks have more evening visitors. Those who would like to do away with it say that changing the clocks twice a year is expensive and annoying. In the spring, you have to leave the party early. “It’s 1 a.m.—no, it’s 2 a.m.” And in the fall, your guests hang around. “It’s midnight -- no, hey, it’s just 11.”
One thing that’s sure when we fall back. It’s the only time we get what we often wish for: another hour in the day. Sure, it’s a payback for the hour lost last spring, but who can remember back that far? It’s ours to use wisely. Or perhaps unwisely, if you know what I mean.
But then, before long, it’s Sunday afternoon. And, boy, does it get dark early. This week, you drove your afternoon commute in sunlight. Next week, you’ll be coming home at dusk. And we’re reminded that fall is moving us, day by day, to even earlier sunsets, even later sunrises, even colder starts in the morning. For the first time in many months, we begin to think about—snow.
For some, that free hour in early November means we’re beginning the four darkest months of the year. But in Northeast Ohio, there are reasons to celebrate the season, and it helps to keep a few of them in mind. There’s something about winter that enables us to focus a little more closely on what’s important. A college president I once worked for called winter “the scholar’s season,” and there’s something in that for anyone who loves to read a good book in a warm room, or to savor one of Cleveland’s microbrewies, or to attend one of the hundreds of musical events that invite us to listen just a little more carefully.
With Apollo’s Fire lighting up venues all over town, there should be plenty of warmth and brilliance. We gather for high school and college basketball games, and the Cav’s and Monsters keep downtown buzzing.
Some of us may spend a little more time in the kitchen, trying that recipe from Wednesday’s Plain Dealer or Beacon Journal, and some of us may take the time to really enjoy the dinner fixed for us, whether in our own homes or in one of our many good restaurants.
I haven’t even mentioned celebrations. Before we become used to the earlier sunsets, we will be thinking about the comforts of Thanksgiving. Then the holidays arrive, the solstice will be upon us, and we’ll soon be talking about how the days are getting longer.
So how will you use your extra hour this weekend? None of my business, really, but I hope that you’ll take at least a couple of minutes to realize that our four darkest months promise a lot of light and a lot of warmth. All too soon, it will be time to dig the garden.