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The Last of the Light

Sunday, November 5th wasn’t marked as a holiday on any calendar, but it was nonetheless one of the most significant dates of the year. That was the day we all reset our clocks (or let our computers do it for us). We woke up to paler skies that morning and drove home from work in total darkness. Though we tried to pretend it wasn’t a big deal, our bodies told us otherwise.

It’s more than a little weird, really. No one remembers at this point why we decided to create Daylight Saving Time, the benefits it produces are a mixed bag at best, and the negative effects it has on productivity and safety are manifold. But bleary-eyed we carry on with it, year after year.

Maybe it’s a function of age, but I find the change more profoundly affecting each time it happens. It’s a deep disturbance to physical, intellectual, and emotional rhythms that I’m not normally aware of at all, and I don’t think enough attention is paid to it. By me at least. To rectify that, I turned in the direction I always do, toward the bookshelf, where I found The Last of the Light: About Twilight by Peter Davidson. It doesn’t directly address the time change issue, but it meditates at length on the meaning of darkness, light, and the ineffable slide from one to the other. In addition to being a tapestry of the deepest thoughts on the subject by artists, scientists, and philosophers from antiquity to the present, it’s a gorgeous visual record of the “cartography of dusk” mapped by those same great minds. Perusing it in the watery light of late afternoon (which now falls at 2:00 or 3:00 p.m.) I felt like a cloistered monk seeking inspiration in an illuminated manuscript created by a brilliant, vanished predecessor ... continued