22 March 20XX +1
My Dear Lucilius:
After the Equinox, I am reminded of the fact that I have failed to communicate we are almost up to 12 hours of daylight here.
Mind you (as the locals might point out) it is not a good 12 hours of daylight; after all, we can still have snow on the ground and the temperatures are still in the high 30’s. But it is a far cry from the middle of Winter, when we get by on 9 hours of daylight at best, including sunrise and sunset.
It is interesting to me, as sunlight is yet another thing that one takes for granted in this modern world.
I know I have written about light before, and alternate lighting, and even how one’s schedule can change when one is dependent largely on sunlight for doing most things. That said, this is almost the first cycle we have made moving from light to darkness to the beginning of light, largely without technology.
One finds one moves in cycles with the sunlight.
Rising in dark can make sense if 1) There are chores to be done but 2) There is some form of independent light. Absent both, rising in the dark to do things in the dark is problematic at best, made all the more unattractive by the fact the Winter makes it cold and dark.
I find that I am acclimatizing to rising at the sun’s rising. Part of it reflects, I suppose, the fact that individual periods of time – seconds, minutes, hours – have come to mean less and less in a period where time is measured (effectively) in days, which really means the sunlit portions of those days. The lightening of the horizon indicates that “time” has started again.
Loss of measuring time means that things tend to take as long as they take. I could tell you how long I spend working in the greenhouse, fishing and preparing food, searching for fuel, and the thousand and one things that seem to take up my life now in terms of minutes and hours as measured on my devices. But that would be a meaningless sort of measurement – after all, time cannot be hoarded or stored away, only spent.
Yes, I suppose it is in some way like the retirement our grandparents and parents enjoyed in that not having one’s life measured by a job or the time you are not at the job meant that time was more fluid. At the same time, we have the unfortunate knowledge that unlike before, we cannot just “dip” back into the stream where such things have meaning. At the moment – perhaps the foreseeable future – time is merely a construct of the Sun and Moon and seasons and the changing weather and the Earth’s orbit.
Even in the middle of Winter, time was still meaningless except as a “clock” against everything that one had to do in a day: 9 hours of daylight is hardly enough, it seemed. Now that we are easing into 12 hours or even 14 hours at Summer’s height, my life seems to be a luxury of nothing but time.
The greatest impact I have noticed is not the loss of the sense of time itself but the constant sense of wariness that one comes to have as one goes throughout the day. Not just for the silly and common accidents which in days past would be a minor inconvenience but in today’s world could be death, but the constant thought that somewhere, just beyond the line of site, is The Horde that inherently we all fear although we will seldom voice it as such.
Because that is the other side of time.
We are lucky here: largely people have fended for themselves and, from what Young Xerxes tells me, are expanding to do what they need to for the coming year. But out there are people who time is against: those who did not prepare or those who live solely on what they can find or, I suspect, increasingly steal. For us time has nothing but promise, for them time bears nothing but threats.
How is it, Lucilius, that the same thing can be so drastically different in our situations?
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca