Sunday, November 14, 2010

Robin's Obsession

I've been doing this crazy date/sun calculation in my head lately. I watch the angle of the sun, and think, "Okay, today is November 14, the sun is there, and we still have this much sunlight in the yard. After solstice, how long will it take to get to this light again?" That's my inner voice. Here's how I proceed: I count the number of days to winter solstice (37). Then I count 37 days past solstice and arrive at January 27. I think to myself, "January 27th, that's not so bad. We'll have this much sun in the yard in January." This news makes me feel calm.

I'm obviously out of my mind that I spend so much time on this.

Then I remembered that I have this incredibly interesting little earth-sun geometry applet bookmarked on my computer. Even finding such a cool link is testimony to my obsession. Playing with the applet I learned that the angle of the sun dropped 10 degrees between October 14th and November 14th, but will only drop an additional 4.8 degrees between now and December 21st. Hah, that's not so bad, I can live with that!
The sun, the sun. When did I become so obsessed with the sun? Was it after just those few years in the pacific northwest? In deference to this new obsession, I checked the applet for the angle of the sun in Port Townsend. I discover it's already lower in the sky there now than it will be here on solstice. My stomach flip flops over such news. Still, I remember how beautiful it was there, I almost could imagine wanting to have stayed. But my body longed for light like a starving person hungers for food. I needed the sun like someone who was ... what's the word for someone was malnourished for light... is there one?

I am that person.


  1. This is always my hardest season. I grit my teeth and go through it because I know it won't be long and the days will start to lengthen... not long

  2. see this:

    there are many diseases caused by lack of sunlight! Just think of those poor vampires.

    The past few days here have been glorious - the sun feels so good. I walked out on Monterey wharf this afternoon, there were people in the ocean and on the beach. It was splendid.

  3. I remember reading some study that discovered that Japanese suicide rates correlated well with yearly total sunshine. That's party dependent on latitude, but partly on weather. (The correlation with latitude alone was not as clear.) At any rate high latitude cloudy climates are not conducive to low suicide rates, at least in Japan. I think I can understand that. I like lots of sunshine myself.

  4. You are right on par with most people. Think the sun is tied directly to making happy brain cells flourish. Enjoy.

  5. That is similar to what I do. But my count goes in smaller blocks. Its five weeks to Solstice, then the sun begins its return. 6 weeks after that, I'll see it again. And the race to 24 hour light will begin.

  6. You are sun deprived Robin. Or well thats how I feel. I also await Dec 21st with impatience.
    I have decorated my art room with lights all over lights, christmas lights, block lights I made and more. I am digging into the christmas lights again to add more.....

  7. Me, too! I don't obssess about it til after the clocks change, then I break it down as : my birthday (mid Nov) Thanksgiving (late Nov) then ~4 wks till Christmas and winter solstice. Then the days get longer, althought I think it's more slowly until late Jan. I would not be able to live in Alaska, or even Canada, regardless of the weather. No sunsets before 5pm EVER!!

  8. I love the dark as well as the light. It has its charms--such a mysterious world at night! But when we switch back to standard time, I get grumpy because I have to walk the dogs in the dark both morning and afternoon on weekdays. That gets old fast.

    I definitely recommend going into the night; get a head lamp so your hands are free and take a nighttime walk. I don't think it can lift spirits that ache for sunlight, but it will, for the duration for the walk, help you make peace with the night for the time you are out there.

  9. like many, i hate the time change -- it just adds an hour of darkness just when i'm starting to get gloomy about the shortened days.

    i'm not nearly as together as you about tracking the shortening of the days. but thanks for doing that -- i'm not totally crazy to think it drops off pretty fast for a while in the fall!

    jim, that japanese study makes sense to me. i lived for a couple of years near the ocean-ward side of san francisco, where the fog is epic even in summer, and that was bad. for much of my adult life, i've lived about 15 miles to the east, across the bay, in a magic climate zone that is usually clear by day, cooling fog at night, and it never gets as hot as the inland areas a few miles over the hills.

  10. Could be related to Seasonal Affective Disorder? But a fascination isn't necessarily an obsession, and being fascinated with sun angles and seasons sounds to me like something to be enjoyed.

    If you want to explore in more detail (e.g. to find out where the sun and moon will rise and set), try The Photographer's Ephemeris (it's small and free).

  11. "I'm obviously out of my mind that I spend so much time on this." Same here, only I call it arc time, as I observe the rise and transit of the sun closer to the horizon than at Summer Solstice. I thrill at this time of the year because the arch illuminates the underbrush and low marsh on the trail and a whole new perspective is re3vealed.

  12. wow! its wonderful to see the sun in the wilderness.

  13. When we lived in the midwest, I followed the weather channel every day after December 21 to note the changes in hours of daylight. It helped to see the tiny increments even if we couldn't really detect them outside. I too longed for the sun.

    Now that we're in NC, not a winter day goes by that I don't appreciate the increased sunlight we have here. Gray and dreary days are the exception, not the constant rule as they are in other areas of the country.

    BTW: I loved the applet.

  14. I am the opposite. I hate the goddamn scorching breathingdownmyneck sun. I could happily exist under a rock.

  15. The solstice is the total daylight marker, but the orbital arrangements are not symmetrical. Earliest-sunset-- that being the one that keeps me inert ('It'll be dark in two hours, why bother going...')-- around here is Dec7 through Dec15. Latest sunrise doesn't come until Dec27-Jan4 8:04

    It's already gone near-about as far as it's going to go. Sunset is 4:31 here today, and will only get 11 minutes earlier before it begins ever so slowly to lengthen.

    Your earliest sunset is during the first 12 days of December, and then already is getting better.


  16. I like the applet! Looking forward to more daylight. I hate the summer heat but enjoy the light.
    Ontario Wanderer

  17. I needed the sun like someone who was ... what's the word for someone was malnourished for light... is there one?


    I'm surprised to read Jim McCulloch's information on Japanese suicide. Somehow I assumed the Japanese diet to be exceptionally vitamin-D rich, which, blah blah, you know where I go with these things: living so near parallel 45, I'm obsessed with vitamin D supplementstion.

    My stepfather once suggested that the entire reason for lighting the Christmas tree was to lift us out of sun-deprived doldrums.

    It's time to pop the full-spectrum bulbs into the work-station fixtures, at any rate. I'm feeling it -- the "why bother?" and the constant call to warmth and fantasy under the down comforter!