Friday, June 23, 2023

Andy Young: Releasing my inner Eeyore

By Andy Young

At sunrise last Wednesday morning, which occurred at 4:59 a.m., I felt incredibly energize. Summer was about to begin. And when the sun passed directly above the Tropic of Cancer at 10:57 a.m. it was officially time for a long-awaited celebration. The northern hemisphere’s longest day of the year had finally arrived! School vacation had commenced the previous Friday, and those of us living in southern Maine had a full fifteen hours and 27 minutes to play with before the sun retired for the evening at 8:26.

And what a day it was! I traveled to Auburn with two colleagues for a daylong education conference that will most likely prove beneficial to my school, my students, and me in the not-too-distant future. I chatted with some old friends and made a couple new ones in the process. When I came home I enjoyed a delicious meal, took a long bike ride, and still had time to do some recreational reading at day’s end. What a dynamic and productive day! I went to bed exhilarated, feeling certain that for me and those around me, anything was possible. Not only that, I sensed the vitality I was feeling would last indefinitely. Nothing galvanizes human beings like 927 minutes of daylight in one 24-hour period.

Leaping out of bed Thursday morning, I was anticipating another intensely gratifying and uber-productive day.

But something felt wrong. Then ... thud.

It didn’t take long to figure out why I had descended into an energy-deprived abyss. The sun didn’t appear until 5 a.m. Crestfallen, I felt the vitality drain right out of me. Fortunately, the evening sunset was a minute later than it had been the previous day, meaning there were still 927 minutes of daylight to savor. But I (and no doubt thousands of others) felt shortchanged. The days were starting to get shorter.

On Sunday morning the sun didn’t appear until 5:01 a.m. On June 28, a mere week after the summer solstice, sunrise won’t be until 5:02. It’ll recede to 5:03 on the 30th, and on the first of July, sunset will arrive a minute earlier, leaving Portland and vicinity with a paltry 923 minutes of sunlight. I marvel at the strength and resilience of our neighbors to the north and east. How, given the depressing dearth of daylight every July 1, they can annually celebrate Canada Day on that date every year is beyond me.

Here’s more depressing news: on July’s last day the sun will rise at 5:29 a.m. and descend at 8:05 p.m., meaning there will be a mere 876 minutes of daylight. At that point I might as well start getting the rakes and snow shovels out of the shed.

If the sun bothers to rise on Aug. 31, it won’t be until 6:03 a.m. Not only that, it’ll plunge from sight by 7:19 p.m., meaning Mainers (and visitors planning on hanging around for Labor Day weekend) will have to subsist on only 796 minutes of daylight. By the time the autumnal equinox arrives on Sept. 23, it’ll be dark nearly half of the 24-hour day. Were there a Sept. 31, (which thankfully there is not) it would consist of more darkness than light.

By the time the winter solstice arrives at 10:27 p.m. on Dec. 21, daylight will be long gone. The sun comes up 7:11 a.m. that day and vanishes entirely at 4:07 p.m. How can civilized people survive a 24-hour spin that contains just eight hours and 56 minutes of natural light?

But when that day arrives at least there’ll be something to look forward to: Summer Solstice 2024. <

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