The picture was taken in the yard during the day, but it is much like my view in the early morning, when Spike, the cat who spends the night snoring, weighting down the covers at various places on the bed, and keeping my legs from moving easily, decides that now is the time for the person who feeds him to be awake.

We have re-set the clocks from Eastern Daylight Time to Eastern Standard Time (a great relief to me). We have not yet found a way to re-set the cats, but they have never really worked by clock time, anyway.

I have always found Daylight Saving Time rather distressing. I have long believed that if possible a person should be awakened by the sun streaming into the bedroom through an east-facing window (or, alternatively, the gradually increasing glow in the tent as the sun rises above the horizon). For much of my adult life wakeup time has come in the dark, some time before dawn has begun reshaping the space outside the house. For some reason this fact doesn’t distress me very much during the winter. I expect the morning to be dark in the cold months. But all winter I can anticipate fondly the point when what awakens me is the morning sun, not an alarm clock declaring noisily that it is time to get up. Unfortunately, this point generally corresponds to the point in the year that we are all told to set our clocks one hour ahead, the advent of Daylight Saving Time, and for another couple of months I continue to rise in the dark.

Of course, clock time isn’t “real” anyway. There was a time when everyone kept time by the movements of the earth — the apparent movements of sun, moon, and stars. By custom in Europe, the period from sunup to sundown was divided into 12 hours, and the time from sundown to sunup was divided into 12 hours. Obviously the hours did not all contain the same number of minutes, but apparently that was OK. Noon was the middle of the part of the day when the sun was in the sky, the point when the sun was directly overhead, hence the positioning and markings on a sundial. I remember using a rough form of this time reckoning when I was a child, on lazy summer afternoons lying in a grassy field watching fluffy, white clouds drift by, measuring in my mind the position of the sun in relation to straight up and the western horizon to decide whether it was time to go home for dinner. My memory says that I was always at least close to right, that the clock agreed more-or-less with my estimate of the hour; you would have to ask my mother whether that was true.

At some point, for the benefit of railroads perhaps, or of the people traveling on the railroads, arbitrary time zones were created so that in large sections of the country all the clocks would agree on what time it was, even if the sun didn’t rise or set at the same time in all parts of each time zone. The connection to sun time became somewhat muddled. Of course, there were many oddities in how the time zones were created — just looking at the time zone lines on a map of the United States will suggest some possible problems — but I think the convenience of consistent clock time is obvious. But the government’s decision to make the time of day change by an hour twice each year seems to me to be more disruptive of people’s lives than any advantage society might gain from it. I know I’m not the only person who feels this way (see, for example, standardtime.com, which advocates the end of Daylight Saving Time), but I don’t think the system is going to change. I just wonder who benefits.


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