The other day I went straight to the grocery store after leaving work around 4:20 p.m. Gathering my bags from my cart, I tucked my purse tightly under my arm, got my keys in hand and prepared to hustle through the cold and dark parking lot to my vehicle.
But as soon as I stepped outside, I relaxed. My high alert button switched off; my pace slowed; I lifted my chin up out of my jacket a bit. You see, it wasn’t dark out as I expected it to be. It was after 5 p.m., but daylight lingered.
I smiled, rejoicing inside. I had survived another dark December.
I don’t do so well when the days are short, when it gets dark shortly after I get off work. It seems I need to rush home, where it’s warm and safe, and where there’s too much food and a couch and quilts. To go out for any reason after getting home – whether for my daughters’ school events, to run errands or especially to run – seems ridiculous.
It’s not all bad being at home so much. I have several inside activities I enjoy engaging in – hanging out with my daughters, reading, writing, staring at the Christmas tree lights. But it doesn’t take long to feel the effects of too much sitting and not enough movement. And that’s when I start feeling a little depressed, a little bit like the winter solstice needs to get here and get over with now.
I teach second grade, and studying the weather is a big part of the science curriculum. We look at The Weather Channel App every day to see what’s going on with the temperature, wind chill, humidity, precipitation, weather alerts and, yes, the time the sun rises and sets. I am well aware that sunset was at 4:52 p.m. for nearly two weeks leading up to the first day of winter, Dec. 21.
And now the sun is setting at 5:15 p.m. And a little daylight lingers well past that, almost until 5:45 p.m. That’s a huge difference from a few weeks ago.
I ran up and down one of my favorite hills a few times the day after that day I came out of the grocery store and realized it was staying light until after 5 p.m. I hadn’t run in the evening for weeks, hadn’t run much at all, to be honest, because the dark wintery days mess with me. Something about them just drives me home and makes me lock my door to the out-of-doors.
As I ran up and down this hill, I found myself enjoying the extra minutes of daylight in more than one way. Not only was I smiling the whole time, so glad to be doing what I need to do to stay healthy and happy, but I had some terrific views of the Bookcliffs bathed in the pinkish-yellow twilight, a beautiful evening glow upon the valley floor, and, then, like a cherry on top, a sunset.
Each time I trudged up that hill, I thought about the hill as December. Long, hard, depressing. But once I hit the top, the hump, the winter solstice, I would turn around, see the glorious light upon the Bookcliffs and the valley, feel the smile spread across my face, and run on down, toward longer days and springtime and the promise of more outdoor activity time.
I did it! I made it through December, I’m over the hump, and it’s all downhill from here.
Randee Bergen is a single mother of two teens and an elementary school teacher. Read her Fridays on Healthy Mesa County.