Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bed In Summer

A Child's Garden of Verses
A Child's Garden of Verses
(First published 1885)
The 1957 version Illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa
(above) was my first book!

Bed in Summer 
by Robert Louis Stevenson

In winter I get up at night 
And dress by yellow candle-light. 
In summer quite the other way, 
I have to go to bed by day. 

 I have to go to bed and see 
The birds still hopping on the tree, 
Or hear the grown-up people's feet 
Still going past me in the street. 

And does it not seem hard to you, 
When all the sky is clear and blue, 
And I should like so much to play, 
To have to go to bed by day?



Besides sharing my first book and first memorized poem from that book, I want to share the reason the poem was written. Stevenson was Scottish and that far north there is a major difference in daylight hours, summer to winter. Thus, getting up in the dark in winter, and going to bed when it was still light in summer. There is much less of a difference in daylight hours, summer to winter, in San Diego, compared to Scotland, or even what I experienced in Oregon. In fact, that's one of the major reasons I left Oregon almost exactly a year ago.

I am totally solar-powered. When it is sunny, I am full of energy and good cheer. When it is dark or gloomy, so am I. And cold and tired. In Oregon in June I would wake with the sun before 5 am, and keep going until nearly 10 pm. November-February? I had a hard time staying awake. The marked difference in the number of daylight hours between summer and winter was hard on me. Every fall and winter I would experience Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms to some degree, sometimes rather severe. So, besides looking for a place that was warmer and drier and sunnier than Oregon in winter, I wanted to move south where there was less seasonal change in daylight hours... and less seasonal changes in my mood.

Near the equator there are about 12 hours of direct sunlight all year. But right now, in late September (and again in late March, the autumn and spring equinoxes), the earth is tilted perpendicular to the sun. Thus, the day (sun visible above the horizon) and night are both about 12 hours right now everywhere on the planet.

As I discussed, in late June in NW Oregon it was light (civil twilight) from 4:45 in the morning to 9:40 at night. Almost 17 hours! In San Diego the longest day of summer, dawn to dusk, runs from about 5:15 in the morning to only 8:30 in the evening. 15 hours and 15 minutes.

And winter? In late December in Oregon there was at least some light visible on the horizon from 7:15 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon. That's 9 hours and 45 minutes. Of course, it was usually overcast in western Oregon in winter, thus often much darker. In San Diego, the winter sunlight is extended from 6:20 in the morning to 5:15 in the evening. Just about 11 hours.

But that is not all. As Oregon is farther north, even when the sun is out, it is not as high in the sky. At noon in late December the sun only reaches 21 degrees above the southern horizon. Point your arm straight up, drop it half way to the horizon, then drop it half way again. That's as high as the sun gets during the shortest days of winter. The sun angle for San Diego at noon in mid-winter is 34 degrees.

In late June the angle of the sun at noon in Oregon reaches 68 degrees above the horizon. In San Diego it is much closer to overhead--at 81 degrees (as you'll recall, straight up is 90 degrees).

By moving to San Diego I gave up pronounced seasonal changes, including not being able to go birding for an hour or two before work in late spring and early summer, as I used to in Oregon. But I'm getting a more even amount of sun now, throughout the year. Even so, I've noticed that it is now dark when I get up in the morning... reminding me of a poem I knew in childhood.