I had a thought during my morning yoga practice the other day about how, as the mornings get lighter (sunrise is starting to come a little earlier and sunset is coming later) the days themselves seem to stretch, to elongate, lengthen, and settle in to their routine. The amount of this time stretch right now is practically imperceptible—only about a minute or so on either side—but it’s enough. For example, the other day sunrise arrived at 7:51 am, and today it was 7:49 am. Contrarily, sunset, until quite recently occurred at 5:02 pm, and as of today we have nearly a full five minutes more daylight, with sunset clocking in at 5:07 pm.
I’m a little obsessed.
I know these things because I have a watch that tells me. Well, at least, I have taken the option of having it tell me. I received an Apple watch for Christmas and I’m not mentioning this to flex, it’s just that this watch does, as they say, it ALL. For instance, you can choose from dozens of watch faces, depending on your interests and/or aesthetic. I have, as you can maybe imagine given what I’ve been talking about so far, chosen the one that lets me know all the details about the sun’s current placement in the sky overhead. I like watching it make its moves across the sky, I love the countdown to sunset, to sunrise. I love how it changes colour as the sun—a small, white disc on my wrist—moves away from or toward the horizon. It’s constant and comforting, and I didn’t realize how much I needed to see it.
In the fall and the early part of winter, the days seem to contract. The sun is later to rise, earlier to set, and it’s the same with us. When possible we contract, too. We cocoon in our homes, we light lamps mid-afternoon to offset the growing darkness. We hesitate to venture out again—global pandemic notwithstanding—once we’re securely in. We transfer ourselves into night clothes earlier and earlier (I think my record is 5:02 pm, once my work laptop is shut for the night) and some of us may even head to bed earlier with books or podcasts or streaming services. We settle in, curling in on ourselves, making ourselves and our worlds smaller as if preparing for hibernation. It’s as close as we get, we humans, to the state of hibernation, I think.
But after the solstice you can, if you too are obsessed with the sun and its travels, feel the days slowly relaxing, drawing themselves out like a cat luxuriously stretching in a sunbeam. It’s still cold, don’t get me wrong! -12C when I woke up the other day! But the promise is there.
We dare not say the “S” word just yet, we have a lot of cold and winter left in this part of the country, this part of the world. But the sunlight, the daylight…well, it’s inching back toward us.
Now when I walk the dog after work (when I’m not racing upstairs to get into my pjs) the darkness of November and December is gone. Now the sky remains light for at least the first half of our walk and it is so, so lovely to be out, once again in the twilight, the gloaming, that magical time when it feels like anything and everything is possible. Twilight is such a lovely term and there are, I learned recently, three distinct types of twilight: civil, (not just a song by The Weakerthans) nautical, and astronomical. Twilight also occurs in the mornings, just before the sun is up, which is something I also learned and which makes a lot of sense—it’s just in reverse, that’s all.
I love the term “golden hour” for this time of day, too, just after the sun goes down, yet to me golden hour evokes warmth and sun and long, languid summer days, and so I’m not sure it’s completely appropriate in the depths of January. But maybe it’s “silver hour” this time of year? A glint of icy metal, a cool, reflective surface. The blade of a skate. Silvery frost on windows. Ice on bare branches.
The days are getting longer, one or two minutes at a time, and silver hour will once again give way to golden hour. I will miss, as I always do, the semi-hibernation of the winter months, but I will (also as I always do) welcome back the light.
And if you find you need the comfort of knowing exactly when the sun will be going down and when you can expect it to come up again so you can perceive the lengthening of the days minute by minute…well, just know you’re not alone.