Jilly D.

Daylighters in February

In Off-The-Grid Memoir on February 13, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Sam liked me the way I was. And the way I was, I needed to sleep. His love was my life sustenance. Go to bed early every night in February. Ithaca NY May 29-June 9 2009 Trip 216

I call Sam Warren my “daylighter.” He gets up with the sun and goes to sleep shortly after it sets. In June dawn breaks around 5 a.m. and it stays light until almost 10 p.m. But in February, daylighting means we sleep until 7 a.m. and are done with dinner and ready for bed before 7 pm. Twelve hours of sleep during the shortest days of the season makes sense for so many reasons. Love is number one.

The first reason to become a daylighter is to remedy sleep deprivation. Many Americans deprive themselves of sleep to the point where it is more dangerous than drinking and driving.  Contrary to popular myth you cannot make up sleep you lost the night before. Sleep is seasonal. In the cold winter months when the days are shorter we need to sleep more. Sleep is necessary to one’s overall health.

Safer to stay home by the fire

Today the majority of us don’t know the difference between night and day. Most of us get a rush from the speed of our contemporary everyday lives. Electricity made our natural body rhythms subservient to the clock. Time is always ticking away.

I began to think making I’d gotten sick from postmodern malaise of circadian rythm dysfunction. My fatigue and pain are exacerbated from insufficient deep sleep. Sleep alleviates most of the symptoms. The loss of night vision was my body telling me I shouldn’t be out looking around at night. “Go to sleep,” my body told my mind. My mind heard my body, but didn’t or couldn’t obey.

“When was the last time you recall having a dream?”  Dr. Endo had asked me. I couldn’t remember. He said when you start dreaming again, the healing begins. Sleep is the body’s restorative process. In reading the research on fibromyalgia I learned the typical course of treatment prescribed by medical doctors included low doses of anti-depressants as a sleep aid and narcotic pain killers. The effectiveness of these pharmaceuticals paled by comparison to prescribed rest. Sleep doesn’t cost anything so there is no profit to be made. Hence it doesn’t make it into system of health care currently in place. I am glad to have had a physician who had enough common sense to put me on a medical leave and who respected my wishes not to be prescribed narcotics or anti-depressants. Instead he prescribed rest and therapeutic massage. Getting back into a healthy sleep cycle made all the difference. Sleep is very inexpensive medicine.

sunflowerThe second reason to live by the sun’s clock is to decrease overall electric energy consumption. If you can live by daylight there is little use for electric lights. When electric power became nearly universal after the Second World War it changed the way we did everything. With the passage of the Rural Electrification Act, electricity became available to country folks at the same price as city people paid. Night turned into day. Winter turned into summer and summer into winter. Electric power industrialized this nation. A “day” became three 8-hour shifts.

Before electricity when it got dark at night, people went to bed. There wasn’t much you could really do by candle light or oil lamps. Heating and refrigeration weren’t things you could take for granted without wood or ice. Before electricity if you wanted to be warm in the middle of winter, you had to plan years in advance to have the seasoned wood on hand, dried and stacked, hours to start the fire, time to let the house get warmed and time for tending the wood fire.  Before electricity you needed a root cellar to keep produce cool in summer and not freeze in the winter. Before electricity you had to harvest ice from the pond in the middle of winter and store it in a hay barn covered in sawdust for use four to six months later.

Ithaca NY May 29-June 9 2009 Trip 107I grew up with the expectation of an electrified life. I assume at the flick of a switch there to be light, or heat, or sound, an image displayed or a door opened. All at the flick of a switch:  On/Off.  The binary code built the digital universe but it can’t power it. It runs on fossil fuels and is not sustainable. Daylighting offers a natural solution to soaring energy demands.

Our very sense of time has shifted through human history from cyclical to analog to digital. In an agricultural society the sense of time is similar to the cycle of the sun, moon and stars. What has come before will come back round again. From the sundial to a mechanical time piece, the concept of time shifted from a circle to a linear sense of past, present and future.

492896-R1-00-1A lunar calendar and the circle for the face of a clock are remnants of agricultural notions of time. The 19th century shifted time to the industrial concept as a mechanical measurement. In the 21st century we have shifted to the digital sense of time. This notion of time is that now exists and that’s all that matters. What came before is over and what will come next is irrelevant. What gets lost in the new digital era is the sense that the past can inform the future and that what has passed away will come around again. Daylighters don’t lose such sensibilities.

A third reason to practice daylighting is that you will live longer and enjoy life so much more. Do you fight against sleep? Is your instinct to resist drowsiness? Do you push down the urge to close your eyes and rest? Give in to these urges. When you wake up fresh from a full night’s sleep you feel better, do better and accomplish more than when you waken tired. Sleep restores our bodies. The more sleep you get, the less stress on your overall health and well being. There are those who say you live longer the more sleep you get each night.

Sam says sleep is just God’s way of letting us practice for death. When you go to sleep and don’t dream, don’t snore and don’t wake up, death brings you the deepest rest of all. When you are asleep you don’t know if you are dead or alive. You don’t know any pain, any suffering, any thoughts or concerns.20100521GH_284

Sleep is necessary to be fully awake. Just like it takes both the rain and the sun to make a rainbow, it takes sleep to make us fully awake; death to make us alive.

When you live by the seasons, the sun, the moon and the stars, you fall into a natural rhythm of light. The shortest days of the year come in the coldest months and the longest days during summer. Our bodies synchronize themselves with the sun. Come winter we hibernate and in summer the sun’s light accommodates our extended activities.

Living by the sun daily and moons seasonally is to adopt a natural, sustainable and healthy lifestyle. It sounds so simple and yet to practice it year after year is quite radical. In February it is somewhat extreme.

  1. I get it. The best thing for Meniere’s symptoms is more rest and sleep. The best thing for most of what ails us is more rest and sleep. Still I resist. Turn out the lights, I tell myself. Go to sleep early. Thanks for pushing me in the right direction–again.

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