Sunday, March 14, 2010

Daylight Saving Time

I’m the only one in the house who’s up this first March Sunday of Daylight Saving Time. As the sun rose this morning, I watched the outline of a large bird—could it be an eagle?—flapping strangely against a top limb of the tallest cedar. It looked like he held something in his talons, and I wondered, did he have to finish the kill from the treetop? Then the bird of prey rose and with a slight flap moved outward along the branch, until I saw what had been underneath him: his mate.

Amidst the complaints of my friends about the government messing with our circadian rhythm by forcing us into Daylight Saving, I secretly rejoice when the time comes each March to lose an hour of sleep. For me, that loss is well worth what is gained. Now we will eat dinner later, enjoy spring evenings, let the kids stay outside later as the weather turns fair.

My writing time in the wee hours of dark mornings won’t be interrupted by the sun or by the children who rise with it. Without any prompting from the clock or the government, our days will continue to lengthen as the clouds begin to clear, making way for the more direct rays of our summer sun.

I believe it was our last year in Jordan, spring of 1999, when the Jordanian government decided to permanently abolish Daylight Saving Time—something many of my friends would love to see happen in the U.S. It seemed like a good idea beforehand.

We didn’t move our clocks ahead that March, and my third daughter was born in an Amman hospital at the beginning of April. We put her in a fabric Moses basket on our bedroom dresser, because her nineteen-month-old sister still needed the crib. When the baby began to stir and fuss for a four a.m. feeding, I would rise and nurse her, and by the time I laid her back in the Moses basket it would be daylight outside. Broad daylight at 4:30 a.m.

We closed the shades over our windows in self defense. I tried to keep my eyes closed during those early feedings, squinting enough that I could see not to drop the baby and hoping to fool my body into letting me drift back into much-needed sleep. It didn’t work.

So I began to pull on clothes after the early morning feeding. I laced up my sneakers and locked the door behind me, and I walked the hills of our neighborhood in Amman. The streets were empty, but the morning light felt as bright as noon. Occasionally I would pass another soul on the street, and we would nod or whisper a greeting in Arabic, passing the peace from Arab to American and back again. I walked each morning, and as the days lengthened toward solstice, the sun came up earlier. I don’t know how the rest of Amman slept on those mornings. In June, as planned, we moved back to the States for good.

The Jordanian government changed its mind in 2000 and reinstituted Daylight Saving Time. The energy savings wasn’t as great as they’d thought it would be—that was the official reason—but can’t help wondering how many others were awake at 4:00 a.m. the spring of 1999 in Jordan, watching the sun between the slats and listening to the insistent birds.

This morning's sun is not yet above the trees. The eagle (if it was an eagle) and his mate are gone. If I listen carefully, even with the windows shut to keep out the spring cold, I can hear the morning birds singing.


  1. Wait until this summer--in these northern latitudes, it will be light late AND early. Your kids will keep you up late with the sun and the early dawn will rudely awaken you.

  2. I welcome daylight savings time too. Because Ben works swing shift, we go to bed late, but as we get older our bodies and their rhythms protest this more and more. From now till November we get to hop into bed (at what feels like) one hour earlier. Hurrah!

    ~Colleen Jeffery