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VOL. 43 | NO. 45 | Friday, November 8, 2019

Hard to appreciate autumn when it includes November

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This year, like every year, I made my annual vow to better appreciate October, my favorite month.

And this year, like every year – Whoosh! October is gone without any special notice on my part.

Part of the problem is that I’ve never actually defined what I mean by “better appreciate.” How do you do that? Sit on the porch, stare at the trees and try to guess which leaf is going to drop next?

Decorate for Halloween on Oct. 1, and walk amid jack-o-lanterns and assorted ghouls for the next 31 days? Buy a Halloween tree, like the one in the email ad that came my way?

Fact is, Halloween hasn’t figured very high on my itinerary since my last night of trick-or-treating at age 13. (I was probably pushing the boundary even then, but hey, candy.)

As an adult, I’ve never been much of a Halloween observer. My wife might put out a pumpkin or two, but uncarved, more a salute to autumn and harvest time than to All Hallows Eve.

Nor do we ever seem to embark on that fall foliage trip that sounds so appealing in, say, July. The best view I typically get of the array of colors is from calendar shots or tourist brochures.

Besides, truth be told, my degree of color-vision imparity probably takes the whole experience down a notch or two below the standard human being’s.

I did, one afternoon a few weeks ago, go biking in the neighborhood environs to take advantage of that low-angle sunlight and a temperature that had moderated from the 98-99-99-85-95 that, AccuWeather says, started the month.

But I’m not sure an hour or so of pedaling and gazing constitutes much of an appreciation for an entire month.

The weeklong Jackson County Fair in my Mississippi youth used to provide an annual means of marking October. It was, among other things, a genuine treat for noses, with the olfactory smorgasbord serving up wafts of cotton candy, cow manure and seafood gumbo in sometimes-jarring succession.

Alas, in their wisdom the powers that be in Middle Tennessee schedule their fairs for the hotter months.

Compounding the melancholy of a lost October is the fact that it is immediately followed by possibly my least favorite month: November.

It isn’t entirely November’s fault that it rates so low. On the positive side, it delivers Thanksgiving, a frequent No. 2 (behind Christmas, of course) in the holiday list for Americans. And some of college football’s best rivalries are reserved for late in the season. (Nod here to the Egg Bowl, featuring Ole Miss and Mississippi State.)

On the November downside, and it is considerable: There is no baseball, for the most part.

But chief among the drawbacks is the end of daylight saving time, which typically throws me into a funk.

That’s not surprising, strictly from a body-clock perspective. During the 31 days of October just past, the sunset times moved from 6:30 p.m. to 5:52 p.m. That’s 38 minutes total, or 2,280 seconds, which works out to an average of 73.5 seconds a day.

That kind of gradual change is what a finely tuned (Read: precariously balanced) body and mind like mine needs to adjust to the coming winter dark-and-bleakness.

Instead, we’ve artificially manufactured a system that jumps ahead in darkness the equivalent of 48.9 days over the course of a single night.

I’m no circadian rhythm expert, but that can’t be healthy, as noted by the website timeanddate.com:

“Losing one hour of afternoon daylight after setting the clocks back to standard time can trigger mental illness, including bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression.”

Ill effects are also noted for the annual spring change into daylight time, but I find that spring forward extra hour of evening daylight a welcome change, as opposed to the fall back loss.

In March, I wrote about a legislative effort to switch Tennessee to permanent daylight time. But since that will take Congressional action to be possible, I’m not holding my breath.

Instead, I’m considering hibernating until the winter solstice when, tick by tick, daylight will start getting longer again. And sanity returns.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com

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