Preparing for the Dark Half of the Year

By , September 22, 2014

Today marks the autumnal equinox for the northern hemisphere. This so called “first day” of autumn approximates the point when we have equal hours of daylight and darkness. Locally for us, at our latitude and longitude, our equinox will actually come on the 24th, two days from now.

This week we’re adjusting our environment to adapt to the dark half of the year. I will collect our oil lamps from storage, wash the chimneys and fill the reservoirs. I’ll straighten up the house to make way for the lamps. Flat surfaces are at a premium in our tiny cabin; adding to it requires taking something else away to make room.

We’ll also bring out additional candles, both real and LED. We’ve found the newer LED candles very useful. Flameless and safe, many of these battery powered lights feature timers. I love this convenience! We set them to come on at about dark fall, and can leave them burning when we go to bed—they’ll turn themselves off after a bit, and turn on again the next evening. You can be sure, too, that I’ll give the pumpkin scented one pride of place.

We use rechargeable batteries all year, but this week we switch to more proactive charging, slipping charged battery sets into packs and coat pockets, to ensure we won’t get caught short with failing batteries on the dark trail.

At our age, we’re also making sure we have reading glasses close at hand. Our slowly advancing presbyopia seems to increase in autumn and winter, as sight is a function of using available light. When we have less light available, we have a harder time seeing, obviously.

I love this time of year! I think I expressed it best in 2010 (see Autumnal Equinox). I’m excited to enter the dark half of the year, and I enjoy preparing for it by lighting up the darkness around us.

Despite our preparations, it’s hard to say how much of the transition we’ll be able to observe directly. We need consistency in our habits to note these subtle changes, and we’re not likely to have any consistency for a week or so. Today, Michelle’s parents arrive on the ferry for a visit. Since they can’t handle the rigors of our trail anymore, they won’t visit the “homestead.” Instead, I’ll likely hike out each day with Michelle, and spend the day closer to town, visiting her folks at their bed & breakfast. We’re suspending our routine for the duration of the visit. I assume this means that when things return to normal, we’ll be struck more by the change in daylight than we normally would be.

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