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Margaret Hartley's Greenpoint
by Margaret Hartley


A Daily Gazette community blog
Ideas on greener living

Longer, sunnier days

A friend commented a couple of weeks ago that while it wasn’t still light when she left work, it was at least not entirely dark.

Progress, she called it.

Last week another friend made a similar observation, but had his own name for it: Sun Up Day. That’s what he calls the first day that the sun has not entirely sunk behind the hills near his office before he heads home.

The days are definitely getting longer, minute by minute, and we know what it means: Spring is coming. For both my friends, the later sunset is a major mood lifter.

I notice the change more in the morning. I am still taking my morning dog walk in the dark, but the sky is starting to lighten by the time I get home. And the sun is up by school bus time — 7 a.m., which so far has not lifted the school bus rider’s mood any.

The sun rises a minute or two earlier each morning and sets about a minute later each night. Today, sunrise was about 10 of 7 and sunset is about 5:30.

My Floridian husband has noticed an increase in sunshine, but between the subzero mornings and a bad head cold, he has not cheered up yet. In fact, last week he was alarmingly morose, asking questions like, “Will we ever be happy again?”

The boys in my family tend toward the dramatic.

For me, the snowy weather combined with the increase in light makes me love winter even more. The bright sunshine on the snow is magnificent. The cross-country skiing is great in the woods around my house and even better on the groomed trails of a neighbor’s biathlon center.

Last week I snowshoed through the woods to a friend’s house, breaking new trail. I had expected to be following snowmobile paths, but I was the first one out since the last 10-inch snowfall. Well, the first human out. Several deer had run along the same path I was on, rabbits had been crossing back and forth, and something very little — mouse sized — also left tracks, some of them going in and out of holes near the bases of trees.

I noticed places where the deer had stopped, and where they had lain down. I was getting tired too, and by the time I got through the woods to the open field I felt like I couldn’t lift my feet anymore.

But the half-mile walk to my friend’s seemed to refresh me, probably because it’s so easy to walk on a road after you’ve been stomping through deep snow. After a glass of water, we strapped the snowshoes on again and went back into her woods.

There were three of us this time, so we could rotate who was trail breaker. We wandered up and down hills for the better part of an hour, admiring a favorite ancient oak and the bent-over yellow birches. It didn’t matter where we went, because eventually we looped back to our own tracks and followed them home.

I took the road back to my house, where I found that my husband and son had managed to cheer up. The boy was alternately sliding down a huge snow pile and digging a tunnel underneath it. His dad was chopping wood, a dead beech he had taken down a few days earlier, and talking about when we might put out our maple taps.

They both commented on the beautiful sunny weather, and how maybe winter wasn’t so bad after all.

That’s how it is. Winter always feels great when you can remember it won’t last forever.

Margaret Hartley is the Gazette’s Sunday and features editor. Greenpoint appears in the Gazette’s print edition Sundays on the Environment page.

Have a question or a topic you’d like addressed on Greenpoint? Contact or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter.

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