Greenpoint: Early sunsets? Look on the bright side

The sun sets into the trees on a foggy afternoon, after a rainy cool day, on Daniels Road in Greenfield Center on Saturday, January 4, 2019.
The sun sets into the trees on a foggy afternoon, after a rainy cool day, on Daniels Road in Greenfield Center on Saturday, January 4, 2019.

Today marks the return to standard time, and the return of the grumbling choruses that greet the 4:30 p.m. sunsets.

Yes, it’s fully dark by dinnertime. But what about that extra hour in the morning? That’s my bonus, and this year it is more welcome than ever.

One lingering effect of the pandemic and the 18 months of working fully from home is that I no longer like walking the dog in the dark. I didn’t used to mind stumbling out the front door and into the blackness, getting halfway to the turn in the road before my eyes adjusted to the dark, and then enjoying a stroll under the stars or the moon or even the cloudy darkness, listening to the owls before heading back home before commuting to work.

A year and a half with no commute let me hold off our walk until light, even through the winter. The dog and I got accustomed to a romp through the woods instead of down the road, or if we did go down the road, exploring new cutoffs into different woods, watching the lake from new angles. I can’t do that in the dark, no matter how much the dog wants to.

That means I’ve taken to cheating the dog, taking her for good walks only on my work-from-home days. The days I go into the office, driving off before sunrise, she gets the shortest possible walk, and has to listen to me grouse about it. On the darkest mornings I’ve started crashing into water dishes and posts, set out all over the yard for the goats’ daytime outings. This is not fun, I tell the dog.

It’s not her fault, but she is patient with me. She sighs when we turn around and head back into the house, drinks some water and goes upstairs to lie down with my husband, a winter-hating insomniac who only starts to sleep soundly in the wee hours. This extra hour in the morning means nothing to him. All Standard Time does for him is take an hour off the clock, giving him less light during his waking hours.

The animals don’t use clocks, so they don’t care. They get up and go to bed with the sun, and the slow creep into fewer daylight hours is not changed by whatever time we claim it is. The goats have been developing their winter coats and are unfazed by the cold. On clear dry nights, half of them will sleep out in their yard. In the rain, or in very cold weather, they’ll snuggle together in the back of their shed.

For the chickens and ducks, the nighttime routine happens whatever time it is when the sun goes down. There are a variety of night houses — small coops, covered cages with roosts in them — and they divvy themselves up and head for their own beds. The roosters insist on sleeping in a tree by the front steps, and they have taught the newcomer, a white bantam rooster someone abandoned in a clearing down the road, to do the same. A growing number of hens also prefer the tree to their safe coops, but hopefully the snow will change their minds about open-air sleeping.

For me, for a while anyway, I’ll enjoy my bonus morning hour. And by the time the sunrise gets this late again, around Christmas, maybe I’ll be enjoying the bonus of the predawn winter sky.

The dog would appreciate less grousing and more stopping to admire the black sky painted bright with stars, the winter constellations and the streak of the Milky Way. As long as she gets her walk.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Nov. 21. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Categories: Life and Arts

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