Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Rhythms of Life

“I got rhythm, I got music,” goes the old Gershwin lyric, and I like both. I can’t dance well and I don’t play any musical instruments, but the rhythms of life? I’ve willingly subjected myself to them and I’m better off for it. I’m in bed before nine o’clock every night and asleep minutes after, then I’m up and at it by 5:00 am. That makes me a morning person, but I wasn’t always. During the first half of my adult life I was a night owl who hated to get up in the morning. As a child, however, my daily routine had been parentally imposed — bed at 8:30 pm and up at 6:00 am, so I’ve gotten back to an older, more natural routine.

Day's End Casco Bay

On that note, three Americans recently won a Nobel Prize for medicine because of their research into the benefits of what they call “circadian” rhythm. They claim bad things can result when we upset our daily sleep cycles, things like increased risk of cancer and “degenerative neurological conditions.

New Nobel Laureates

Important as daily rhythms are, I think our annual rhythms are too and this year seems strange. As someone born and raised in New England I like my seasons, all four of them — even though up here in the mountains of Maine winter can be a bit too long. By March, nearly everyone wants it over and all of us long for signs of spring, even the tiniest manifestation, like a glimpse of bare ground between snow storms can be enough to sustain us for weeks, but we got none of those last spring. March was colder than January and April wasn’t springlike either. Summer was fine when it finally arrived, but now it has stretched into October. It feels unnatural.

From Portland Press Herald

One of those new Nobel Prize winners, Jeffrey C. Hall, lives in rural Maine. He’s retired with seven dogs and several Harley Davidson motorcycles in Cambridge, Maine, which is in the geographic center of the state — in the boonies. He’s not a stereotypical scientist with a lab coat, but instead looks just like any other pot-bellied, middle-aged, balding, white-guy, Harley driver you often see on the back roads of northern New England. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Washington DC, he gradually migrated north to New England, first to Massachusetts and finally to Maine. I wonder if he’s noticing how our seasonal rhythms are off this year.

Kezar Lake Sunset

I’ve been living in rural Maine forty years and we always expected the first frost shortly after Labor Day. We’d would get out the winter jackets for Fryeburg Fair week — not every day, but one or two. This year it was shorts and tee-shirts for most of October’s first week. I like wearing shorts with those little socks under my sneakers from June through August, but then I’m ready to don long pants and taller socks come September. We’ve always gotten a few warm days in the fall and they’re nice, but not every day. I’ve had to put a fan on me to sleep in both September and October. That’s not supposed to happen and it’s throwing off my annual rhythm.

Autumn in the Yard

Autumn in New England has its own smells too and they’re comforting to me as my olfactory sense gets stronger as I get older, although maybe it only seems that way as both my eyesight and hearing get measurably weaker. There’s a certain very pleasant scent detectable when I first step outside on a crisp, clear fall morning. I get a burst of energy when the weather cools that I used to expend on things like splitting and stacking firewood. Cool air and autumn breezes would keep me from sweating too much and I liked smelling smoke from a woodstove while I worked. I also liked keeping at it until sunset, then going inside for dinner.

Early snow in the yard
In November, I look forward to the first snow. I can always smell it before it comes and it’s comforting as long as I’ve got all my autumn chores done. November can be cold enough to break out the flannel-lined pants and woolen socks which I’ll then wear right through most of March, or all if it as I did this year because it was often below zero. If the first snow doesn’t come in November it’ll surely come not too far into December.

By then our days will have shortened, but government upset that rhythm by imposing Daylight Savings Time, which ends at midnight, November 4th this year. I wonder what Mr. Hall and his Nobel laureate colleagues think of that. I’d like to ignore the mandated time changes, but then I’d be an hour out of step with the rest of America.


Uber_Fritz said...

Beautiful commentary about living in rural Maine with great images! I have an entire array of similar shots, minus the coast of course, from the Conway area.

Uber_Fritz said...

My life rhythms have been in disarray for a long time, but my new routine is more bizarre. Do some online gaming with a MA buddy from 8 PM to 9:30 PM. Then some Netflix or Amazon Prime, but always fall asleep in the chair. Final bed time is between midnight and 1 AM, but up by 5:30 AM for a sojourn to Starbucks.

Jared said...

Global warming!

Unknown said...

Tom: Speaking of Cambridge, Maine, being in the boondocks reminds me that in 1958, when I went to college in Massachusetts, I was from Stow, Maine, not far from where you now live. Some of my classmates from Massachusetts and New York thought I was from the boondocks and one of them once asked me what people in Maine did for green vegetables in the winter!

Anonymous said...

The biggest error in my rhythm of life was stasis.
Once I became stationary, with PLENTY of shelter space, I started amassing "stuff".
I even began amassing other peoples "stuff".
Can't get rid of it fast enough now.
The (now idle) tools are bad enough, with no heirs apparent (read, apprentice,rising journymen) interested in using them, or even learning how, or why.
The books are probably the toughest, but not impossible, to see go into the dumpster.

Tom McLaughlin said...

I'm about to jettison hundreds of my books because I'm not going build more shelves. Now I've got two houses full of stuff. Eventually I'll sell one, but then it's going to be a huge yard sale, then off to the Goodwill with truckloads.