Sunday, March 8, 2009


I just found out by accident that the time changed at midnight. Thus, it is 3:46 p.m. instead of 2:46 p.m. Which means I have been cheated out of an hour.

I know, I know. I get that hour back in the fall. But I am blissfully ensconced in the Room at the Top of the Stairs at Ragdale, where I have to do nothing but write for two weeks, and I want that hour now.

Seriously. In the fall, I’ll probably have to use it to rake leaves or something.

I really don't like Daylight Savings Time. Like a lot of Hoosiers, I used to make fun of the fact that the Indiana legislature voted it down year after year. The rumor was that farmers didn’t want it because it confused the cows. “And cows need to know what time it is because--?” we’d say. “Jeez. What a bunch of hicks. It’s embarrassing.”

When they finally voted in a few years ago, it seemed like progress--until I realized that those long, light evenings came at the cost of what I loved most about early summer mornings. I usually get up between five and six, and in summer there was a quality of light and silence that could be experienced at no other time of the day. The houses around mine were all still fast asleep, there was no sound at all but birds just beginning to come awake in the trees above me and, sometimes, a little breeze rustling in the leaves. The air was clean and fresh, the grass sparkling with dew. The whole world seemed to belong just to me—and Louise, who, bless her, is the one who (quite insistently) wakes me up every morning.

But with Daylight Savings Time, first light comes later. What used to be five in the morning is now six—and, though the light is still beautiful, the particular quality of silence has vanished.

We’re not going back. I know that. But turning the clock forward or backward always makes me feel melancholy about the lost light of early summer mornings. Worse, it pitches me into what I think of as “That Time Thing.”

As in, What is time, anyway? If we can just decree that it’s 2:40 instead of 1:40, why can’t we just decree that its, say, 1965 instead of 2009?

Or, can we? Just typing “1965,” I am suddenly, as real as anything, in my friend Madeleine’s car with a bunch of girls on a summer evening.

We’ve chipped in to send one person into the dance at the Armory up the street so we can see what mark they’re putting on people’s hands. We have a kit with markers and various kinds of stamps, including a purloined library stamp, that allow us to duplicate almost anything—and we’ve marked our hands accordingly. Now, “Satisfaction” blaring on the radio, we roll up the windows, light cigarettes (even though none of us actually smokes) and sit-down-dance, singing along with the Stones as aloud as we can—the goal being to get sweaty and smelly enough to trick the bouncer into believing that the bogus mark is real and that we’re coming back to the dance after a pass-out.

Did it work? Can’t remember. But, boy, for just one instant I was right there in that other time.

Which, naturally, leads to the question, am I really almost 62? Where is that person I was on that long ago night? And countless others better left at rest.

I doubt this is the particular kind of confusion suffered by the cows. Still, I am considerably more sympathetic toward them than I used to be.

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