Life Uncategorized

Tatooine mornings (faking the sunrise)

We’ve wandered too far from home. Although our species evolved near the equator, we’ve migrated well beyond our natural habitat, colonizing the planet’s extreme northern and southern latitudes. And our bodies aren’t well-suited to handle this displacement.

More specifically, the short days of winter wreak havoc on our circadian rhythms, our internal clock. Typically, these rhythms wake us up at sunrise, then and settle us down at night. But when the days grow short, this clock compensates; soon, we feel tempted to sleep through the long nights.

Fifteen-hour naps don’t fly for the working man, unfortunately. To counteract the effect of winter’s too-short days, I use two gizmos. The first, a “light box”, does exactly what its name suggests. It pumps out 10000 lux of full-spectrum light, (supposedly) calibrated to imitate the sun’s wavelengths. By sitting in front of the light box first thing every morning, I trick my body into thinking the sun has risen.

The other device, a radiant space heater, produces a warm, orange light. It may not have clinical effects (like the light box does), but it’s a pleasant sensation, akin to a fire’s glow or the sun’s rays. Plus, it keeps me warm on cold winter mornings.

Together, these two gadgets help me to counteract seasonal affective disorder. I haul myself out of bed, plop down in front of them, and soak in the light while meditating or reading the news. Then, I’ll often keep the devices powered while I write or draw before work.

In other words, I remake the sun.

Life Uncategorized

Rooting for snowstorms

For as long as I can remember, I’ve rooted for snowstorms.

As a kid, I wasn’t alone. What student doesn’t celebrate when school gets cancelled? Lying half-awake in the pre-dawn dark, I’d switch on the radio. The newscasters rattled off local cancellations, and I desperately hoped to get lucky.

But that doesn’t explain why I still love a good blizzard, even as an adult. After all, working stiffs don’t get many “snow days.” No, I love snowstorms because they feel apocalyptic. A taste of catastrophe from the safety of my living room.

My love affair with any given winter storm starts long before it strikes. I spend the season tracing the jet stream, hoping for an expressway to open up between the moisture-rich Gulf and my Appalachian home. I pray for cold air to tumble down from the frozen north.

As a storm approaches, my obsession grows more severe. I watch the radar constantly, willing the darker blues to slide my way. I curse the weatherman who downplays the storm and venerate his hyperbolic colleague. When local newscasts (inevitably) freak out, their reports from the empty bread aisle fill me with glee.

Once the first flakes begin to drift down, I stop watching the radar and start watching the window. The car’s hood measures the accumulation totals for me, and as long as the pile keeps growing, I’m in heaven. I love how snow mutes traffic. How it shrouds winter’s grim pall and the skeletal trees. How familiar streets feel abandoned and hostile as the snow falls.

Storm-love has its dark side, of course. A similar impulse drives me to YouTube every time a major weather event strikes elsewhere. Asia tsunamis and California earthquakes enthrall me, entire divorced from any compassion for the victims.

But as long as no one gets hurt, apocalypse in miniature feels kind of fun.