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The Best Explanation of DST

My friend Donna Henes has studied the seasons for decades. Here’s her brilliant take on Daylight Savings Time.


Saving Daylight

by Donna Henes, Urban Shaman

Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour tonight. 

Why do we do this?

Light equals life. It is precious and we are loath to lose it. Not that the dark does not bring its own healing, life-enhancing atmosphere, but after the long pitch of winter, we are eager, anxious, impatient for more light. Nature knows that and obliges.

The worst of the dark is long over. The Winter Solstice is as dark as it gets and the light has been returning in tiny, almost imperceptible increments ever since. Creeping back by a minute each morning and evening, it has been getting lighter earlier and staying light later. The change is not as slow as it sometimes seems. 2 minutes a day x 7 days = 14 minutes a week x 4 = nearly an hour a month x 3 months = 3 hours from winter to spring.

The length of day is determined by the rotation of the Earth around its axis and it is always the same – 86,000 seconds. Which translates as 1,433.333 minutes, or 23.888 hours in a day. Clearly chaos would erupt if people tried to use a clock based on a 52.8-minute hour. In order to establish any sort of standardized time, it was necessary to round off the numbers and create a day of 24 hours, which could then be easily divided into an even number of hours and minutes.

The length of a day is always (with the exception of occasional leap seconds) 24 hours long everywhere on Earth, but the length of daylight changes according to latitude. On the equator, it never varies too far from 12 hours of light and 12 hour of dark each day, year round. At the poles, it is light for 6 months and dark for 6 months with only two sunrises per year. In the northern and southern hemispheres, the light season transforms gradually into the dark, and the dark into the light. But every place on the planet experiences an near equal amount of light and dark overall averaged over a year – approximately 12 hours of each – at the equator, half of every day, and everywhere else, half of every year.

While the measure of the length of a day, an hour, a minute have been manipulated for the convenience of human society, the length of daylight during any 24-hour period is fixed and cannot be tampered with. However, we have figured out a way to ensure that we are able to make the best of the light that we have. Light, after all, is too precious to squander. Too expensive to do without.

This notion did not escape the notice of the notoriously frugal Benjamin Franklin. In a moment of whimsy, he wrote An Economical Project, a discourse on the thrift of natural versus artificial lighting. On a trip to Paris he noticed that even though the sun rose at 6 AM, the Parisians rose at noon, which meant that they slept through six hours of sunlight and stayed up until late, burning the midnight oil, as it were, since they spent their 6-hour evenings by candlelight. When he calculated the number of Parisians by the number of pounds of tallow they used by the number of hours they burned their candles, he was appalled. Why not just get up earlier and enjoy the light? This audacious insight was the seed of the concept of Daylight Savings.

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The idea was first advocated seriously by London builder William Willett in his 1907 pamphlet, Waste of Daylight, that proposed advancing clocks 20 minutes on each of four Sundays in April, and turning them back by the same amount on four Sundays in September. He wrote, “Everyone appreciates the long, light evenings. Everyone laments their shortage as autumn approaches; and everyone has given utterance to regret that the clear, bright light of an early morning during spring and summer months is so seldom seen or used.”

It took World War I to make the scheme of saving daylight a reality. In an effort to conserve the fuel needed to produce electric power, Germany and Austria took the initiative to advance the clock an hour at 11:00 PM on April 30, 1916, until the following October. Other countries immediately adopted this action: Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey, and Tasmania. Nova Scotia and Manitoba adopted it as well, with Britain following suit three weeks later. In 1917, Australia and Newfoundland began saving daylight, followed by the United States in 1918.

During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted year-round Daylight Saving Time, called “War Time,” from February 9, 1942 to September 30, 1945. In Britain, the benefits of Daylight Savings Time or Summer Time were doubled during World War II, when the Brits put their clocks two hours ahead of GMT, creating Double Summer Time. During the war winters, clocks remained one hour ahead of GMT.

Daylight Savings Time is thought to be an effective way to cut back on the use of energy. The theory is that energy use and the demand for electricity for lighting homes is directly related to the times when people go to bed at night and rise in the morning. In the average home, 25 percent of electricity is used for lighting and small appliances, such as TVs and stereos. A good percentage of energy consumed by lighting and appliances occurs in the evening when families are home. By moving the clock ahead one hour, the amount of electricity consumed each day decreases.

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The Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. starting in 2007 by beginning DST three weeks earlier in the spring and one week later in the autumn giving us more of a good thing. It is a small, frugal contribution to the grand goal of energy conservation. Ben would be proud.


A Slow Landing

LiminalTwo months with only Seeds as posts—where did the time go?! Moving is a LOT of work, Beloved. Don’t you ever think otherwise.

A friend made me laugh yesterday when she asked me if I was really here in California yet. The honest answer is sorta. Or, sometimes.

Then I spoke to a colleague who told me a story about a major move of his. Now on the other side of it, rather than amidst it as I am, he told me that he learned something vital from the time around his major move, that the disconnected, not-quite-grounded, liminal place of neither here nor there is an important part of the process.

I had the physical sensation of that first scary time of letting go of the edge of a pool to swim freely in the center and letting the water hold me up. This experience probably happened to me fifty years ago, but I can feel it in my arm and my belly like it was yesterday.

So, beloved reader, the blog title has changed because I have changed. I have unpacked and set up my house, though I am not quite yet fully here, so when I read my dear friend Donna Henes’ post about house cleaning from the inside out, I smiled because now that I have my house arranged, I am beginning to clean it from the inside out.

Before I let you go into Donna’s delicious prose, let me assure you that I am landing—it’s just a slow landing, slow enough  so it sticks when I get here. Thanks for your patience with my hiatus.

House Cleaning From the Inside Out

posted by Donna Henes

Our messy thinking and sloppy habits come more easily into focus when our surroundings are tidy and beautiful and filled with only what is meaningful, so that we can release them, as well.

A thorough house cleaning, internal as well as external, is a fabulous way to delineate the purpose of our lives. Letting go of the inessential creates an elegant order to our existence. An orderly house always seems like the invitation to a fresh start, which is why so many cultures incorporate a thorough house scrubbing, a clean sweep, as it were, as well as an internal ablution in their New Year’s rituals.

When we clear out the inessentials, we make space for ourselves to grow and expand to fill the void. With the chaff, the distractions and dirty corners of our environments and minds cleared away, we can better see the structure of our lives, the foundations of our support, the bare bones that comprise our true Selves, and dedicate ourselves to living a more authentic life.

Throw out, re-cycle or donate one thing every day. This is a great practice in claiming what is important to you and discarding what is not. It is easy and gradual so that it is not too upsetting. 

Spend an evening in the closet playing dress up. Get rid of everything that that doesn’t fit your figure or your evolved Self-image.

Eliminate one food from your diet that you know you should not eat. When you get used to living without it, eliminate one more. 

Send all of the novels that you know you will never re-read to a school or hospital library or to a clinic waiting room. And that pile of magazines, too. 

Clean out your paper and computer files, your address book, old correspondence and tax records older than seven years. How much of that clutter is really relevant any more? 

Do the same with your medicine cabinet and cosmetic drawers. How many of the products crammed in there merely mask superficial symptoms and flaws rather than enhance your essential strength and beauty?

Remove yourself from situations and relationships that no longer nurture you. Refuse what does not interest you. This is harder. Hold tight to your entitlement to be fulfilled.

Monitor your thoughts, and edit the negative, Self-derogatory ones in mid-stream. Eliminate stinking thinking. Reframe your thoughts so that they reflect a more positive attitude. 

Reduce stress through yoga, exercise, breathing techniques, warm baths, sex, music, art and/or meditation. 

Eliminate the accumulated toxins in your body by fasting occasionally.

Slough off the old, like a snake shedding its skin, or a butterfly its cocoon. Emerge renewed, refreshed and re-energized.


Someone asked me the other day if I thought astrology was ‟real.” The question made me laugh. Real? Of course astrology is real─it’s been practiced for millennia! That individual didn’t ask me what she really wanted to know which was whether I thought astrology was valid.

Here’s my take on astrology, numerology and any other way to understand the human condition: it’s one way to cut up the human pie. Maybe that’s why I liked this Martha Stewart quote?

So the pie isn’t perfect? Cut it into wedges. Stay in control, and never panic.

Look at it this way. Humans can be divided into as many ways as you can find. We can look at signs, or numbers, or Carolyn Myss’ new archescopes, or Jungian archetypes, or Freudian parts of consciousness, and don’t get me started on the theologians. We’ve been dividing human-ness into pieces for a long, long time. The point is: it’s all pie, no matter how you divide it.

We’re all human, sharing this small marble known as Earth. None of us is perfect. Divide it any way you like. Breathe. Accept. Let go, and choose again that way you’ll stay in control and never panic.

Seeds XVII, 9