“There’s a great stretch in the days”.
Analysed, it was an odd comment, but every year around this time of year, it would figure in the conversation of the farming community in which I lived and worked. It invited no comment, other than an agreeable, “Aye, great to see it”.
Once sunset went past six in the evening, there was a noticeable change in people’s moods, it wasn’t only about astronomical shifts; it was the crossing of a psychological bar. Winter had been defeated for another year; the coming summer months would offer a season of growth and work.
It is hard in suburbia to comprehend what a difference simple astronomy could make in people’s lives. As our hemisphere again tilted towards the sun, a year of potential opened up for working farmers. This wasn’t suburban luxuries like working in the garden after tea or evening barbecues on the patio; this was opportunities for economic survival, another chance to have something to leave to the following generation.
The stretch in the days brought the light that started the growing season; it lengthened the working day; it brought weather that dried the fields after the winter rain; it allowed livestock to be turned out into the fields again; it changed lives.
Unless one has lived in a community where the return of the daylight meant the return of life, it is hard to imagine the significance of such a simple planetary fact.
In an effort to try to remain in touch with rural realities I have an icon on my computer that tells me the sunrise and sunset times, and how long there is until each of them:
amongst my bookmarks I have a link to a time and date website which tells me, amongst other things, how much longer each day is than the one previous http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/city.html?n=78
Eccentric? Perhaps, but which realities are more important, daylight and darkness or possessions and status?
Which reality lasts?