Even the worst pessimist could not have denied it today, spring was in the air. Overcoming the inertia that frequently besets days off, and taking the dog for a walking beside the River Nore, there was a joyous moment: daffodils were in bloom. It was only 13th February and the flowers were with us.
For the past fortnight, casual conversation has often included the observation, “There’s a great stretch in the days.”
Analysed, it is an odd comment, but every year around this time of year, it figures in the conversation of the farming community in I live and work. It is an observation that requires no comment, other than an agreeable nod, or perhaps words to suggest how welcome is the return of the daylight.
Once sunset goes past six in the evening, there is a noticeable change in people’s moods, it isn’t only about astronomical shifts; it is the crossing of a psychological bar. Winter has been defeated for another year; the coming summer months will offer a season of growth and work.
When one is living in the perma-light of a conurbation, it is hard to comprehend what a difference simple astronomy can make in people’s lives. As our hemisphere again tilts towards the sun, a year of potential opens up for working farmers. Rarely is the daylight about suburban activities like working in the garden after tea, or evening barbecues on the patio. On some evenings daylight will mean the chance for sporting or social activities, more often daylight brings opportunities for work, another chance to try to farm at a profit, another chance to try to have something to pass on to the succeeding generation.
The stretch in the days brings the light that starts the growing season (though the past winter has been so mild the growth hardly ceased); it lengthens the working day; hopefully, it brings weather that allows livestock to be turned out into the fields again. The daylight changes lives.
Unless one has lived in a community where the return of the daylight means the return of life, it is hard to imagine the significance of such a simple planetary fact.
On my internet browser, I have a link to a time and date website which tells me. Among other things, the website how much longer today is than yesterday (3 minutes 58 seconds), how much longer today was than the shortest day (2 hours 15 minutes) and how much shorter today was than the longest day (7 hours 15 minutes).
Perhaps it is eccentric, but it is an undeniable reality.