Writers on the Range - Spending and saving daylight in New Mexico

Laurie Lange

For years in our household in New Mexico, my family took a stand against daylight saving time, refusing to set our clocks forward on the appointed day. We called it daylight spending time, because in order to prolong the evenings, it stole a cherished morning hour. We appreciated the 60 minutes that were missing in other households and persisted in our own system, though it caused some practical contortions in dealing with friends: “Come for dinner at 5 p.m. – I mean, that’s 6 for you.”
As “we” became “I” in a household no longer filled with children, I’ve persevered with what I call “sun time” all year-round. I love the abundance of long summer mornings, the luxury of that extra-early, day-lit hour to greet flowers in the garden, to hone the fresh thoughts that float up readily in a just-awakened mind.
Sun time grounds me. It grounded Ochwiay Biano, too. Chief of Taos Pueblo early in the 20th century, he once told psychologist Carl Jung as they visited on the roof of the pueblo, “If we do not help the sun go across the sky each day, soon it will be night forever.”
Consider how disconnected things can get. Every year, it seems, someone in New Mexico’s Legislature introduces a bill to alter the time of day. DST has been ratcheted back until it now carves days out of winter.
Investigating, I found that our current time-saving change dates were actually set federally in 2007, to start on the second Sunday in March, preceding the spring equinox by as much as two weeks, and to end late, on the second Sunday of November. But like me, individual states can opt out, and two Western states, Arizona and Hawaii, have done so.
Sensibly, Arizonans survived their sizzling summers by getting as much of their day as possible into those coolest early hours. Awash in ocean humidity, Hawaiians did so, too. In some places, the body politic knew how to deal with summer heat.
In 2015, New Mexico’s DST bill simply did not acknowledge the climate. Someone was proposing yearlong daylight saving time. Radio commentary suggested that legislators must have figured that they ought to do something to demonstrate their productivity. But this? Sun time skewed both summer and winter?
I was about to storm the Roundhouse, our legislative chambers in Santa Fe, whose circular shape echoes the ceremonial kiva in which pueblos have kept community order for ages. Attention to basic planetary reality was at stake, especially for our children. How would our kids learn to establish right relations with Earth on its appointed, increasingly weather-wild rounds if noon on the clock never corresponded with the sun’s zenith? And without even mentioning summer, a winter daylight savings meant that night would still be afoot at 8 a.m. Why make kids go to school in the dark?
Fortunately, the bill died as the clock ran out on the lawmakers, who may have realized it seemed ill-considered. Think about just a couple of examples, say around food activities, of time-related needs across society and seasons: Farmers need cool early summer light for their field work, while urbanites cook mostly in the evening.
DST was instituted to conserve electricity in both World Wars. After 1945, even individual counties could set their own arrangements, causing widespread problems in industries like broadcasting and transportation. So in 1975, after studies indicated energy savings, the U.S. Department of Transportation coordinated DST nationwide. The National Bureau of Standards countered that any savings were insignificant, but DST stayed, with state choice.
As we’re called now to address planetary imbalances caused by our current lifestyles, perhaps we should focus more on Earth’s needs, rather than what we perceive as ours. Waking now at dawn, I take stock as velvet night slips into the lengthening blaze of day. Soon, society will begin the fiction of saving daylight for later in the day. For more than half a year, the clock will again be out of sync with celestial time.
In my world though, I’ll continue to greet the day in sun time, much as Ochwiay Biano did in his way a century ago.

Laurie Lange is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News (hcn.org). She gardens, writes and watches the wild world from an off-grid household in New Mexico.


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