Sunday, December 2, 2007

Dwindling Daylight Hours

This picture was taken Dec. 5 at noon from the Homer Spit. Obviously, the sun doesn't get very far off the horizon! At 3:00 the sun was the same distance above the mountains, just in a different place.

One of the main things on my mind before moving to Alaska was dealing with the short days in the winter. We are nineteen days from the shortest day of the year, and we are definitely feeling it. It begins to get light out around 8:00 a.m., but the sun doesn't actually peep over the mountains until 10:00 (on good days, when it's not cloudy!). It sets right about 4:00 where we live, though it sets later in Homer. (I couldn't say how much later because I'm never in both places at sunset on the same day.) Just in the past week or so the lack of daylight has become more noticeable. A couple days ago my neighbor, who has lived here all her life, said, "You'd think I'd get used to this lack of sunlight by now, but I still hate it." In our family we're noticing our moods are a little rougher, perhaps. One never knows if it's lack of sleep or stress or something else causing moods, but when everything else stays the same, I begin to suspect it is lack of sunshine. On one hand, it is very noticeable, while on the other hand, it really isn't as bad as people think. I remind people that even in Michigan in November and December one can go to work in the dark and it is dark when you get out. Like one of my cousins up here told me, the lack of daylight affects everyone, just some people more than others. I take to heart the recipe for staying mentally healthy: take care of myself. That means exercise every day, get sunshine if the sun is out and I can, get a good night's rest (not difficult when it is dark so many hours), eat well. It's common sense stuff, but if we want to stay here and stay happy all winter, this is what we do. A couple other things I have learned: don't be afraid to go out in the dark (it's amazing how many people think that once it's dark you have to stay inside), and play games. I have learned more card games, board games, cribbage, etc. in the past few weeks than in the past 25 years combined!
P.S. You'd think with all this darkness I'd have seen the northern lights, but even up here the ideal times for viewing northern lights is 12:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Like they say, drinking lots of water before bedtime helps in viewing the aurora's!

3 comments:

Renee Beaubien-Baerresen said...

Hi there! My husband and i are considering moving to Homer. We are both retired, love the outdoors, hunting, fishing, but I worry about the dark days. We currently live in Ca. We hate it. I'm not a warm weather person and don't like the political climate! We would like acreage, to have horses, some steers and a greenhouse. We are older, I'm 56 and my hubby is 61. Is it more difficult in the winter? I have lived in the mountains near San Lake Tahoe and Loved it! Any input would be great. I'm also pretty social, and love to get involved with people and the community!
Thank you!
Renee

Renee Beaubien-Baerresen said...

Hi there! My husband and i are considering moving to Homer. We are both retired, love the outdoors, hunting, fishing, but I worry about the dark days. We currently live in Ca. We hate it. I'm not a warm weather person and don't like the political climate! We would like acreage, to have horses, some steers and a greenhouse. We are older, I'm 56 and my hubby is 61. Is it more difficult in the winter? I have lived in the mountains near San Lake Tahoe and Loved it! Any input would be great. I'm also pretty social, and love to get involved with people and the community!
Thank you!
Renee

Michelle Waclawski said...

Hi Renee, Your concern was one of the biggest reasons I did NOT want to move to Alaska...I was willing to go anywhere on earth (literally! We'd been applying for jobs around the globe when my husband got a job here.), but not Alaska. Well, we've been here 9 years, and here's my take on the darkness:
1) Everyone is affected by the low light in the winter, some more than others. Vitamin D intake is crucial. Our doctors recommend it year-round.
2) SAD lights can help as well--first thing in the morning for 30 min. if you're feeling draggy.
3) Staying active, getting outdoors, eating well and otherwise taking care of yourself goes a long way towards helping handle the short days. You are retired and active so will be able to get out during the middle of the day when there is some sunshine, which is a big plus.
4) Having a social life (very easy in Homer--lots of caring groups to get involved with!) can also help.
5) You get used to it. I have gotten to the point of enjoying it even--nighttime walks, seeing the aurora borealis, cozy evenings curled up with a book...it forces a change of pace to the frenetic summers of 18-24 hours of light!

Sounds like Homer could be a perfect fit for you. I don't think the short days (5 hours of sunlight at the shortest, but very long dawn and dusk so it is actually light out longer) would be a reason to stay away from this awesome place!