Daylight savings time began Sunday. Long ago, Benjamin Franklin advocated this in order to burn fewer candles. I know if I had to perform the tedious task of hand dipping candles, I would have applauded his foresight.
Many are happy that DST was moved ahead three weeks in order to conserve energy. A recent survey indicated longer daylight hours allowed more time to shop, play golf and run more errands. When I awoke Sunday the moon was high in the sky and moonlight flooded the room. Suddenly I realized it was 6:30 a.m. “Spring ahead -- Fall back!” Some people adjust immediately to the time change. I do not: It takes about a week for my clock to reset.
Our bodily systems usually move in 24-hour cycles to circadian rhythms. Long ago, librarian Kathy Johnson came to my rescue and found a health link reference to these rhythms, which are regular changes in mental and physical characteristics that occur in the course of a day. Again to the Baldwin City Library: Sandy and Phyllis to my rescue. I wanted to verify that our circadian rhythms are in tune with the tidal rhythms of the sea. Yes, we are in tune with those of clams, oysters, fish, etc. We all follow the same path.
Circadian rhythms are controlled by the body’s biological clock. Some major industrial accidents were caused by fatigued industrial night shift workers, often because of lack of adjustment to these rhythms. Some people believe that the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Three Mile Island near-nuclear disaster, Russia’s Chernobyl accident and medical errors caused by sleep-deprived medical personnel are linked to circadian rhythm upsets. Let us give ourselves a few days to adjust to our disrupted circadian rhythms.
The 17th of March (Irish or not), we all celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The ebullient Irishman is most convivial, but under it all a dark streak, as portrayed by James Joyce. Two sides of the same coin, always in competition. During the Middle Ages, when Rome fell to the barbarians, Ireland almost alone shone like a bright light in midst of the darkness of Europe. Ireland evaded the grasp of Rome because her fierce tribesmen vowed allegiance only to the local chieftain. After the arrival of St. Patrick in the 5th century, a rather different church gradually evolved. The regional church was rooted in the land and ancient customs. A cross from the 10th century still stands at Muirdach. It depicts a heathen sun disc over which is placed the Hand of God in an interwoven pattern of saints and serpents. Rome and Christianized Europe were far away.
Only in Ireland and in isolated monasteries on the European continent were the scholars keeping the lamp of learning glowing. We are indebted to Ireland. They kept this lamp alive when most of Europe was in darkness. In the 8th century, Viking raids ended the Golden Age.
In Ireland’s two great famines, the country was decimated. Over 400,000 died in 1739, another 700,000 in the early 1800s. In 1848, over 8000,000 Irishmen emigrated, most of them to our shores. Today, more people of Irish antecedents live outside of Ireland than live within the country's borders.
On St. Patrick’s Day, wear a shamrock for endurance: “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.” Old Irish prayer.
Has long awaited spring has finally arrived?