Happy to be here — Waking up

Published 5:54 pm Sunday, March 20, 2022

I’ve been watching the world wake up. As the year turns from its winter slumber, it reminds me of waking to embrace a new day.

Yesterday officially morphed into today last night at midnight. Perhaps you were sleeping and waited until morning to take note of its arrival. If you’re a night owl, or if you work the late shift, or if you have duties as a caregiver, you may have been awake at that magical minute of turning. Even so, despite what the clock had to say, it may not have felt like a new day until you’d had a chance to sleep and discover it in your own time.

Throughout history, different cultures have recognized the beginnings of new days at various times. Some marked the turning of the day at sunset, some at dawn. We’ve got the ancient Romans to thank for the customary practice of using midnight. Roman astronomers noted that although seasonal differences changed the lengths of daytime and nighttime periods, the interval between solar noons (when the sun reached its highest point each midday) remained constant. By analogy, they reckoned that a midnight must also exist. Because most business was conducted during the day, changing the date at noon would have been impractical. As a result, they adopted midnight as the more convenient starting point for each new day.

Likewise, the start of a new year has been variously defined. In ancient Egypt, it was linked to the annual flooding of the Nile River. The Chinese year begins on the second new moon following the winter solstice. Several cultures recognize the spring equinox as the year’s first day. Our own Gregorian calendar, which serves as the civil calendar across much of the modern world, grew from the same Roman roots that gave us midnight. Julius Caesar instituted Jan.1, as the start of a new year in honor of Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions.

For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, these regular transformations occur during periods of rest. Just as a sleeper lies quiescent before rising, the world lies dormant before waking up from its winter nap. Mother Nature seems to ease herself gently toward her spring emergence in much the same sluggish way I stumble out of bed.

My consciousness emerges into wakefulness, indecisively at first, but with growing persistence. It seems similar to the way lengthening daylight produces warmer temperatures, sporadically at first, but with increasing frequency. Dreams waft away into the dawn, vanishing in the same way patches of snow melt into the ground.

I stretch my arms and legs to get my blood flowing and my muscles ready to take action. Trees and bushes also stretch their limbs as they wake from winter’s dormancy. I poke a first toe out from under the covers. The first daffodils poke fingers out from under their blanket. I take in a yawn’s worth of morning air, and the springtime world sighs gentle breezes.

My morning routine includes some tasks related to leaving the night behind. Rubbing the sandman out of my eyes. Folding blankets. Making the bed. Spring’s arrival also involves bidding adieu to a few winter things. While I’m usually happy to see the ice depart, other farewells leave more wistful thoughts. For example, when the dark-eyed juncos decide to head back north. Their departure typically takes me by surprise. I’ve never seen one pack a suitcase, and they don’t knock at the door to say goodbye. It will just happen that one day I don’t see any. By the time I wonder if they’re gone, they’re gone.

And, just as I get dressed in the morning, nature also changes into her springtime clothes. Branches sprout buds that open into flowers and leaves. Yards put on brighter greens. Some birds sport brighter plumage, and seasonal arrivals add style.

By the time I’m ready to jump into my new day, its already several hours old. By the time spring takes hold of the year, it is already months old. No wonder the days and years seem to fly by so fast. Enjoy them while you can. It will soon be bedtime again.

Karen Bellenir has been writing for The Farmville Herald since 2009. Her book, Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia features a compilation of her columns. It is available from PierPress.com. You can contact Karen at kbellenir@PierPress.com.