Sleeping with the seasons

Getting up in the dark is one of the things I find hard about this part of the year. I’m invariably sluggish, rising at the call of the alarm clock, and reluctant to face a day that hasn’t really shown up yet. In summer, I become a much earlier riser, often active by six. It’s not about indolence or failure to be a morning person, my body resents getting up in the dark.

Of course this whole business of having to get up in the dark to go to work and school is relatively modern. Back before electricity, before gas lighting, and street lighting and the industrial revolution, people more usually got up with the light, because there wasn’t much point doing anything else. Only in emergencies or those few lines of work calling for overnight vigil, would people be getting up before the sun.

It’s a fine example of the double edged nature of progress. Yes, having energy for lighting makes it possible for us to do so much more. And what do we do? We work longer hours. We work night shifts. We haul reluctant teenagers up at times their bodies are especially clear just aren’t a good idea. We live by clock time and not by the inclinations of our own bodies.

If you don’t have modern artificial light, there’s not much work you can do in the near darkness of firelight, and you need good quality candles to be able to read, or do any of the more fiddly crafts. In the absence of light, winter evenings must have been a time of conversation, music, storytelling, or just gazing absently into the fire. Progress means we can now each sit in a brightly lit room and stare at the screen of our choice to find out what everyone else’s evening meal looked like. I’m not sure in what way this counts as progress, I am increasingly confident that we are no better off for these uses of our technologies.

This morning I had the luxury of being able to rise with the light. It creates a more relaxed pace. I work more effectively when I feel settled in myself, starting later can mean getting more done. However, our culture has little interest in effective work, or efficient, or clever work. What we celebrate is hard work and lots of it, where putting on the lights to work longer is simply the way it has to be. Where being ever less natural is seen as a virtue. These are things we need to be questioning.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Sleeping with the seasons

  • julieapritchard

    I agree completely! Modern life forces us to do things which feel completely unnatural. Every fibre of my being wants to stay in bed when it’s dark, I’m not a lazy person at all, the summer sees me anxious to greet the day. But these unnatural hours were foisted on us by business interests and factories centuries ago, I long for the return of living with the
    ebb and flow of the seasons.

  • Redfaery

    I agree with this completely. I refuse to work if the sun is not in the sky. I just can’t do it. That said, I actually enjoy getting up before dawn to just have time for *me.*

  • Martin

    Great article. I’m just starting out on the Bardic course with OBOD and one of the tutorials which has resonated with me is making a wooden shelter/hut in the woods to spend as much time as possible. The text suggested keeping things really simple and asks “Do you need electriciy?, Do you need running water?”. If we give ourselves the time, then fetching water from a spring or brook is not a toil, but if we are having to race around and get to ‘work’ then we need all the mod cons. I’m not suggesting we all renounce electricity (although there are many good reasons to…), but we should think more about waking and working within the constraints of nature, and therefore become ‘natural’ and attuned again.

    • Nimue Brown

      It’s really interesting to experiment with these things – I lived on a boat for a few years, which meant only being able to use what power I could generate, and water having to be fetched every couple of weeks. It was really tough in the winter, no two ways about it. But, since leaving the boat I’ve continued hand washing clothes and not owning a fridge – I learned a lot about what I don’t need, and what I do genuinely need, and how better to balance those things.

  • Éilis Niamh

    Yes, we question it. And what cost to ourselves when we stop questioning and simply act on our conviction that our society’s values don’t work anymore? Will we find we are relatively alone in that pulling away from what is no longer sustainable and ostracize ourselves inadvertently — perhaps without knowing if it be for better or worse that we did?

    I question this kind of stuff all the time. I just don’t know what to do next, if I want to make any kind of living or eventually raise a child. My fears assume only a very small minority across the globe will change, making the shift in ways counterproductive as much perhaps as the dominant paradigm. Are there enough people questioning these sorts of things for it to be more than personally useful or potentially detrimental in small isolated cases?

    • Nimue Brown

      Connecting with other people is incredibly important, for all those reasons. I’ve found having a little bit of contact with the transition Network and the Green Party, and assorted environmental charities and local groups – the reassurance that it isn’t just me makes it much easier to keep going, and to imagine that real change really is possible.

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