In the United States daily schedules revolve around the hours in the day, regardless of the time of year. In the winter when the days are shorter, people simply go about life in the dark. Even though the human body just wants to curl up in a cozy bed and hibernate, the iron schedule does not yield to the changes of the seasons. Even when it gets dark at 4 pm, there are still errands to run, meetings to go to, events to attend, and work to do. This schedule is completely contrary to our biological clocks. Before electricity was common, people would simply stay up later during the summer when the days were longer and sleep more in the winter when the days were shorter. Last winter I remember talking to a friend about this phenomenon and wishing we could still live that way. Because let’s face it: nothing is harder than getting out of bed at 6 am in the winter when it is still dark and freezing outside.
In Zobue, the daily schedule adjusts to the length of the day. The market opens at daylight no matter if that time is 5 am or 6 am. The kids on our porch stay until dark regardless of what time it is. In December, they stay until 7:30. Now, they are gone by 5:30 and I stand in my house wondering how it feels so late when it isn’t yet 6pm. The longer winter evenings mean more time to rest and prepare for the next day. Granted, since we are closer to the equator here the days don’t fluctuate as much as they do in northern latitudes, but it’s nice for these two years to live more closely with nature’s rhythm than by the unyielding schedule of the clock.
There are disadvantages to living this way as well. Lately, one of my classes has been missing out on instructional time because even though the class is supposed to go until 5:35, by 5:15 the sun is setting and all the students are restless to leave. Usually I try to keep them in class anyway, but when I can’t even read the numbers on the chalkboard I concede defeat and let them go home.