Nocturnal

In northern latitudes the summer solstice is seen as the mid-point of the summer season and not the beginning. Day lengths have been increasing since the winter solstice and from this point forward day lengths will start to decrease. Around the vernal equinox the sun is out for half the day and the daylight gobbles up more and more of the night until around this time when we reach our maximum day lengths. The weather typically lags the calendar. The hottest days here are usually in August. Although the amount of time the sun spends up and out each day is less and less it doesn’t feel like it. To me the summer solstice is the start of my nocturnal season.

I don’t do well in the heat. I try to get up early and get some things done in the morning hours and then hunker down to avoid the solar onslaught to come. Then when the sun moves far enough down to cast shadows I’m ready to venture out. By evening it is civilized again and I can live like a normal human. The trick is to stay up late and enjoy the hours up to midnight and still be ready to get up at the crack of dawn. If I can manage an afternoon nap then I can make it work. Once I’ve had lunch I retreat inside my turtle shell and don’t make an appearance until the cocktail hour. Each day I praise and thank the people who invented air-conditioning.

But this nocturnal thing is not so easy. People aren’t nocturnal. They work all day. They screw up the clocks in the summer in order to get more sunlight, not less. They sleep at night. I think we need to flip it around in these hot places and stay inside during the day and sleep and go out and play (or work) at night. I live in a hot, sunny place. Lots of places have pleasant summer climates. This place doesn’t. It’s a goddamn inferno. If you spend time in the desert you don’t see many critters out during the day. They are smarter than that. They use the early morning and the evening twilight or are completely nocturnal. They avoid the sun’s harsh rays and the eyeball-shriveling heat.

A nocturnal way of life has some drawbacks. Happy Hour, for one. Bars don’t have Happy Hour at 10 pm. Usually around 4 pm, plus or minus. That’s the time I need to be in my hidey-hole. But the lure of Happy Hour forces me out and I trudge wearily through the pavement-melting incandescence so I can get my discounted pints and check in with the other regulars.

I’m whining. I know it. Heat makes me a whiner. I’m usually not much of a complainer. I try have a good attitude. But summer does this to me, man. It’s not my fault!  I know this nocturnal notion of mine is mostly wishful thinking. I do change it up in the summer and try to avoid the heat and try to enjoy the beautiful nights and early mornings. But life gets in the way. The tyranny of 9-to-5 and that silly Darkness Squandering Time reign over all. If I went the way of the scorpions and barn owls I’d probably lose most of my friends. “Sure, I’d love to come over, how about 9 pm? . . . What? 2 pm? Are you crazy? It’ll be 100 degrees!” That sort of thing doesn’t work so well in this breakfast-at-8 and dinner-at-6 world of ours.

I was on the Sonoma coast last weekend, at Jenner-by-the-sea and Portuguese Beach. The onshore breeze was stiff and cold and the temperatures were in the 60s. It was divine. The big bad ocean out there was keeping me and the tiny sliver of coastline marvelously chilled. Inland there was a heat wave across the state and in the valleys the mercury hit triple digits. I enjoy that maritime climate, but I enjoy even more living in a remote part of the state that’s free of crowds and traffic and urban blight. And I do love to ski so being close to ski parks and snowy mountains is a worthwhile trade-off for the summer torture.

Stay cool out there. And stay hydrated, too.

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