“Statistically, the probability of any one of us being here is so small that you’d think the mere fact of existing would keep us all in a contented dazzlement of surprise. We are alive against the stupendous odds of genetics, infinitely outnumbered by all the alternates who might, except for luck, be in our places.
Even more astounding is our statistical improbability in physical terms. The normal, predictable state of matter throughout the universe is randomness, a relaxed sort of equilibrium, with atoms and their particles scattered around in an amorphous muddle. We, in brilliant contrast, are completely organized structures, squirming with information at every covalent bond. We make our living by catching electrons at the moment of their excitement by solar photons, swiping the energy released at the instant of each jump and storing it up in intricate loops for ourselves. We violate probability, by our nature. To be able to do this systematically, and in such wild varieties of form, from viruses to whales, is extremely unlikely; to have sustained the effort successfully for the several billion years of our existence, without drifting back into randomness, was nearly a mathematical impossibility.”
-- Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell (The Viking Press, 1974)
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The end of Daylight Savings Time over the weekend is another reminder that the hours of daylight are shrinking each week. The sun now sets a little after 5 pm!
Many of us aren’t exactly thrilled with the shortening hours of sunlight, which requires a psychological adjustment. But it comes with the territory of living on Planet Earth.
Daylight will continue to dwindle, of course, for another 6 1/2 weeks till the winter solstice on December 21. Then the days will start to slowly lengthen once again.
Is there a good therapy for the sometimes mood-lowering effects of diminishing daylight? The obvious answer is to get outside as much as possible during the day.
Which is pretty difficult to do if you work indoors on weekdays, except perhaps for taking a lunchtime walk and/or having a sandwich on a bench in a nearby park.
But on weekends… unless you have to work, setting aside Saturdays or Sundays for hiking can make a big difference, as many of our regular hikers will testify.
Periodically I try to remind people of the important health benefits of spending time in full-spectrum light (which we receive even when hiking in shady forests).
This is true at all times of year, but it’s never more important than during the months when the sunlight is at its most indirect and daylight hours are the shortest.
Getting out for several hours or more -- preferably in the natural world, where the air is cleanest and the scenery loveliest – can boost your spirits like nothing else!
-- Charlie Cook