I’m prone to a particular bit of black humor this time of year. Usually a little earlier—maybe at the beginning of November—I’ll mention how early the sunsets are, how late the sunrises are, and point out that things are just going to get worse for six more weeks, and that it’ll be twelve weeks before things are this good again.
I joked similarly to my brother a day or two ago, and he pointed out that, although my joke is true in October or November, in December it’s wrong: by this point in the year things almost don’t get any worse. And he’s right. After all, the word solstice comes from the Latin for standstill.
Today there’s going to be nine and a half hours of daylight, and on the solstice there’s going to be nine and a third hours of daylight. Big whoop. I can deal with that.
Rounded to the nearest minute, we have already reached our earliest sunset of the year. That is, today the sun will set at 4:27. It will continue to set at 4:27 until December 13th, when it will set at 4:28.
(The sunrises continue to get later for a bit. It’s not until December 29th that we get a sunrise at 7:15, and not until January 4th that we get a sunrise at 7:14.)
I didn’t use to take much comfort in this. Knowing that things didn’t get much worse from here on out didn’t help when I was already depressed. But these days I tolerate the dark pretty well, and that means that I can take comfort from knowing that things are already about as bad as they’re going to get. Yes, it will still be mostly indoor exercise weather until March, but that’s okay—I have strategies for indoor exercise.
I’m not sure exactly what to credit for the improvement. I suspect that not working a regular job is the biggest factor, but taking vitamin D supplements seems to have helped as well. And, of course, getting enough exercise is both a cause and an effect.
An interesting comment about an interesting phenomenon. We live at about 40 degrees north. At that latitude, the day of the earliest sunset is December 8. Of course as you mention, the day of the solstice is on December 21 (or a day or two before or after). That is the day upon which we will have the least total hours of daylight and the most hours of night. We learn that in grade school. But because the Earth wobbles a bit on its orbit around the Sun, the day of the earliest sunset is about 2 weeks prior to that. The total daylight hours continues to decrease a bit until the solstice, but starting on December 9 we shall experience more sunlight at the end of the day, and the daylight hours get longer again until the summer solstice. So, enjoy! The worst is nearly over. Next Monday means more light at the end of the day!!! :-)