I probably shouldn’t say this.
But I’m already over summer.
I think it’s the heat and the bugs that mostly drive me to share this, but there are many other factors too. I’m one of those people who long for lingering spring and fall seasons and shorter winter and summer ones. I love autumn sunrises and spring temperatures. I think my perfect days come in October/November and April/May. You can keep the heat of August. Yuck.
I’m heading to REI today to look for some new layering options. I’m a big fan of cold gear and mock turtlenecks and wool neck gaiters. I relish cool breezes and a little crunch on the trail. I really, really love the colors of fall. There is nothing quite like the way summer gives up its dry, colorless landscape to an explosive autumn palette. I don’t fully understand the science, but luckily I don’t have to.
As I lean into shorter days I’ve also been reading up on circadian rhythms. More science I don’t understand, but I took a deep dive this morning. I don’t sleep well and maybe shedding some light on the subject will help. (See what I did there)?
Here is some of what I learned:
All of us humans follow an internal timekeeping system known as a circadian clock. This system naturally regulates daily cycles of sleep, wakefulness, hunger, hormonal activity and other processes in our amazing bodies. Theoretically, these rhythms reset every 24 hours. Our wakefulness is guided by light, social interactions and hunger. It’s a pretty complicated cluster of neurons located in the hypothalamus. When we perceive light, a signal is sent along the nerves telling us its time to wake up. This in turn stimulates the release of cortisol. Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin.
The factor of social interaction in this mix got me wondering about our last two and a half years with Covid. Could a lack of social interraction contribute to a disordered circadian rhythm? If cortisol is usually produced in the morning and melatonin is produced at night, could the fact that we spent so much time in relative isolation affect the production of those hormones?
I’ve slipped down the rabbit-hole and I’ll keep you posted as to what I learn. Covid changed us, no doubt. But did it contribute to altering our rhythms? And what about worry and stress? Stay tuned. I’ve got more digging to do.
This year, the wildflower season in the mountains was short. The snow melted late and it altered the bloom cycle. A hike now is hit and miss with regard to flowers. The landscape, in all its thirst, is largely dry and lifeless. I watch the wildlife already preparing for the change and I’m eager for shorter days. Perhaps I should be working on my own version of preparation for a season of hibernating. I read yesterday that another extremely cold winter is possible around here. An extra layer or two will be good to have. That, and a plan.
I’m imagining dark, quiet mornings with just the lamp in my art room. Maybe some soft music and a stack of journals at the ready. I can picture tubes of paint and color and cardstock. Words and art thrive on mornings like that. A hot coffee or tea … maybe even some soup or stew on the stove. I’m not one to wish away the days, but a girl can dream about some seasonal re-ordering of things. You know it sounds good, right?
August might be my least favorite month. Not only is the heat oppressive and the bugs ferocious, but the sun doesn’t feel healthy to me. Late summer rays strike me as though the ozone layer has thinned and no amount of sunscreen feels like enough. And who knows what the bug spray absorbed into our skin is doing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had an amazing summer of hiking! More so than I can put into words maybe, but I’m partial to the mornings that fill my lungs with cool mountain air. Days that look like fall and smell like fall and sound like fall. Did you know that some of those skeeters actually hibernate? And others overwinter in a torpor state?
I love the idea of torpor. Every night we enter some state of that, in sleep, but real torpor drops the heart rate, lowering metabolism, respiration and temperature. The body slips into a state of reduced physiological activity. It’s like a deep, deep dreamy sleep that protects us as we recharge.
What if the ideal circadian rhythm is a mix of wild enthusiasm and the regenerative power of torpor? Something a little magical about that, huh? And something else to think about.