When the night falls.

It’s been five days and 17 hours since the clock (well, Congress, really) bestowed its yearly gift: an extra hour of “daylight savings” time.

(Actually, I suppose it’s just letting us borrow that hour for the next six months. Or giving back what we borrowed then? Hmm, chicken or egg.)

This “fall back” doesn’t usually discombobulate me as much as the “spring forward,” but I’ve still been a little off kilter this week.

I used to claim the extra hour for much-needed sleep, but that evaded me this year. It really ended up just adding time to what felt like the longest day ever.

It also plunged my world into darkness in a way that felt especially shocking.

I don’t get up early enough to notice the extra daylight in the morning, so I only experience the crushing veil of night that comes on before I even leave the office. I know I’ll get used to it, but it seems eerie and disconcerting at first.

And that’s a feeling I couldn’t relate to a month ago when I read “The Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson Walker.

The gist is that one day, in the middle of our normal lives, the Earth’s rotation begins to slow. Told through the eyes of Julia, the pre-teen narrator, who lives with her family in California, it’s the story of what we, as Americans, and as humans, really, do when our reliable 24-hour cycle changes. The days become longer, but so do the nights, and everyone tries to keep time with these new, changing cycles of the Earth until it just becomes unbearable. Once society returns to “clock time,” many groups of people decide to continue living by the rise and setting of the sun, and are shunned for it.

As the story plays out, it examines how something as simple as the timing of dawn and dusk can completely rip apart relationships, affect our food supply, turn us against each other and endanger our health. It sounds outlandish, but the author presents the science in such a way that it feels real and plausible.

So, now I get it. If a change of one hour throws me for a loop, what would I do with a 72-hour day and night? I hope I never have to find out.

If you haven’t read this book, you should, especially with daylight savings time fresh on our minds. It’s a fast, light read, but also an incredibly thought-provoking one.

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