Wednesday, December 10, 2014

40. No Time - Just the Sun

"Hiker Midnight" is the time when all the little hikers snuggle themselves into their sleeping bags, and count sheep bears. Hiker Midnight is universal, but it's not a specific time of day. Nay, it changes with the seasons. Sometimes Hiker Midnight is at 9pm and sometimes it's at 4pm. You guessed it: Hiker Midnight is when the sun goes down. Once the sun goes down, the day is over, and it's time for sleeping. It doesn't matter if it's at a time of day when normal people aren't even out of work yet. Is the sun down? It's bedtime.

Early on in the trail I once slept from 4:30pm until 7am the next morning, because that was when the sun went down and when the sun came up. I've written before about how glorious it is not to have to wake up to an alarm clock. But one of the truly fabulous things about long distance hiking isn't just the lack of an alarm clock, it's the lack of all clocks. What time of day should I eat lunch? Doesn't matter! Eat when you're hungry! What time of day should I start hiking? Whenever you start! What time is it right now? Don't know, don't care!

I understand why clocks were invented. It's good to know what time of day it is, otherwise functional society probably wouldn't have happened. It's hard to make a plan with people coming from lots of different directions without knowing when that plan is supposed to happen. "Just show up, and hope that someone else is there" is not the greatest organizational strategy. It's especially not good for dinner plans, because all that happens is the first person who shows up gets to eat all the free bread and the last person who shows up gets a bite of dessert and the bill.

But sometimes it can be nice to live the way that humans lived for thousands of years before we had to get off our lazy bums and invent democracy. There is something immensely soothing about having a literal circadian rhythm, meaning, your rhythm is actually dependent upon the sun. We don't have good night vision, we were aren't really put together to be night-dwelling creatures. And yet somehow, we find ourselves waking up in the dark to drag ourselves to the coffee machine, and going to sleep long after the sun is already lighting up the other side of the world. I blame Copernicus! That brilliant bastard! If we could have just stuck with the Ptolemaic system with the Earth at the center of the universe, none of this nonsense would have happened, and we all wouldn't be spending $5 on Pumpkin Spice Lattes at 6 in the morning.

Not having to know the time, but following the track of the sun across the sky, is a beautiful and simple way to live. Being a hiker allows us a temporary foray back into that simpler time. That lovely, simpler time of terrible disease and being regularly mauled by tigers.... Maybe being an ancient human wasn't so fun after all.

Clever Girl

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