Blackened Blues

Any comic book geek worth his weight in Doritos can tell you that Superman is a living solar battery. He absorbs and stores energy from our yellow sun, which powers his invulnerability, flight, heat vision, and other powers. Over the years, writers have used this battery metaphor to explain how the character could retain his abilities when his adventures took him out of our solar system. The longer he was away from a yellow sun, or if he was exposed to the radiation of a red sun, the less powerful he would become.

On some level, I think those of us in the real world are solar batteries. Night is bearable given the light we soak up during the day, and in Winter months some people suffer from a seasonal affective disorder when the days are shorter and the nights are longer. Some feel it worse than others, but I don't think long periods of time away from sunlight are good for any of us. As someone who's had his share of bad sunburns, I can vouch that the opposite extreme isn't much better.

On Wednesday, our department had a staff meeting at lunch. I've never been a fan of the lunch meeting model, the logic of a scheduler who thinks, “Hey, everyone is free between 12 and 2 for some reason! Let's make the meeting then!” For the most part, my current company is fairly good at scheduling meetings around that much needed break in the middle of the day, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've missed lunch for work in the past year. And, in all three instances, food was served.

It was a fairly good meeting, mostly new developments that our bosses felt would be better delivered in a group discussion rather than individually or in an e-mail. The pizza arrived at the beginning of the meeting rather than at the end, so they made sure to keep things brief so our food didn't get cold. I have enormous respect for those guys. A few slices and some garlic knots later, I was back down the hall in my office. It was a fairly relaxing day, but around 4:30 or so something felt...off.

At first I just thought I was cold. I felt like there were shadows sliding on the walls, and realized there was no sunlight coming in through my blinds. It was really dark outside. Every day I make a point of walking at lunch, at least during those months when it's neither too hot nor too cold to do so. I've been known to walk in the rain, with an umbrella of course. But as I noticed how dark and cold it suddenly was, I realized I'd spent eight hours not just in the same building, but within the same section of the same building. The conference room was right up the hall from my office, as are the restrooms. I had no reason to venture any further.

It was a strange feeling, not unlike how a bird must feel when a towel is draped over its cage. I just wanted to curl up under a blanket and take a nap. I couldn't even find motivation to get up and leave, though I was more than caught up with my work. Finally, by about twenty after 5, I forced myself to trudge out to the parking lot. I could sense a full moon through the haze of clouds in the sky, a faint white glow in the starless void. I was tempted to drive past my gym up the road, and continue home, but I forced myself to stop. The first few steps on the treadmill challenged me as much as the first few steps in the morning. I started at 3 MPH, then pushed it to 4.5. The more I walked, the more I could jog. The more I jogged, the more I could run. By the time I had the thing turned up to 7.1, I was feeling pretty good.

Exercise is no substitute for daylight, but that run definitely cleared some of the cobwebs from my head. When I left the gym, some of the clouds had broken and I tried to pretend the full moon was the sun. Obviously, it wasn't quite the same. I do like nights in the warmer months, under the right circumstances. In my youth, I enjoyed the crackle of a campfire, whether on a beach or in the woods. And Manhattan is great at night year-round, probably because it's never really dark. But this time of year, it's especially important to get outside during the day, if but for a few minutes, because hibernating until the Spring isn't an option.


Blogger Kev said...

Rubi suffers from SAD. And I'm one of those pale, easily sunburned persons. Bad sunburns usually make me sick.

(ooh, interesting. My word verification for this comment is "whedn"... I wonder if Joss is around?

11/13/2008 7:20 PM  

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