Well, the first week of November is now history. What it is interesting is that over the last five days we have not seen the sun along the central coast, except for a cameo appearance last night at sunset. I have seen my quarterback playing, point guard running 13-year-old son but he is not quite the same as that yellow ball of fire in the sky that brings us light, warmth and shares the giant aerial canvas with clouds to give us amazing colors and dusk and dawn.
So what’s the big deal about no sun? Well, the cycle of sunlight and darkness has always set the rhythm of human life. The flow of light and dark serves to keep our bodies circadian (a 24 hour cycle in the physiological process of living beings-not the insect) clock synchronized so that we are somewhat alert and awake during the day and ready to sleep at night. I know that I definitely feel differently on a beautiful, blue sky, sunny day that I do on a drab, cloudy, gray day. It’s the Santa Cruz versus Seattle syndrome.
Our health, mood and behavior are affected when the quality and quantity of sunlight is lessened. Today’s lifestyles often keep some of us indoors, away from the daylight. In addition, shorter winter days and cloudy skies can affect our circadian rhythms adversely. Throw in this weeks writer’s strike and we’re talking chaos. Or as Agent Maxwell Smart used to say, “It’s Kaos, chief.”
With the shorter, colder, cloudier days and the longer nights of fall and winter, some people have become unaccountably depressed. It is only recently that these people have been acknowledged as suffering from a syndrome called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. This form of seasonal clinical depression starts each year between September and January and disappears during the longer days of April and May. SAD is said to affect about 11 million North Americans, three South Americans and a barber in Seville.
When the colder, darker weather of the fall and winter months arrive, some people find they have to drag themselves out of bed in the morning and take longer to get going. They never feel as fully alive as they do in the sunny, summer months. Sunlight is food and drink for the body and the soul of these people, so that the coming of spring and the promise of more light makes these people come alive. I believe they are called baseball fans.
Some people are more sensitive to light and atmospheric pressure than others. They react to changes in weather, feeling sluggish and depressed on cloudy days and energetic and happy on clear, sunny days. This reminds me of an old Rodney Dangerfield joke. “I woke up, put on my shirt and a button fell off. I grabbed my briefcase and the handle fell off. I was afraid to go to the bathroom.”
Here are some typical symptoms of SAD. Depression with apathy, sleep is unrefreshing, sluggishness, difficulty in concentrating and a loss of mental creativity, feelings of being overwhelmed, a craving for heavy foods and for sweets, a loss of interest in things and people that formerly gave pleasure and enjoyment, loss of libido and the overwhelming urge to ride a shetland pony.
Experts say there are many things you can do to counteract the affects of SAD, like sitting outside during lunchtime, taking an annual vacation in the winter to a sunny place, wear brightly colored clothes, learn a relaxation technique that involves imagining a sunny place that you can ‘visit’ on a regular basis or just take up ice fishing. One big don’t is wearing sunglasses outside (unless your eyes are painfully sensitive to bright light) as these cut down the amount of sunlight and vitamin D that is absorbed through your eyes in the winter and summer months. I don’t think a lot of people on the central coast are affected by this syndrome although we do have to worry about those winter sunburns. We are GLAD to be living in this cold water paradise called Santa Cruz.
On to the photos. These shots were taken at sunset last month down at my favorite arch at Its Beach. The sunlight was blazing thru at some interesting angles. Remember, the arch is not going to last forever and when it collapses and all we’ll be left with is a sea stack. And a lot of fond memories and photos from Sunrise Santa Cruz.
So that’s it for the week. Next time we’ll take a look at the winter blues, which is a milder form of seasonal depression but a whole lot more colorful. But then again, maybe it’s as simple as what the Who and lead singer Roger Daltrey belted out to the crowd at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, “Ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.” Perhaps he meant the winter. After all, he is English and they never see the sun. Have a great sports weekend and we’ll catch you on sunrise Monday.