I was 15-years-old when I first came out to the East End. Until then, I lived in a New Jersey suburb called Millburn where, block after block and town after town, things were all lawns and houses and downtowns and roads connecting things. It went on like this forever, which in retrospect made sense because at that age, mobility amounted to wherever your parents took you. Home was our house. It was the same house all through my growing up. People were different, but the landscape was just a flat inland place upon which people did stuff.
In my 15th year, however, my dad and mother moved us all out to the East End. My dad had visited here before we left, but I hadn’t.
Here was a landscape so varied it kind of knocked my socks off. We had woods, beaches, ocean, farms, fishing villages, pastures, cliffs and little New England downtowns that were just laced with all sorts of inland bodies of water—ponds, lakes, bays, inlets, coves, harbors and even, if you looked hard enough, rivers. Arching over it was sunshine. It was a landscape that was in your face. I wanted as much of it as I could get.
I came to live for the sun. Others did too. In summertime, when we had more of it, they flocked here. In wintertime they left. Indeed, as a lover of all this, I came to relish sunrises and sunsets. I went out to the beach (or on it in a four-wheel-drive vehicle) for sunrises as much as possible. Sunsets tend to be over bays and harbors. It’s nice to watch it happen from a restaurant, which has a view of it as it sets. There’s the green flash sometimes.
This also put me in touch with the turning of the planet and its elliptical orbit which wobbles as it races around the sun. Summers were filled with more sun because of that.
But it also put me in touch with what happens in the autumn. And I understand that as we wobble, if we wobble one way we will wobble back the other way to make up for it before the year is done. I get it. But really, what happened on November 5, which happens every first Saturday night in November, is just really hard to take. Slowly but surely, as we creep up toward that date, the sun sets earlier and earlier. It sets wonderfully in June and early July well after dinner—between eight and nine o’clock. In September and October it sets around six or seven.
Then came November 5. Kaboom! You can’t see the place all day anymore. It’s like the sun went over a cliff. In just one day, it goes from setting late in the afternoon to practically post lunchtime. There is almost no afternoon. It’s like there’s something wrong with the planet. And the clocks all have to be adjusted. Then sunset creeps slowly earlier and even earlier. By December, it will begin to set around 3:45 p.m. and be down fully at 4:21 p.m. It’s bad. I think something ought to be done about this. We’ve been to the moon. We can do something with sunshine.
I have heard that in Austria, there is a town that sits on the north side of a mountain where it is in shadow all year. They’ve rigged up a series of mirrors around the side of this mountain and been able to have the sunshine carted to where it never was before. The people are happy. The tourists are happy. I think they wear kilts and wooden shoes there, but maybe that’s somewhere else. I’m sure they have sheep.
Whoever dreamed up this business of shutting down our daylight hours all of a sudden like this—some say it was the German government during World War I, others say it was the British or President Franklin D. Roosevelt—that person should be allowed to be awake only at night. They’d see nothing. All boring. That’s what I think.