This patently unnecessary adjustment to our schedules is like an imposed jet lag. It left many of us sitting in the dark for hours, wondering what time it was, only to look at our watches or phones and realize it was only 6:26. Stupid darkness.
So it happened that I had time to go out riding during the day this week. The temperatures were in the low 70s (F) and while there was a bit of a breeze, it was not about pace or time with which I was concerned.
I wanted Vitamin D. Sunlight. Sunshine.
Come September I have this period where my brain goes through what feels like attitudinal mud. Even though I know the feeling from experience, and know how to manage it much better than I once did, it is still no fun.
The condition is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Otherwise known as, Fall Bums You Out.
Well, no kidding. Waning sunlight and less time to be active can make it feel like the world is closing in on you. The best antidote, I have decided, is to do two things. Get outside as much as you can and schedule a full program of evening activity rather than lying around watching television and eating. Which makes you gain weight. And further bums you out.
So my strategy seemed wise until reading up the difficulty of getting Vitamin D from the sun during the fall and winter months. It turns out that doesn’t work so well. Apparently the rays of sunlight that promote production of Vitamin D are filtered out by the atmosphere during autumn and winter because the earth is on an angle that forces sunlight to go through too much atmosphere.
How easily we forget that this whole “living on a planet thing” has its plusses and minuses. Perhaps that’s why Flat Earthers want to believe the earth is not round. If we’re just sitting in one place and the sun is going round and round us instead, we can exert a little more control on how our sunlight works. And it might also be true that running and riding and swimming might be much easier if the earth was genuinely flat. How does gravity work when the earth is flat?
But it’s not, so we’ve got to deal with issues such as a lack of Vitamin D because the earth’s atmosphere is sucking it right out of the sky.
It also turns out that our bodies need more Vitamin D as we get older. So that makes it even tougher to stay ahead of the Vitamin D curve and reap the corresponding benefits of vitality and wholesomeness as we age. Maybe AARP has a solution for that. They probably sell Vitamin D insurance. They sell everything else.
Sure, folks can resort to Vitamin supplements, and I might just do that this time around. My doctor already told me to starting swallowing unscented garlic pills and downing cinnamon tablets to keep my veins and arteries from developing symptoms of circulatory disease. That runs in my family history, but the prescription drug to handle cholesterol are no bargain on any front. I’m not at high risk, but preventative measures do make sense at any age.
So I’ll take some of that too. I mean what the hell? Isn’t there Vitamin D in Cap’n Crunch cereal or something fun like that?
But despite all this difficulty with sucking up sunlight, I still went out for an hour ride, and it was fun. Along the way I decided to stop, lay down the bike and sit in the sun for 15 minutes. The sky was so clear and blue it looked like a pair of circling hawks would just dissipate into the celestial abyss. The sun was warm, and it was November. I could have sworn I felt a little Vitamin D reach my beating heart. But one can’t be sure.
I walked down a path and studied the plant forms left over from this year’s growth. There was a young oak or two cropping up. They stood just a bit taller than me. It struck me that their lives were just beginning. Those trees often live 100 years or more. How humbling.
By contrast, the pods of milkweeds with their hopeful fluttering seeds anchoring angel wings of silk were preparing to let fly in the autumn breeze. What an act of grace, to just let go and grow wherever the world finds you with rain, soil and sunlight.
I climbed back on the bike and headed home with a bit of a tailwind to carry the bike and I along. There was a Strava segment along the way and for a few brief moments I lifted the pace and dipped down into the aero bars for a feel of how strong the wind would push me. But it simply didn’t matter. I didn’t want to go fast that day. I wanted to soak up the sunlight and enjoy the ride.
Me and Vitamin D were communing to the best of our ability, you see. And that’s a good thing.