Falling Back in the Land of Perpetual Sunshine

When it comes to the question of daylight savings—whether or not we should keep it—I’m in agreement with those who’d prefer to leave things alone. In San Diego, daylight savings allows for the possibility of a last minute beach walk. Once we fall back into early morning sunlight, such strolls are off until spring. I don’t begrudge this shift of light. I’ve been finding it strange of late to stumble out of bed for a bathroom stop—with the reassuring thought there are a few more hours for sawing z’s—only to discover it is already 6 am. I guess seasonal changes such as this one prevent our lives from becoming too bland.

I do look forward to fall activities in San Diego County, heading to Julian for apple pie, for example, or packing the car for a desert camping trip. It is strange I should feel this way, as the loss of a true fall was one of the first things I mourned when I first moved down here. I eventually learned to anticipate a subtler shift in the air, which I can now detect as adeptly as I once noted the scent of wood-burning stoves and rotting blackberries. The fall season beckons us into a deeper sense of coziness, even in the midst of perpetual sunshine.

Once Labor Day Weekend ends, the beaches in San Diego County empty almost overnight, becoming the domain of locals once more as lifeguards move to a reduced schedule. People still make their way onto the sand, but it’s less frenetic—easier to take ownership of the whole show. Meanwhile, desert communities begin to watch the tourist season ramp-up. Temperatures start to drop, and it’s not long before the outside air becomes perfect for a long hike in the backcountry. If hunger strikes adventurers on their way home, odds are there is a good restaurant to be found. Businesses begin to open for tourists and snowbirds in search of placid weather—or they move to longer hours.

Speaking of restaurants, skies may still be blue, temperatures may still be warm, and most trees may still be green in these parts—yet fall specials abound. Walk into your favorite haunt, and you are likely to find heartier meals, darker ales—ubiquitous pumpkin treats. Foods like these give us the illusion of being in a grand autumn display. They evoke an explosion colored by the sort of palette available in other realms (though “real fall” can be found in the nearby mountains). I recently consumed a pumpkin scone, only to transported back to the Pacific Northwest, where the changing leaves are worth checking out—if the rain doesn’t take them down too early. That pumpkimy taste makes me want to grab more blankets, light a fire, and make a thick soup. I suspect we humans need to turn inward once a year as much as bears need to hibernate. Falling back to standard time is sure to compound this nesting impulse born of darker nights.

Meanwhile, the harvest may be ending for many farmers, but the educational world has just begun to sow new seeds. We educators are piloting projects—or we’re egging our students to get going on theirs. It is this paradox of beginning and ending at the same time that prompts me to embrace the fall. So let the light slide back one hour. Once sundown shifts from 6 to 5 pm, our students are more likely to get their homework done before bed.