Monday, March 21, 2011

The duality of man

With all respect to any Freudians in the house, I believe man has two primary aspects to his nature. The "animal" part, that is driven by instinct and/or emotion and the "civilized" part, driven by the rules of society and culture. "Animal" Jen is the one who starts craving hearty soup the minute the thermometer dips below 50 degrees. "Civilized" Jen is the one who worries other moms on the school run think she's a frumped-out slob.

This past week, I have had been able to observe first hand the power of "Animal" man. I am referring, of course, to the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, when all the suburbanites have sunlight after work.

I am amazed by the behavioral changes that an extra hour of daylight brings to the table. For example, each and every evening last week, promptly at 5:30pm, the smell of lighter fluid would begin to waft over our cul-de-sac. Neighbor Rodney was firing up the BBQ for dinner. Another wonderment; we met a woman and her two children out walking in the neighborhood last Thursday. We have lived a block away from one another for almost six years! Yet, this was the first time we had ever spoken. Her youngest is now 4, an age where you can take the little darling outside and be reasonably confident you can keep 'em from running into the street. So, as it was a beautiful sunny day, and there was some daylight before dinner, they went for a walk. And lo! Another family, with children the same age! All the kids played together, and us adults sat on the comfy furniture inside, watching the kiddoes through the open windows and had a glass of wine.

Lately, the warmth and the sunlight beckon me outdoors. I have an urge to play in the dirt, planting veggies, tidying up my rose garden, setting up my outdoor living room. I can't wait to be able to have dinner on the deck, to sit outside and watch the hummingbirds and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. I thrill to every flower bud on the fruit trees. I fantasize about warm, homegrown tomatoes.

What primitive instinct is at work here? Is it just that we are all starved for some Vitamin D? Or is there some atavistic urge that drives us outside into the evening sunlight? Or is it the promise of warm days to come, when fresh food is abundant, and we can relax, just a little from the struggle, such as it is, to survive?


  1. i was driven outside by the promise of warmth and sun today. i looked out the window, saw the sun and the cloudless sky and hurried my child outside. when we got six feet from the door, it started pouring. it was our brief foray into nature, but it was good.

    daylight savings really kicked out butts for the first few days, but i'm enjoying this..the longer days...our new little herb garden that a certain friend so lovingly planted for us...i can't wait for summer.

  2. There's something about warm afternoon sunlight that compels one to sear meat on an open flame. Of course, since you wrote this, it's been raining and that looks to continue for days to come. Strangely, the smell of lighter fluid has been missing in the 'hood.

  3. I'd swear the sun is up for longer than an hour, the time we "leaped" forward. It is still dark when I get up, but the sun seems to stay up until about 7:30 or 8:00 now. Woot! Now if we could just get some of that sunshine stuff going. I think it is a combination of the later sunlight hours and the warmth leading to more activity.