January 18, 2013 140She’s the lady in the red sweater, and you, the den leader, are hoping, hoping that the Cub Scout sitting next to her, won’t turn his head and let out his humongous sneeze that you have been watching build for the past minute as he inhaled, inhaled again, and yet again. After he turns his head away from her, at least you hope he did, because at the very last moment you just couldn’t bear to look andJanuary 18, 2013 097 dropped your eyes, he exploded, after which you bring your eyes up to see the same Scout staring at the Mayor’s hair and you hope, really hope, that he doesn’t reach out and touch her head or her sweater or her arm or her hand, and you know he might do any of these or all of these. He likes to TOUCH, and he really looks like he’s going to do something even though at the moment he is busy palming his nose with both hands, and all you can think of is that he is a flu carrier and he is about to hand it to the Mayor.

Who is the Mayor?

She’s the one with the cheery personality who asks your 13 Cub Scouts the question, “Well, what do you think a mayor does?” which really, really makes you wish that you had remembered to discuss communicating with respect when a Scout responds with, January 18, 2013 102“She runs the city blabbly blab blab.”

Who is the Mayor?

She’s the one who is very articulate, but when she asks the Scouts what makes a good citizen, you want to take the jaws of life and extricate the memory chip from all the small electronics in the room. The meeting with the Mayor will only last for half an hour, but still that is too long for the parent who can’t look up from his smart phone for the entire time and the sibling of a Scout who has her face so close to her Nintendo DS screen that you are sure that she is suffering from partial blindness. I bet they can’t tell you that the Mayor’s sweater is a vibrant red, sharper than any cardinal that you have seen this winter.

Who is the Mayor?

She’s the one who uses her special badge to let the Scouts see the council chambers and sit in the overstuffed chairs that wheel around even though they immediately grab January 18, 2013 105for the skinny microphones that snake upwards. The first thing the Scouts learn is that the microphones are on and you are sure that they January 18, 2013 110are going to snap them in two as they yank them toward themselves. After you, the den leader, reign in chaos by yelling that ALL hands must IMMEDIATELY go into their own lap, only then do you dare take a breath.

Who is the Mayor?

January 18, 2013 201She is why you ask all the Scouts to remove their non-scouting headwear for the group picture. And you hope that the Scout who has his scouting cap tilted liked a gang member will straighten it for the picture in case it goes viral.

Ultimately, Richfield Mayor, Debbie Goettel, is the gracious woman who communicates citizenship to your Cub Scouts. You hope they will remember at least one thing that she says, even if the thing theyJanuary 18, 2013 203 remember is that she is the one who organized the awesome one-hour tour with the fire department.

Daylight Saving Time

When the clock’s sleight of hand

tricks reality

something stronger than habit


relearning the day’s hours.

This recalcitrant instinct

like a knot in pine that will not sand smooth


I still struggle with Daylight Saving Time as much as I did when I wrote that poem years ago. Daylight Saving Time makes sense at a practical level—take advantage of daylight to work more, play more, and use energy resources more efficiently. But there is something inherently wrong about manipulating the clock every spring and fall.

I’m not a back-to-nature zealot (e.g. if only humans hadn’t interfered with the natural world, life would be better). And I have no problem recording TV shows to watch later. But like it or not, humans are basically animals. Our bodies are attuned to nature and humans, as well as plants and even bacteria, are ruled by circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are the logic behind our sleeping and eating patterns. Daylight cues the nerve cells in our brain (a.k.a. the biological clock), which regulate our sleep-wake cycles, body temperature, hormone release, and more.

So mammal that I am, as the days grow shorter, I’ve been craving more sleep, wanting hearty stews and soups, and feeling satisfied that my nest is prepared for winter. I’ve gotten used to getting up in the dark, so it’s unsettling to wake up when the sky is lightening up—I’m late! No, it’s OK, calm down. Plus my brain is full of complicated, emotional dreams (well, it probably always was full of busy dreams, but now I have to know about it). So I wake up disoriented and vaguely upset.

The shift to early darkness is just as perturbing. Why is it dark when I walk to my car after work? I should be home by now. Something isn’t right. This confusion and unease goes on for weeks.

We can, by an act of will declare that it’s Daylight Saving Time and disregard what our bodies need, but we’ll pay for it for days, and sometimes, weeks. Why? Because of a basic arrogance that says we can manipulate or conquer the natural world.

But when I get up tomorrow in gray dawn and drive home from work in full dark, I’ll be still be jangled and wondering if Daylight Saving Time is worth it.

Today, I have a second reason why my sleep was disturbed—I stayed up too late watching the election returns. Thank you to the people of Minnesota for helping re-elect Obama and for defeating the voter ID and gay marriage ban amendments! Thanks also to the Toledoans who renewed the library levy! It’s a good day in America.