When the light returns, when the days grow longer and the dark withdraws like a melting snowman, day by day, everything in nature seems to waken. The trees shake themselves and lift their heads. Even before their leaves emerge, even before the buds become blossoms, we can tell the trees have been roused from sleep. To look closely at an alder, an ash, or a cottonwood in early March is to see a naked-limbed winter tree, but to see the same trees in a grove from a distance is to discern a delicate wash of light green so subtle under the predominant red-brown fuzz of swelling buds that it strains credulity to believe it's there. Flowers that have slept wrapped in their bulbs for months pop up to see what the light has brought, rubbing sleep from their eyes before turning their faces to the increasing sun. Insects stir one by one, and birds fly in with the light, singing at dawn and signing the air with curlicues and swooping flourishes like a calligrapher drunk with joy
Up here on the mountain things sleep longer than they do in the valley. Two weeks before my daffodils smile at the sun, I see the same variety massed deeply yellow in Joan's garden. While my plum tree is no more than a ruddy suggestion of the later pale pink explosion, in the valley pink and white fruit trees are already adding a pastel frill to the streets and yards.
This seasonal difference is not a function of light. I have the same number of hours of daylight as anyone else at my latitude, the same increasing number of minutes day by day until at last we think not of day as a crack of light between the dark but of night as a blink of the shutter before the next day photo. This process begins on winter solstice, of course, but at such a minuscule pace we bank more on faith than on observation that the light will return. Then, so gradually we can't see it coming, the pace increases until, just anterior to the spring equinox, the ball of light is rolling so fast we cannot but get swept in its path. Like the rest of nature, our spirits lift as though from sleep.
And then, once awake, we have to prove to the cosmos we weren't sleeping on the job, so we tinker with the clock as though with time itself. But now daylight savings time, or the reversal of it, is so ordinary I can't remember which is the real time and which the manipulated. Some people despise daylight savings time, calling it unnatural, but clock-keeping itself isn't natural. Shifting the clock at our will is only a pretense at control. Adding an hour of light to the evening necessarily adds an hour of dark to the morning, and, in real terms, nothing has changed. As Ursula LeGuin said in a poetic variation of a truth of physics, "To light a candle is to cast a shadow." Whether you like the autumn version of the manipulated clock or the spring version depends on who you are and what you do. In the fall, school children don't have to wait for the bus in the dark, but my neighbor looks forward to the spring-ahead day so she can be feeding her horses in the daylight again. I myself have no preference and have a hard time keeping track of when I'm supposed to change my clocks, although these days most clocks change on their own, mysteriously more aware of the legislated time than I. The light comes as it comes, whatever we do to the clock, and with the coming of the light, I feel an awakening, a resurrection. Lake pagans of old, like daffodils, I turn my face to the sun and worship.