Wind Chill in Summer

Enjoying the summer wind chill – Photo: Pexels

The temperatures are climbing in Paradelle, as expected in summer. In winter, the weather report will tell us about how the wind chill affects temperatures. It is a pessimistic look at the weather. When it is 35 degrees (Fahrenheit here), a 10 mph wind makes it feel like 27. If it was already 30 degrees and the wind was at 20 mph it feels like 17 degrees. Brrrrr!

But I never hear about the wind chill in summer when we really could use some optimism. Wouldn’t t be nice on a 90-degree day to know that the 20 mph wind is making it feel like only 84 degrees? (My calculation here is pure guessing. Maybe someone out there can figure it out.)

You know that sitting in front of or below a fan on a hot makes it feel cooler. And a nice breeze on a hot day is comforting.

Can we start a movement to get meteorologists to add summer wind chill to their forecasts?

Summer Solstice Traditions, Beliefs and Superstitions

Sunset at the summer solstice viewed at the Sun Circle sculpture, Rillito River Park, near Tucson, Arizona.

The summer solstice usually occurs on June 21st and is the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also the longest day of the year. Some people feel that with more sunlight their mood and energy get a boost.

Historically, the summer solstice is one of the most sacred days of the year. It is traditionally a time for making resolutions to start new positive habits, strengthen relationships, and let go of negativity.

The summer solstice is when the sun is its furthest away from the equator. It seems counterintuitive that this has been known as midsummer since the Neolithic era even though we think of it as the start of summer. The middle of summer was considered to be on the longest day of the year, but summer solstice and Midsummer’s Day are actually different events, normally a few days apart between 20 and 24 June. The difference is thought to stem from variations in the Julian and Gregorian calendars.

In European Neolithic cultures, it was related to the timings of crop cycles. Celtic, Slavic and Germanic people would light bonfires in order to boost the sun’s strength for the crop season and ensure a strong harvest. The Neolithic stone circles, most famously Stonehenge, were built around the movement of the sun at solstices with stones aligned with the sun’s movements to frame the Sun at summer and winter solstices.

Sun worship was part of Ancient Egyptian religions. The summer solstice occurred with the rise of the river Nile and Ra (or Amun-Ra) was one of the most important gods as the creator of life and ruler of the sun, sky and kings. From the view of the Sphinx, the sun sets squarely between the Great Pyramids of Khufu and Khafre on Egypt’s Giza plateau on the summer solstice.

Following the establishment of the Christian Church, solstice celebrations were combined with St John’s Day, commemorating St John the Baptist. In the 19th century, Christians used St John’s Day to act out the baptisms of children who had died as “pagans.”

Here are some common summer solstice superstitions:
An Icelandic superstition says that if you roll in the morning dew during a solstice it will cure many skin ailments. That sounds safer than jumping over the bonfire, but avoid rolling in poison ivy.

Jumping over a bonfire brings a year of good luck, purification, and it helps lovers find their mate.

The remaining ashes from the solstice bonfire can be put on you to keep you safe, and put in your garden to guarantee a good crop. (Wood ash is an excellent source of lime and potassium and trace elements for your garden.)

This night was an important one for witches. Magic was thought to be strongest during the summer solstice and midsummer night (as Mr. Shakepseare portrayed in his play).

Myth stories told of the world turning upside down or the sun standing still at midsummer. This was a time when the normal laws of nature or divinity could be suspended. Spirits and fairies could contact humans. Humans could exceed the usual limitations of their world.

Deep Sleep

Image by Jess Foami from Pixabay

Deep sleep is the third stage of non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep when you are not dreaming. Deep sleep is also known as slow-wave sleep. This is the stage of sleep where your brain waves are at their slowest. Your heartbeat and breathing also slow down. This is when tissues repair and regrow. Your body strengthens its immune system, and builds bone and muscle. You need deep sleep.

Sleep experiments (some done in connection for torture and interrogation techniques!) show that if you let people sleep but monitored their brain waves and woke them whenever they dropped into deep or REM sleep, it led to psychological distress, even hallucinations. You need deep sleep and dream time.

My FitBit tells me how much deep sleep, light sleep, REM time, and time awake I get overnight. Most adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and most of us are sleep-deprived for a variety of reasons. I try for 7 hours but I have sleep apnea so my awake time is higher than it should be. Between 13-23% of your time should be spent in deep sleep. If you get seven hours of sleep each night, then you should spend approximately 55 to 97 minutes each night in deep sleep.

A few years ago when I got that sleep-tracking device I read that deep sleep appears to trigger a cleaning system in the brain. It is also believed that this deep sleep cleaning helps protect the brain against Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. So, I became a bit obsessive about how much deep sleep I was getting and how I might increase it.

Tracking those slow brain waves researchers found that these waves appear just before a pulse of fluid washes through the brain. That fluid (cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF) is the wash that presumably removes toxins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

How do you get high-quality deep sleep? There are lots of answers and not one definitive answer. Lifestyle changes, like improving diet and exercise, can help but are never easy to implement. I’ve read a lot about sleep and have focused more on deep sleep and have tried a variety of things and recorded my times in the 3 stages and awakeness looking for what works for me.

The common list of things to try:

Daily workouts for about 150 minutes a week. It doesn’t have to be intense. Walking and some yoga is good.

Eat more fiber and have less caffeine and alcohol, particularly in the 7 hours prior to bedtime.

Make your bedroom conducive to sleep. 65-67 degrees, dark, with a TV or electronic devices and quiet. Darkness helps. An eye mask might work if it’s hard to blackout your room. Even if the mask falls off during the night, it can help you initially fall asleep. Some people find a white noise device blocks sound. Pink noise is those sounds like steady rainfall or waves crashing on a beach. There is some evidence that this increases deep sleep and improves memory in older adults.

Keep to a routine whenever possible about the time you go to bed. If you want 7 hours of sleep and have to get up at 7am, going to bed at midnight won’t accomplish that since some of that 7 hours will be awake time.

Over-the-counter sleep aids are big business from melatonin to valerian, kava kava and some antihistamines that cause drowsiness. Prescription sleep aids are also a big business.

What has worked for me?

The best thing is for me to get to bed earlier. 10 pm seems right, but certainly not midnight as I have often done in the past.

I have increased my fiber for other reasons and I don’t know if it has improved my sleep. I avoid alcohol and caffeine as it does negatively affect me.

Another thing my FitBit does is record steps and also active hours per day and week. I have found that on days when I really get in a lot of walking or exercise, I have not found significantly better sleep that night. I think the benefit may be cumulative rather than daily.

We have never had a TV in our bedroom, though I admit that I get sleepy watching TV. If I doze off on the couch watching TV and then head for the bedroom, the sleepiness disappears. Some nights I put my phone on that dark mode and will do one last check on email and such before I put my head on the pillow. I haven’t found that no phone before showed any improvement.

I have tried most of the sleep aids with mixed results. I don’t want to get into a habit of taking anything to sleep. Each thing I have tried seems to work sometimes and not work other times, so my conclusion is that a good night’s sleep is caused by other factors.

On a good night, my watch shows, for example, I slept for 7 hours and 25 minutes and 90 minutes was deep, 66 minutes awake (some of these are 1 or 2 minutes intervals that you don’t know you’re awake and some are fully awake and maybe walking to the bathroom or getting a drink of water) and also 83 minutes was REM dream time. If my deep and REM time are each greater than my awake time and I get 7+ hours total, I consider it a good night.

What works for you?

sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/stages-of-sleep/deep-sleep/

The Birth Moon

Murphy’s Law of Full Moons is that when there is a Full Moon there will be clouds over my head.

Look towards the southeast on Tuesday to watch the Full Moon rise above the horizon. This Full Moon will reach peak illumination at 7:52 A.M. Eastern Time. It will appear large and, yes, this is a “supermoon” – a term I find rather overrated. The Moon will be at one of its closest points to Earth all year so it will appear somewhat larger. Most people won’t notice the difference but just in case you want to compare its closest point will be at 7:21 p.m. Eastern Time.

Strawberry Moon is the most common name for the June Full Moon. It’s a bit unusual that the name was used by colonists and also by tribes such as the Algonquin, Ojibwe, Dakota, and Lakota. Mid-June is a time for ripening ”June-bearing” strawberries (there are others that produce in other months. The Haida used the broader name Berries Ripen Moon which probably covers other types of berries too.

I have also written in the past about this as the Mead Moon and Honey Moon. The name “Honey Moon” suggests a connection to marriage “honeymoons” and there are traditionally a lot of weddings in June. But the term honeymoon comes from the idea that “the first month of marriage is the sweetest” and just combines honey (sweet) and moon (a calendar month). Then again, the month of June is named after Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage.

The Tlingit people have used the name Birth Moon which refers to this being a time when some animals are born in their part of the Pacific Northwest. Geography certainly plays a role in Full Moon names. The Cree called this the Egg Laying Moon and Hatching Moon which also refers to a time of animal births.

Writing in a Paris Café

My wife and I are still planning to leave Paradelle and jet to France this summer for a vacation that was pandemic-postponed in 2021 and 2020. Of course, a positive COVID test in the 72 hours before we leave will cancel it again. (I did note this morning that they have lifted the testing requirement for now when I return from France.)

Though I hope not to be an American cliché, I will undoubtedly fall into some Romantic traps set by years of reading literature and watching films. I have never been there but my wife studied there and taught French for many years so I feel less conspicuous – though perhaps her skills will make me more conspicuous.

How can I sit in a Paris cafe and not think about Hemingway and all those American ex-patriates who sat there drinking, talking, and writing?

Never write in a café, especially in Europe. Ever since Hemingway, this has been the literary equivalent of what in mountain climbing is called the “tech weenie” (that is, someone who cannot get a foot off the ground but is weighed down with $10,000’s worth of equipment). Literary skill, much less greatness, cannot be had with a pose, and exhibitionism extorts the price of failure. Also, have pity on the weary Parisians who have wanted only a citron pressé but have been unable to find a café where every single seat is not occupied by an American publicly carrying on a torrid affair with his Moleskine. – Mark Helprin

Helprin’s advice for European touring is not unlike my own thoughts here about thinking that an isolated cabin in the woods might prove the inspiration to write that Great American Novel or at least some poems. I don’t plan any serious writing while in France, but I will have a little travel notebook to record places and things we do to supplement my photos. A picture may sometimes speak a thousand words, but I often look at a travel photo and think “Now where was I when I took this one?”

The Yellow House (The Street) in Arles by Vincent

I don’t plan to create any great art when traveling either but I do sometimes do some sketching in the journal, and when we get to Arles I will fall into a van Gogh romance. The yellow house where Vincent lived while he worked there is gone now but I do plan to do some painting there. No fabulous Impressionist canvases but something.

Though I am not a fan of traveling – the getting there and getting home parts – I will always give in to the Romance of being in a new place.

The Sound of the Silent Spring

I first read marine biologist Rachel Carson ten years after she had published the book Silent Spring (1962). I had heard about the book because the first Earth Day and environmental concerns and protests were all around me in high school and college. Someone told me that I had to read the book — first serialized in The New Yorker in the summer of 1962 — that made her a name that was widely known.

She was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania in 1907. I was surprised to learn that she was an English major at the Pennsylvania College for Women. In her junior year, she took a biology course and it so fascinated her that she changed her major to zoology.

Silent Spring was not her first book. She was working for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and wrote something for a department publication. her boss thought it read it read as more “literary” and suggested that she send it to Atlantic Monthly instead of using it in a government publication. She did and it was published in the magazine in 1937. It also became the starting place for her first book, Under the Sea-Wind (1941).

Carson continued to work in government jobs until 1952. Eventually, she became editor-in-chief for all the publications of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She resigned in 1952 after publishing two books in order to devote herself fully to her own writing.

She won the National Book Award in nonfiction for her second book, the best-seller The Sea Around Us (1951). In her acceptance speech, she said:

“The aim of science is to discover and illuminate truth. And that, I take it, is the aim of literature, whether biography or history or fiction. It seems to me, then, that there can be no separate literature of science. […] The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities. If they are not there, science cannot create them. If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”

Silent Spring (1962) was the book that really gave her fame and allowed her messages about the environment to gain wider exposure. She opened the book with a little fable. The fable is about a time and place where a spring morning begins silently. No birds singing. No chirping insects. It is an ecosystem destroyed by the widespread misuse of harmful pesticides like DDT.

That opening may have hurt the book in its initial publication because some saw the book as “fiction” based on that fable. But the book was the result of six years of rigorous scientific research. She was also attacked by the chemical industry which had allies within and outside the government. Though today we know her message was accurate and one that needed to be heard and heeded, you can find many critics who attacked her at the time of its publication.  There were industry people who claimed that banning pesticides like DDT resulted in “millions of malaria deaths” while not considering the lives and damage that were saved by eliminating these pesticides from the ecosystem and slowly eliminating them from our water, soil, air, wildlife and humans via all those vectors and from our food sources.  She wrote. “I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm.”

When President Kennedy read Silent Spring during the summer of 1962, it influenced him. He formed a presidential commission to re-examine the government’s pesticide policy and the commission endorsed Carson’s findings. Rachel’s writing and advocacy boosted public awareness of environmental matters. It helped start a new conservation movement and some say it eventually was part of the reason that the Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970. Sadly, Rachel Carson never saw that happen. She died of cancer in 1964, just two years after Silent Spring was published.

The sound of the silent spring is still echoing in our world.

“….All the life of the planet is interrelated ….each species has its own ties to others, and….all are related to the Earth. This is the theme of ‘The Sea Around Us,’ and the other sea books, and it is also the message of ‘Silent Spring’.” Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine