Monday March 11, 2013
All hail the sun
Sambal On The Side by BRENDA BENEDICT
Having spent what has come close to being the gloomiest winter on record in Germany, the writer joins her host countrymen in saluting the much-awaited sun.
I AM now a card-carrying member of the Sun Worshippers Club.
It’s not an officially registered organisation or anything. I simply came up with the name as I jostled for space with hundreds of others at the Goethe Square in the heart of Frankfurt last Monday, to soak up some much-needed natural Vitamin D.
The deejays of almost every morning show that day had already been crowing about the imminent arrival of spring. Not surprisingly, everyone seemed to be in high spirits and, at least in my eyes, had a spring in their step.
Even the lunchtime queue that snaked out of the post office exuded exceptional geniality, with each giving way to the other amidst many dankeschoen (thank you) and bitte schoen (you’re welcome).
Even as I write this, the sun’s rays are bouncing off the glass walls of the Main Library opposite and are casting dazzling rainbows of light onto my office desk and my face, half blinding me. But no matter – the sun is finally out.
So why am I waxing lyrical of an almost permanent feature in Malaysia that we often take for granted and whose rays we sometimes loathe to embrace?
Well, these recent statistics might help shed some light.
A spokesman for the National Meteorological Service had reported a fortnight ago that Germany had experienced a mere 96 hours of sunshine over the course of this past meteorological winter, which typically spans from December to February.
The usual winter average is 160 hours of sun, thus making this past season the gloomiest winter in Germany in 43 years.
Thus far the winter of 1970, with an average of just 104 hours of sunshine, holds the record of being the bleakest.
Hence meteorologists shared their foreboding that if the sun didn’t show up any time soon, this winter would be regarded the darkest since Germany began keeping official records of sunshine hours in 1951.
Allow me to break it down a little further: we experienced only 20 hours of sunshine throughout the month of January; that’s an average of 45 minutes of sunshine per day. Otherwise it was just snow, sleet, rain, drizzle, fog or cloud cover.
Imagine trying to drag yourself out of bed on a cold Monday morning.
You know it’s morning only because the satellite clock says so and not because of the hazy shade of grey that greets you outdoors.
It was like literally living through a Dark Age!
This was also the perfect setting for the seasonal influenza virus to strike, and wreak havoc it certainly did.
This time it was a particularly virulent form that knocked most sufferers out for at least a week. In fact, there was a sizable dent in productivity and profits in Germany due to many employees falling sick.
It is no secret that light deprivation can also have negative consequences on the human body, most obviously leaving you a tad S.A.D. The Seasonal Affective Disorder or the “winter blues” is very real and hit closer to home this year as I succumbed to it as well.
I often found myself battling hard to remain bubbly despite wanting to simply stay home in my jammies and eat directly out of the Nutella jar, while watching reruns of the Gilmore Girls.
Experts advised “blues sufferers” to fight the urge to remain holed up at home and instead go outdoors to exercise.
For instance, biometeorologist Christina Koppe-Schaller of the National Meteorological Service was quoted by AFP as saying that “even under cloudy skies, there is enough light to encourage the production of the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin in the body. ‘The eye takes in sunshine for hormone production,’ she explained. But if it gets too little natural light, the result can be lethargy and depression. ‘Those who remain on the sofa are just pulling themselves down further’.”
I signed up for a yoga course and diligently attended classes despite the urge to skip them some days.
Now, with the sun being out, all I want to do is to go out walking and avoid any form of shade!
I now truly understand why our ancient forebears built large monuments and prayed to the sun. It is an integral part of our make up and psyche, and too little of it can and do have dark effects.
Apollo, Helios, Sol, Ra, Matahari, Surya – whatever we have named you from whichever sun-kissed corner of the globe – I salute you!
Brenda Benedict is a Malaysian living in Frankfurt. She went out for an invigorating long walk in the Main Cemetery after writing this piece. Reader response can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org