As summer rears its hot, sunny head, I notice as I subconsciously give myself pep talks to prepare for the change in seasons.
The average outdoor temperature gradually increases such that my winter coat will be ousted by my sun-protective overcoat. There is a brief period of briskness between seasonal transitions when wearing my overcoat is almost pleasant. Short lived as it is, I treasure this time and realize that, as summer bathes the northern hemisphere, going outdoors will bring other challenges. Although there is no longer reflective snow and ice on the ground, the sun rises earlier and sets later, encroaching itself upon my previously, blessedly dark commute. And, unlike in the winter time, wearing a hat, mask, gloves, and overcoat draws a lot of attention from strangers.
I mentioned in a previous post that avoidance is the most effective form of sun protection but that it is fluid and not always possible. What I meant by fluid is that it can’t be predicted or formulated.
For example, I can grill outdoors after a certain time in the summer. But at what time will dinner be ready? Well, it’s fluid. I don’t want to grill in my sun gear, so I need to coordinate with the sun.
My house faces a west-east axis…sort of. The rising sun will be on the rear side of my house, but off at an angle with the corner; that is until the approaching summer solstice affects the sun’s course enough so that it will just barely square itself with my east-facing windows in the morning and with my west-facing windows in the evening. This lasts for a few months during which point the days are longest.
Although the days are longer, I can take advantage of them to do some manly barbecuing. Unlike when the sun travels closer to the horizon, when its course is more directly overhead I can use the shade of my house to grill on the eastern side earlier and earlier in the evening because the shadow it casts on my backyard will align more squarely with my property. Soon this advantage sort of balances out as the sun passes its zenith later and later in the day, but it doesn’t matter so much because the house’s shade will remain relatively constant.
As the sun returns to a course closer to the southern horizon, the angle of the shade with my property becomes more skewed until the evening shade is no longer aligned with that side of my house. But there is a large hill on the western side of my house that slopes up sharply to the south, which means that the sun will be hidden earlier as autumn approaches. Luckily there are no reflective buildings or surfaces on the eastern side of my home. So, essentially, I can not grill until dusk, then grill in daylight, then not grill until dusk, then grill in relative daylight again until it’s too cold.
Confused yet? Life gets even more complicated when daylight savings time is jumbled into the mix. I simplify manly grilling by looking out my window and checking the yard rather than writing my own farmer’s almanac.
What about mowing the lawn? If I start early enough in the morning, I don’t have to wear my sun gear. But eventually the sun rises so early that I can’t mow without giving the neighbors even more reason to call the cops. “Excuse me, officer; there is a masked man making a disturbance and its 4:00 am… I don’t know, do spinning blades of death count as a weapon?” So I just have to buckle down and wear my gear or wait for a cloudy day. My wife is kind enough to share the chore. Last summer she mowed the lawn nearly every week, although I still got to brandish the weed whacker.
Even with my sun gear, I still jump from shade to shadow when out and about. It’s easier to protect myself from potential reflections when I’m not positioned in direct sunlight.
I have included at the top of this post an image of a solargraph, which plots the sun’s course over the time of one year. The latitude where this solargraph was created is further north in the hemisphere than where I currently live by a few degrees. Here it is again for easier viewing:
I know many people don’t think about it, but imagine for a second, if you can, how the shadows around you would be affected by the sun’s differing position as illustrated by this solargraph. Perhaps that can give some substance to the concept that sun avoidance is fluid.