Columns, Opinion

BERICK: Northern lights

Light, as it appears, is important. I should have learned this from ‘The Swiss Family Robinson,’ a far fetched tale of a Swiss family named ‘-‘- surprise ‘-‘- Robinson, shipwrecked on the only island other than Manhattan that boasts ostriches, penguins and peacocks in such a slim square footage. The family doesn’t really start to vacation until they make some candles. Then, suddenly, they can read, engineer and philosophize ‘-‘-things they had no time for when the sun dictated their schedule. They become, in essence, a whole modern civilization thanks to some beeswax. Conveniently there are also bees on the island ‘-‘- it’s a great piece of real estate. With the plethora of indoor student lighting: fluorescent, Christmas, compact fluorescent, disco and otherwise, it would seem we less stranded citizens ought to be immune to the setting or rising of the sun. But let me confess: I am not immune.

I think daylight savings ought to go, or rather, it ought to stay. It’s not that I am an enemy of the small farmer ‘-‘- he has enough of those. I fit better, anyway, as the useless romantic, considering the honesty of livestock and the fresh, beauty of pre-Whole Foods produce. Its just that New England gets dark enough in the winter even if it didn’t lose an hour of daylight, and everyone knows they only farm in Brooklyn. The addition of the extra hour for the now entirely fictitious harvest is recinded by the second Sunday in November, and I get indignant about it every year. I get indignant about a lot of things. I’m a very entitled middle-class college student, but this one is hard to appeal than a bad grade. There were years when I could blame the light on Boston University. This is always a good solution when celestial bodies are actually to blame. I blamed BU when I stayed in Boston to take summer classes the year the sun forsook the east coast. I blamed BU when my dorm’s dining hall was subterranean. As in below ground. The room I had to visit daily in order to stay alive received no natural light. And it was designed that way. It could have been dawn or even Afghanistan out there and we never would have known. We just went on enjoying the baked potato bar like it didn’t matter we were in a bunker -‘-‘- or my companions did, anyway. I myself spent a lot of time complaining. I used to make my friends walk, before coffee, on the coldest Sundays of freshman year, to eat in the Warren Towers dining hall. This was not because I had my eye on a sleepy B Tower resident, it was entirely because it was the nearest sunlight dining destination.

My last room at BU, while a charming singlet with a freestanding tub, faced a brick wall, allowing direct sunlight for only one hour per day. The comfort of my giant Citgo nightlight ought to have made up for it, but I am loath to inform you the thing does not go till dawn. In fact, like most things in Boston, it packs up about midnight during the week and a puritan 2 a.m. on the weekends. It was quite the gloomy semester. I would like to say the reason I was always late to my 11:30 Spanish class was the light. There was a morning square of sunlight on my floor from 10:30 to noon and I only got visiting hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I did pass eventually with a comfortable C+.

It is not only natural light, however, that can turn a cell in to a space.

BU was also to blame for the fluorescents that turned the otherwise-welcoming galley kitchen of my single into a battered women’s shelter. May I suggest that Christmas lights, though slightly overused, offer a hearth-like warmth to even cinder block. Paper lanterns should also be given a chance, and if you’ve been reluctant so far, just wait till they open the Urban Outfitters on Harvard Avenue; you’ll catch the bohemian bug for sure. My room now sports a wildly impractical bug light. Sure, it doesn’t attract gnats, but neither does the back corner of my bedroom from November to May. It took me hours on the Internet and a violation of my embargo, but anything to combat the hospital effect of the environmentally conscious.

I was a child with a mandatory nightlight. It was either my dictum or my parents’ ‘-‘- but we both benefited. I was under moderate protection from you-know-what under the bed and they didn’t have to sit in my room till I feel asleep. There was a catch however ‘-‘- the little light made the crack on my closet door into a chasm and the space below my bed a dungeon. I now know that it isn’t just the evenings you have to worry about. The baddest bad guys don’t wait for the end of the day ‘-‘- just the end of the semester. Then again, maybe I just feel better about nighttime, because, of course, with the urban light pollution, my current room is never really dark.

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