Story last updated at 2/18/2009 - 10:56 am
Light is starting to return to Southeast Alaska. On February 16, the sun rose at 7:26 and set at 4:58. It's satisfying to keep track of the extra minutes of daylight we gain each day, especially as the threat of cabin fever still looms large.
Although it's not pitch dark when I leave for work and return home in the evening, there's still not enough light to go for hikes before or after work without the aid of a headlamp.The prime time during the week to seek out vitamin D or bask in the elements is the lunch hour.
I've fallen into a bad habit recently of taking short lunches, just eating quickly in our break room and then returning to my desk. Sure, if a friend invites me to lunch, I will often accept, but if I've brought my lunch I rarely take the entire hour I could.
This past Friday, a rare sunny day, I realized I'd only make myself miserable by taking a shorter lunch. The day was too beautiful to be inside in the first place, so I took the full hour and decided to see how far away from the office I could get before I had to turn around. I left the Capital City Weekly office at 11:50 a.m. and headed up Franklin Street to Sixth St., then up Basin Road towards the Perseverance trailhead. It was warm enough to take off my gloves, hat and jacket. I must have passed a dozen people walking their dogs, nearly every person grinning, nearly every dog eager to greet me. I didn't make it too far up Perseverance Trail before I had to turn around, but I made it far enough to hear nothing but a woodpecker, the silence calming my mind.
When I arrived back in the office at 12:50, one hour after leaving, my cheeks were flushed and my hair windblown. A coworker asked if I'd been for a run. No, but that would have been fun too! My muscles felt just exercised enough that it was nice to sit back down. My mind was refreshed enough to begin writing with renewed focus.
What a perfect hour. How many people can leave their office and make it to the wilderness and back before their break is over? There are truly some great things you can do around here over a lunch hour.
But what if you don't have an hour? Well, my perfect half hour lunch takes me in the opposite direction from my office, down by the waterfront. In the summer, of course, this area is packed with tourists - but it really isn't as bad as it sounds if your goal is to forget about work. In the winter, the waterfront is quiet. On sunny days I've seen a few other people out there around lunch time, but no more than a handful. I like to call my friend in New York City while strolling along the channel, enjoying the contrast between our lives. I describe the antics of ravens; she tells me around squirrels and pigeons.
Skating at Treadwell Arena is another great lunchtime activity on days when there are noontime open skates (usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday). From my office, it's about a ten-minute drive, which gives me a full half hour to skate and ten extra minutes to eat a sandwich afterwards.
The ideal lunch hour for me gets me outside, or at least moving around inside. In my perfect lunch, I am often alone, or talking to people who don't live in this town. That's because I spend most of my days not moving around, not outside, and talking to people who do live around here.
Of course, if you're on your feet all day, a perfect lunch will probably involve sitting down. If you're out in the elements, it will be a nice respite to come inside. If you're working in silence, it would be nice to have some people to talk to, and if you're on the phone all day you'll probably leave your cell in the office.
In short, perfect lunches are perfect because they contrast with what you're doing all day at work. They're really abbreviated vacations, if you do them right.
There's another hidden benefit to looking for perfect lunches - you think hard about time, and what you can accomplish in a given amount of time. Suddenly, with restrictions, you find a lot can be done. I've always been impressed by the "24 hours in ..." travel articles and how much the writers recommend you fit in one day in a place. The thing is, you can fit a lot in a day. You can fit a lot in an hour, a half hour.
Once you realize what you can do in a half hour, you can find more half hours in your day. Not long ago, the sun set around 4:30, but now it's around 5 - what could you do with that extra half hour of daylight?
What would be your perfect lunch (half) hour? If you're willing to share your secrets, e-mail them to email@example.com and I'll print as many as I can next week.
Katie Spielberger is the interim managing editor of the Capital City Weekly. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.