Monday, March 26, 2012

Sunshiny Days

How very hard it is to stay indoors when the sap is rising, the birds are singing and the garden is calling me to dig and weed, and rake and sow. Who wants to sit at a desk, staring at a screen when they can sit or walk or work outside and feel sunshine on their skin? Well, some folks might, but I don't.

My skin craves sunshine. I know this is not just because I spent forty years of my adult life living in sunny parts of the world like Australia and California and got accustomed to it, because I remember how I craved sunshine as a child. It was as though there was some ancient piece of programming in this English brain of mine that made it well-nigh impossible to remain indoors on a sunny day. Whenever I awoke to a morning of blue sky and slanting sunbeams I would experience an immediate and powerful urge to leap out of bed and run outdoors. 

I can still remember, vividly, the power of that bodily urge and I remember how quickly and surprisingly it left me when I moved away from England. So much so that I forgot all about it for decades until, the first spring after I came back here to live, it reasserted itself with the same force as ever. 

There was an item in the BBC news yesterday about the importance of Vitamin D to our health and about how we poor denizens of the northern latitudes who don’t get enough sunshine on our skin need to take Vitamin D supplements to keep ourselves healthy. Those same health authorities who fussed and worried and sent us all scurrying for shade and slathering ourselves from head to toe with SPF 15, are now suggesting that maybe they went a bit too far overboard and a little sun on the skin is actually a Good Thing  (just a little, mind). Not that I ever took much notice of those warnings in the first place, except that I was always careful not to burn. 

My own experience tells me that sun-craving, for people who live as far north as I do, is actually an adaptive mechanism. I am convinced that, just as the food cravings of pregnancy signal a shortage of some dietary element or another,  sun-craving is a natural and evolutionary response to insufficient levels of Vitamin D. So, as with everything else, if we remain fully tuned to our bodies and fully receptive to their messages and requests—which, by the way, tell us not only when to get out into the sun but also when it is time to move to the shade—they will serve us faithfully and with much gratitude.