Resetting our clocks

I’ve been known for excessively long stories, especially those that are the set up for a pun or other joke. My family always groans appropriately when I tell such stories and it usually is sufficient encouragement for me to think of other stories. So, for today’s journal entry, There is a story behind the main story. Here is that story. It is not made up. It is a report of the way it actually was when we were in Japan.

In Japan, the higurashi are a family of insects of the genus Tanna. The insects can be found all throughout East Asia and is most common in Japan. This year, there was a particularly large and an uncommonly early hatch of the insects. Normally, they are at the height of their population during the late summer and early fall, but they were abundant and apparent in all of the rural areas we visited during our Early August visit this year. Their kanji name is derived from the character for Miscanthus, a type of reed that can be found in Japan. The insects are also known as kanakana because of the noise they make. The males are larger and more noisy than the females. In English, we call them cicadas. They thrive in cypress, cedar and hardwood forests from the mountains to the plains throughout Japan.

Whenever we went for a walk in rural areas, including my nearly daily walks with our daughter’s dog, the song of the cicadas was constant. When we first arrived, I was really aware of the sound and of how loud it was wherever there were trees. Our daughter complained about the sound several times during the visit, saying it was especially loud this year. After being in Japan for a few days, I got used to the sound and even enjoyed it as I walked near and in the woods. It was a kind of background to the natural beauty I was seeing. I would hike to the top of a hill that overlooks a lake in the foreground with high mountains in the background and take pictures as I listened to the constant singing of the insects.

Now, back in Washington, I notice the absence of cicada song. It just isn’t something that we can hear, even though we are surrounded by lots of trees.

Our adjustment to the change from Japan to Washington has gone quickly. Last night was just our second night back and we made it through the day yesterday without taking naps and having slept mostly normally the night before. Last night we were even better, going to bed at our usual time. This adjustment to the change in time zones is critical for us because in order to get back home and back to work on schedule we need to drive about 450 miles today and each of the next two days to arrive in Rapid City on Friday and be in the office on Saturday and the pulpit on Sunday. It is a challenge, but we’ve got a reliable truck and good tires and wheel bearings and are up to the challenge. We know, from last year’s experiences that we can experience a delay in travel, but are confident that we can keep our schedule this year even though we only have one day of flexibility in our travel.

It helped that our flight from Japan was in the evening. As a result the first meal on the plane was dinner to us. We slept for the mid part of the flight, waking for the last couple of hours, during which another meal was served, which we treated as breakfast. We had lunch with our son and his children as soon as we arrived. Going to a Tim Hortons is part of most trips to Canada for our family and there was a Tim Hortons in the airport. Then we had a somewhat normal afternoon, dinner and bedtime. Our clocks quickly adjusted to match the daylight hours. We were able to have a good day yesterday. Our son took the day off from work and we spent much of the day framing a new wood shed that he is building, so i had good physical labor to keep me engaged.

Travel experts have all kinds of tips for resetting one’s clock and overcoming jet lag. All living things have what is known as a circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is a roughly 24 hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings, including plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria. In a strict sense, circadian rhythms are endogenously generated, although they can be modulated by external cues such as sunlight and temperature. Circadian rhythms are important in determining the sleeping and feeding patterns of all animals, including human beings. There are clear patterns of brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities linked to this daily cycle. A big trip, which covers multiple time zones, and in our case, crossing the International Date Line, requires a resetting of the our circadian clocks. We need to sleep, eat, and carry out other functions at different times than our bodies sense our need. Usually it takes a couple of days to get everything reset, but on this particular trip, because we changed the dates of being gone after we had purchased our plane tickets in order to make the memorial service for my cousin at the beginning of the trip, we didn’t allow as much time for the resetting of our circadian rhythms at the end of our trip.

So we found that we had to quickly adjust to changes in our circadian and our cicadian rhythms all at once. OK, I know it is a lame pun, with too much of a set up. It may even be the product of being just a little bit tired. I’m writing this journal entry in the middle of the night, something which is not uncommon for me, but it also may be a sign that my sleep cycle isn’t quite adjusted.

Human beings are remarkably adaptable creatures and we’re making the change without distress. So I’ll probably catch a few more winks before getting up for good and preparing the camper for a day of driving. Life is good and we are among the world’s most fortunate of people. We’re heading home and ready to get back to our work and life in South Dakota.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!