Monday, 25 June 2007

Robins at dawn, streetlights at night, taxes at work

The robins start to sing these mornings about 4:30 a.m. when the sky begins to pale. That will shift soon, now that we’re past the summer solstice and the world begins its slide away from summer. At their longest, days are about 16 hours long here, which isn’t long at all when compared to the luminous evenings in northern Europe. Montreal, at 45° 30' north, is south of Seattle and Vancouver, and at about the same latitude as Milan and Lyon. London, in comparison, 51°, 32’ north.

Even on these short nights, it is good to have our street lights back. The work started on Tuesday, as promised, and Wednesday night (the shortest night of the year?) the lights came on at dusk, Not a day to soon, because it looks like the darkness invited a little mischief even in this quiet neighborhood. The moveable hockey net that belongs to the Du family disappeared last week, and Friday night the week before a couple of strollers left in front of houses (which people do all the time because there is so little trouble) found their way down the street and on to the roofs of vans. Rather funny to see, actually, but a reminder that the urban fabric requires constant maintenance.

The Internal Revenue Service Building in Washington, D.C. carries an apt quote from US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: "Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society." One may criticize the efficiency with which those taxes are spent, but there are myriad things that need to be organized and paid for collectively. Street lights are just one. Fiat lux!

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