2017-02-16 / Outdoors

Even if you can’t dance, you’ve got rhythm

Nature’s got rhythm — and one of those cadences is called “circadian.” (And, no, that is not a misspelling of “Canadian,” referencing our great neighbors to the north who become beloved snowbirds this time of year.) The system I refer to is nature’s clock, whose effect is commonly found in humans.

The actual definition of circadian is a naturally recurring biological process based on a 24-hour cycle, even in the absence of light fluctuations. The pattern, or rhythm, refers to any biological process that exhibits an endogenous, entrainable oscillation of approximately 24 hours. This rhythm, also referred to as the circadian clock, has been observed in animals, humans, plants, fungi and even cyanobacteria.

So what does this have to do with us? Whether you admit to having your own pattern or not, it is fact that we all experience life’s and natures rhythms. A prime example of this in humans was not widely known before the 1940s, with the advent of jet-age travel. When we transport our bodies to a significantly earlier or later time going east or west, we experience “jet lag,” an easy name for our out-of-sync inner clock. Our body thinks it’s 11 p.m. but, as we leave to fly to California, it is only 8 p.m.

Everything in nature is tied to a sequence of rhythm and events around us that affect that inner feeling. You have all heard about people being a “morning person” or a “night owl.” That’s because the individual rhythm is specific to each of us. Our own human rhythm has been the study of research by both civilian researchers and the military. Why? It is because when we are tired or out of sync within ourselves, it impairs our judgment, sometimes causing us to make more mistakes — even though our actions seem normal and rational to us. However, when observed by outsiders, our behavior seems radical or out of character.

One of the main reasons for getting a good night’s rest or practicing meditation is to reset this cycle so we feel refreshed and invigorated. We could take some hints from the animal world about slowing down and staying in rhythm. When we’re on track, our personality is more stable and friendly, we have less hostility toward others (think road rage) and we will be healthier.

Circadian rhythms affect our body and brain by releasing hormones regulating body temperature and functions. Abnormal circadian rhythms have many negative impacts on us. It is up to each of us to evaluate ourselves and, at times, get advice from friends, relatives or professionals who can see things we can’t about ourselves. When someone says you look tired, you probably are but won’t admit it. When they say you’re glowing and radiant, you probably feel that way. Which do you want?

Our natural surroundings are in their own circadian rhythm. Each species of plant, animal, microbe and living cell experiences this — from bears that hibernate in the winter up north to Florida alligators that bury themselves in mud when it is cold to dolphins who have the ability to let half of their brain sleep as they physically remain active.

On our tours, when we leave the marina in the morning, there are thousands of big white flowers along the shores of the Peace River. When we return from our boat tour, these flowers have seemingly disappeared. The flowers are moon vine, part of the morning glory family. The flowers open and expand at night to collect moisture and being brilliant white, they attract hungry insects. When the sun comes up and our temperatures rise, these flowers slowly spiral closed and seem to vanish. There are animals and birds that are more active at night due to their rhythm, also.

I wish you also to be in sync with nature and to enjoy our great outdoors.

Fair winds; calm seas. ¦

— Capt. Dennis Kirk has been traveling the Peace River since 1979. His life adventures are written from various chapters in his three decades of experience in Southwest Florida. He is part owner of the Nav-A-Gator, a riverfront restaurant and marina in Lake Suzy, just off Kings Highway. For more information, call 627- 3474.

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