Surviving Where the Sun Don’t Shine

By Amanda M. Gordon

What lives underground, reluctantly sleeps until noon and has the complexion of a vampire? That would be me, or at least that’s been the case for essentially the last five years (save for the seven month period of being under the Kuwaiti sun). The last three living spaces I’ve inhabited have been rather void of natural sunlight, which provides some significant differences in, well, living.

Currently, the house that I’m renting a space in has me about four feet underground. I’m able to rest my chin comfortably upon the window sill as I gage the weather to determine what to wear. It’s not so terrible not having daylight. I’ve always been more of a night owl than an early bird, but I try to remind myself that human beings are overgrown, emotional, mobile house plants. That big ball of radiation we call the sun plays a pretty significant role in our mental health as anyone who has ever felt the effects of  SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can tell you. My dead houseplants paint this lack of sun picture pretty decently too.

Peak hours of natural light breaking into my living space happen just as the sun is setting, which of course doesn’t help my productivity. Does my fatigue stem from not seeing the sun once it rises? Not entirely. There are healthier habits I could make in my life to improve my energy such as better eating habits, drinking more water and maybe less wine as well as incorporating some physical activity into my day. 

Still, I have no doubt that this messes with my circadian rhythm. Since the dawn of humanity, people have made bunkers and homes within caves when the circumstances have called for it; but just like my own sleep patterns being out of sorts, people who are cut off from the sunlit outdoors have been found to sleep for longer periods of time (the longest stretch being 48 hours). I must admit, it would be easy for me to do that as well, which is why I set up a series of alarms that will hopefully keep me from entering a state of hibernation. 

Unlike those who are stuck in submarines or pursuing studies underwater for months at a time, I at least have a bit more of an opportunity to change my environment. There are about three months left on my current rent and I honestly don’t foresee myself landing a job that will get me anything above ground anytime soon. So what ways can I help brighten up my quaint little cave?

For one, sun lamps exist! Though currently, I’ve only invested in a salt rock lamp, having read a rumor that they keep spiders at bay since arachnids love basement environments. I can confirm that my lovely pink lamp does nothing to keep these critters away, but as the simple video game enthusiast Brian David Gilbert would say, “If you have bugs in your house and make the conscious decision to want those bugs in your house, they aren’t pests, they’re pets.” 

Simple decor can help as well; mirrors, colorful paintings and plants are the best way to provide more life to my living space. But… plants die; save for the monstrous aloe vera plant I adopted from the campus greenhouse, who I’ve named Henry. I also name the spiders in my apartment, but I try not to get too attached to them as I am always tempted to murder them. 

Candles aren’t options for every renter, but I’m able to use them and other scent producers. Granted, they don’t provide vitamin D, but they do fight off potential musty smells as underground spaces can get damp depending on the infrastructure‒ my last living space flooded a few times from a heavy rain season so incense and candles helped keep my mind off of potential mold. 

I would like to think that someday I’ll have a living space that is on ground level or maybe even a couple of stories up, but until then I’ll have to settle with what adjustments I can make as I continue to burrow underground.

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