Right now it is the middle of the afternoon. That makes it somewhat ironic that I intend to write about the night.
I've always enjoyed the dusk, the twilight, and of course the night. I know some people who like staying up late because that's the only peace they get from loud, chaotic day. If living with family it may be the only change they have for quiet - the only time when they're free of the shackles of duty and can examine their own thoughts. I, however, live alone and my days are as quiet as my nights. So that's not it.
I am reminded of the wonderful article by Jeanette Winterson. Here's a little excerpt of how she feels about the night:
Spending the evening in candlelight, and maybe by the fire – with no TV – talking, telling stories, letting the lit-up world go by without us, expands the hours, and alters the thoughts and conversations we have.
I have noticed that when all the lights are on, people tend to talk about what they are doing – their outer lives. Sitting round in candlelight or firelight, people start to talk about how they are feeling – their inner lives. They speak subjectively, they argue less, there are longer pauses.
To sit alone without any electric light is curiously creative. I have my best ideas at dawn or at nightfall, but not if I switch on the lights – then I start thinking about projects, deadlines, demands, and the shadows and shapes of the house become objects, not suggestions, things that need to done, not a background to thought.
That get's a little closer to what I feel when the sun goes down and the stars take its place. The nighttime is qualitatively different. It brings with it a unique collection of thoughts and feelings and energy that cannot exist under the bright glow of the sun.
Night is a time for endings. Nothing happens after dark without the specter of sleep silently watching from every shadow. It knows that no matter how desperately we fight, every night must eventually come to a close. Even if you gather your energies and rally against the power of the darkness - with loud music and bright lights and partying - it can only last so long before the energy is sapped and a contented lull comes over the room. This is how night reasserts its dominance; ever-present, ever-patient.
The sunset is the suns last violent burst of color and energy, drenching the sky in its own viscera in a futile attempt to delay what is coming. There is no better way to appreciate those brilliant colors than by remembering the fact that soon inky blackness will swallow them whole. The tendrils of the night will permeate every home and every crevice. The darkness will surround you and accept you if you choose to let it in.
It's best not to fight against the darkness, but to let it in. Acquaint yourself with it, like you might with an old friend. After all, when we were children we had no choice but to cooperate with the whims of night, before we learned how to thrash and scream and resist by uncomfortably dragging ourselves into the early hours of the morning.
Let the shadows grow long. Let the lights be warm and dim. Drink warm tea, and accept its calming energy. Let yourself relax and grow detached; expand beyond the bounds of your mind, into the adjoining shadows. They will welcome you, and lend you some of their imagination. Some of our greatest insights come to us in the dark, while we sleep.
As an aspiring photographer, there's no better time to take out the camera than after the sun has departed. Trying to understand light without understanding darkness is a paradox, like the chef who tries to spice his food without first knowing how it tastes without. Everything about light is different at night. If you told me our luminescent lamps and flickering candles emitted 'nightrons' instead of photons, I may have to believe you.
What would be imperceptible in the day, washed out by the harsh glare of the sun, gains a warm soft glow in the darkness. Hundreds of lights all around us are too shy to show their face in the vengeful sunlight, and we must gently coax them out at night if we wish to appreciate their soft beauty. The details of things disappear without the sun to keep them illuminated; we must view things holistically, as they present themselves. Even colors change, whether basking by a warm flame or under the cool moonlight. The night is full of tidbits of beauty that are lost when we turn on all the lights and view it as an inferior day.
The stars and the moon are wonderful friends that are often hard to find. The stars are not gracious guests and will never visit you. To be in their celestial company is a great privilege, but you must adorn yourself in the garments of the night and visit them. The moon is less meek and often waves hello from its perch at the top of the skies. If you go for a walk outside, illuminated solely by moonlight, the world will transform before your eyes. Have a picnic with a loved one under the full moon's glow, and you will see parts of them that will seem impossible in the day.
I love winter, and I enjoy the long winter nights. I love the quiet that descends on a city during snowfall and the solitude of its streets. Falling snow is invisible in the darkness, until a sharp light pierces through its white veil and shows you the splendor of your surroundings. Without it, the only way is to remain perfectly still and silent - with luck, you may feel the snowflakes gently perching on your skin. The pure white of snow catches even the tiniest mote of light, and wintertime at night makes the world come alive.
There is a certain fortitude required to step out into the cold and the darkness when every human instinct urges you to back into your warm, well lit dwelling. In moments like these I feel a strange connection to my hunter-gatherer ancestors. The night can be hostile at times, but that doesn't take away from any of its beauty. It enhances it, as the journey taken to appreciate it is as adds as much to the story as the beauty itself.
I love the night, and I always appreciate it's enveloping darkness. Without its shadow, how would we know light?