Turning on the dark

Moonset, 13th Lake, North River NY. Archive Photo of the Day: Woody Widlund.

Moonset, 13th Lake, North River NY. Archive Photo of the Day: Woody Widlund.

It was around midnight last night, as it often is when I finally put down my book, turn off the light and roll over to sleep. After getting home from work in the gathering dusk I spent the evening darkness (some seven hours worth) doing a few holiday duties, cooking and eating, watching a TV show, then a movie; I checked mail and the website one last time then picked up my book and went to bed to read for an hour or so. Pretty sedentary.

I have been known to say that we are descended from bears rather than from apes, and are meant to hibernate through the winter months. But we are more likely descended from beavers these days–busy, busy, beavers. More vigorous types than I spend the long evenings in more cardio-intensive pursuits, improving the human condition and/or staying late at the office.

But it doesn’t matter the time of year, as long as the lights are on, everybody is doing something. The amount of light in the sky has become irrelevant to our lives. I never give a thought to how recently in our history this way of living has been a possibility. So it was quite a dope-slap to rise this morning and find in my NY Times newsletter an op-ed by writer Clark Strand titled “Bring on the dark: Why we need the winter solstice.”

I love it when a short bit of thinking shines a new light on my somewhat shopworn notions of how the world works. And a nice bit of writing, too:

In the modern world, petroleum may drive our engines but our consciousness is driven by light. And what it drives us to is excess, in every imaginable form…

…Darkness was the only power that has ever put the human agenda on hold…

…The night was the natural corrective to that most persistent of all illusions: that human progress is the reason for the world…

… In times past people took to their beds at nightfall, but not merely to sleep. They touched one another, told stories and, with so much night to work with, woke in the middle of it to a darkness so luxurious it teased visions from the mind and divine visitations that helped to guide their course through life… It was once the hour of God.

Wow.  So many moments come back to me: awakening during a cross-country drive to watch the stars out the rear window while the dim dashboard lights outlined my parents in the front seat, a moment sitting in the silent zendo after lights out with moonlight flooding the windows, sitting in a darkened pew while a friend practiced Bach on the pipe organ, a long conversation punctuated by silence beside a campfire outside an Adirondack lean-to, spending a summer night on the porch swing and waking up to northern lights and fireflies. Awe. Sweetness. Warmth.

Turn on the dark. It’s too precious to waste.


3 Comments on “Turning on the dark”

  1. David Duff says:

    Dale-you are far more aspiring than I with your descent from bears as opposed to apes. Having been an earnest so so Gardener for all of my adult life, I early on decided in a momentary flash of inspired genius that mankind and womankind descended from onions. You know it is so obvious. Grow when the sun shines and go to sleep when it doesn’t. Easier than simple. Probably close to one’s God as well, being in the earth and all. Happy solstice to you and yours
    David Duff

  2. Jim Fox says:

    Appreciation. Sleep long and restful.

  3. Mr.Wakiki says:

    Occasionally the power goes out in the whole area… and it has it’s own darkness, but a re-birth as well.

    How we forget that we always have sound.. the computer fan — quiet but there — or the refrigerator. the hum of all electronics go ignored until you hear not just the quiet, but the peace that goes with it.

    and a night without the power is so amazing because it is you and the sky.

    Only you, only the sky, no noise and no glimmer bleeding in

Comments are closed.