Sunday, 16 November 2014

Embracing the Dark

It’s a small shock every year. The leaves rust and fall, the hours of daylight flutter down with them. You can do the maths: it’s all to do with the tilt and sway of our little northern merry-go-round, now shrinking away from the light. As October ends, Greenwich compounds geometry by stealing an hour of evening - a typical London trick.

It’s probably worth pondering a while just how far north we are. We started out as an equatorial mammal, as any competent anthropologist will tell you. Our early years were spent in East Africa, with the sun scorching the tops of our heads as we knapped hand-axes in the Olduvai Gorge.

But we were restless. We wandered. Owing to the imbalanced scatter of the continents, most of us wandered north. Each step we took dragged the noonday sun lower in the sky, until the very northernmost of us lost sight of it for months at a time.

Fleetwood lies at 54 degrees north; from here, the Tropic of Cancer is more than twice as distant as the Arctic Circle. There may be no truly sunless days as there are in Svalbard, but the crazy tilt of the planet makes winter here more than a passing inconvenience.

Now, the following assertion seems to me such a statement of the obvious that I disdain to offer evidence - writers are disproportionately prone to winter blues, often debilitatingly so. Some folk regard the long stretch of dark and cold as an empty, agonising wait for the first daffodil spears to poke from the council beds. So when I say “try not to,”  I know I’m pushing against a Fylde tide.

Look at it this way. Even if you’re not a fan of the cold and the wet, there is every reason to embrace the dark. There’s a stillness, a coolness, a thinkingness about it. Writers trade in the currency of the senses and darkness suppresses the shouty dominance of the visual dollar, allowing the others to swim into the gap. To sit in the dark is to hear the dark, to feel its cool tingle on your cheek, to taste the salt of it and smell its earthy musk.

It’s all right for David Gilmour. With all those Pink Floyd royalties, he can go to a nice warm island. He can probably buy it.

But I like his refrain about letting the night surround you. Do it. Few things we encounter are fatter with metaphor. And, if you can make peace with it, write a love poem to the night. Do that, too.

Norman Hadley


Adele said...

Thanks for this Norman. The October Blues were delayed by the unseasonably warm weather. Will try to embrace the long, dark, miserable, sodden, November, lightless days. I like making soup at this time of year. Food for the poetic soul!