Nov 28 2008

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The Season of Long Nights

Posted at 10:23 am under Blog Post

Just about the time the first homeowners put up Christmas lights, I feel it.  Oddly enough, the feeling usually comes in the middle of the day, when the muted, overcast light of late November isn’t enough to read by.  After a long walk in bone-chilling rain, I’m happy enough to stay indoors the rest of the day, but it seems strange to be doing everything by artificial light.

Every year I am given plenty of warning.  Daylight Savings Time kicks in around Halloween and I’m eating dinner in the dark for weeks before it gets to me.  Then all of a sudden pow! I’m in a funk for no reason whatsoever.  I’m not alone in this.  Millions of people have Seasonal Affective Disorder and millions more don’t particularly care for these short days and long nights.  But like all those who suffer SAD, the dark season is something I experience in deep solitude no matter how many people around me are suffering the same. That’s just the nature of the beast.

Yes, I know all about sun lights and the many other strategies one can employ to keep SAD at bay, but the darkness still hounds me.  I’m adept now at staying a step ahead of it most of the time, but there are moments during the course of each short day when the sense of desolation is overwhelming.  Surely this feeling is as old as humanity itself.  Surely the first self-aware hominid felt something like it when he/she suddenly realized that several lean months lay directly ahead, and that not everyone in the clan would make it to spring.  Awareness is damning that way.

I am a creature of light.  I revel in the long days of early summer when it seems the sun will never set.  My two-week sojourn in the Alaskan bush was the greatest high of my life, and I’m sure that the 20-hour days had a lot to do with it.  Conversely, the only time I seriously considered suicide came on a day much like today.  Thank god I didn’t follow through on that urge, otherwise I would have missed out on dozens of glorious springs and as many magnificent summers!

Just now the snow-dusted landscape out my window becomes more visible as a lazy sun rises behind a wall of gray clouds. Later on this morning, I will go for a long walk in quiet defiance, as if to affirm that I will live to see the wildflowers bloom again.  Like my distant ancestors, I have seen this coming and have braced myself against it.  Awareness is redeeming that way.

I can’t help but think that my sensitivity to light and darkness is somehow linked to my close association to the wild.  Rationally speaking, though, this makes no sense.  There are plenty of nature lovers indifferent to these long nights.  Still, the Winter Solstice rituals of the Druids and other pagans make me wonder if there isn’t some aversion to darkness deep within us all.  Everyone braces against it, one way or another.  No doubt the candle makers and manufacturers of Christmas lights will have plenty of buyers for their wares for many years to come.

One response so far

One Response to “The Season of Long Nights”

  1. Judyon 29 Nov 2008 at 9:46 am 1

    Don’t forget that early morning light filtering through the sheer bedroom curtains.