In the Dark

Cassiopeia (Photo by Will Rutherford from warren-wilson.edu)

Cassiopeia (Photo by Will Rutherford from warren-wilson.edu)

November. It’s dark when I get up in the morning, and it’s getting dark when I leave work. Today the sunrise was at 0701 and sunset at 1654 – less than 10 hours of full daylight.

Some people dread the onset of winter and its long nights. I don’t love cold and snow – I just acclimatize. I do find solace in the darkness, though!

Do you get lonely in the dark?

I am fine on my own, but living with Rom is better! I am virtually never alone in the house at night, but I didn’t mind when I was. Lots of things have made me feel lonely – break-ups, being an empty nester, living far from relatives, watching people in happy relationships when I wasn’t – but none of them really cranked up the intensity in the dark.

In times of great stress, I might wake up at night and worry about things that seem less important in the daylight.

Are you afraid of the dark?

(not my video!)

To reach my childhood home, we would turn off the highway, down an unlit gravel drive, and into the woods, where our house was out of sight of the neighbours. I grew up listening to leaves rustle and branches creak and rain pummel down on the roof. I would watch the darkness come down on the lake and envelope us. It was so peaceful. Even eerie things like the call of a loon just accentuated the stillness. The sky had a billion stars.

In the evenings, we would walk to friends’ houses or to “the store” (there was just the one). This was my favourite time of year, with the crisp air and the leaves crunching underfoot. Sometimes I’d see the moon shine through fog, in the dark, and it could get a little creepy…but in a delicious way!

Fortunately, we didn’t have coyotes.

A more realistic fear was safety. I wouldn’t walk through the woods in the dark, or trip over things or get lost, but having to walk down the highway could be scary. You never knew if drivers were attentive and would see you. Stranger danger wasn’t a big problem, but I dreaded the thought of a car pulling up beside me. Often dogs were running free and would chase and nip at you.

Now when I walk home from work in the dark, I walk three blocks on cement sidewalks with proper street lighting, in a well-travelled area, and never take shortcuts. It is not a worry at all. Dogs are pampered and safe indoors. City life is so different.

I know some people have experienced traumas that they connect with the dark, and I’m so glad I have not.

Do you believe in ghosts?

This is down to personal experience. If the supernatural reached out to you, and you felt it, there is no saying otherwise! I have not had this experience so it isn’t a part of my life. I’m not afraid of spirits. Some say they are consoled by them. I’m not afraid of what stirs in the dark (unless it’s a skunk!)

Do you seek the dark?

I am the furthest thing from nocturnal, being very much an early riser. I rarely keep late hours. But when it gets dark at 5 pm, it catches up with me, whether I seek it or not!

I confess I do like the summer when it gets light at 5 a.m., bird chirping keeps me awake, and when I do get up, I feel very alive.

Do you fight it?

Going out in the evening to busy and bright spots? Sleeping ten hours a night? One way of dealing with the dark is to give over to the night, the other is to avoid it. I like to give in with lots of quiet nights and sleep!

Doing the Dark

All told, I have three strategies for dealing with long hours of darkness. One is to enjoy the coziness of staying indoors with a book and a blanket and a cup of tea. One is to give myself an extra shot of motivation by forcing myself to do things like get up and do a home workout even though it’s still pitch black outside. And finally, I do like to get out and feel the cool air and gaze at the stars.  I think about all the plants with their growth suspended until they feel heat again. I think about all the animals foraging or hibernating and living their secret lives in the dark winter. I feel like I am part of their cycle: it is a lower-energy, use-up-the-stores time,  a do-what-you-must time, and a waiting-for-what’s-next time. And of course, a few winter festivals and celebrations are welcome!

For those of you with winter approaching – how do you deal with months of darkness?

 

26 comments

  1. I thought I was one of the only ones who loved the dark. I don’t like the shortened days of winter but with the cold it gives me time to curl up and read or catch up on sewing and the like. I associate the dark with being invisible, something I wanted to be growing up, not literally but in the sense that it’s harder to notice one in the dark I feel comforted by the darkness similar to how a big bulky sweater provides a sense of comfort. Now if it didn’t have to be so cold at the same time. 😉

  2. Really interesting…I am not a fan of the dark, I find myself being much less productive, but I do like the extra sleep! I would be scared of skunks lurking in the dark too!

    • That is the one drawback – there is the never ending temptation to read and watch movies and eat – and it is hard to get any projects done after work! But I can’t say I’m any good at that in the summer, ha!

  3. Ginger R

    I welcome winter. I think it’s my favorite time of year. I’m in southeast Texas where we don’t have the weather changes of the four seasons. For most of the year I’m too warm. I sleep in a lightweight sleep-tee with only a sheet most nights. While the hubster is covered to his ears with a heavy comforter. I’m a night owl. If I didn’t have other grown-up responsibilities – I would stay awake all night and sleep in during the day. I like the dark. It’s comforting somehow. It’s quiet and peaceful. Maybe the dark simply represents the quiet, peaceful time I get all to myself.

    • I am a morning person and I tend to sleep soundly at night, so nights don’t bother me. But I don’t really want even more of darkness by staying up late! I have to adjust to the dark in the early evenings, and that is when I have come to enjoy it. I would say I envy you being warm all the time, but I don’t really know what that’s like!

  4. I don’t mind the dark, but I’ve definitely noticed that I sleep more now the nights are longer. I really like this time of year, with cold crisp mornings and evenings with book/TV/knitting and cats that want cuddles!

  5. EcoCatLady

    I enjoy the darkness… no surprise there for a night-owl like me, but I do miss being able to get out and do things (like go for long bike rides) when the days are so short. But it does give me incentive to get up earlier so I don’t squander so much daylight sleeping! Plus, I get the opportunity to catch up on indoor stuff like mending and the like

    Of course, the year I lived in Norway there were several weeks around the solstice when the sun never really came up at all… it just got sorta dusky for a few hours. That was fun once for the sake of novelty, but I’m not sure how I’d handle it over a lifetime!

    • I don’t think I could handle the 24 hour darkness – I think it is associated with a lot of depression and addictions – and also a lot of partying and bed-hopping 🙂

  6. Fiona

    Very evocative! I also love the crisp air and crunchy leaves of Fall. And moonlight through fog is one of those things that always feels revitalising. Over Halloween I was talking to the kids at school about fears in the dark. Some said they were not afraid of the dark, but they were afraid of ‘the moment between light and dark’ (those seconds between turning off the light and making it back into bed; or the dark between the yard and the porch light at night.) I loved their answers. Made me remember how alive dark makes you feel as a kid; every sense alert!

  7. The week before EST starts is my least favorite week of the year because it is so dark in the morning. I don’t mind when it gets dark early, but dawn and the early morning light is my favorite time of the day.
    In NYC I’m only really careful after 11PM and only if I am by myself (I project guard dog status upon Gracie and I feel safe with Donna) – there are streets that I tend to avoid because they are dark or quiet and have less foot traffic.
    I was mugged once at gunpoint (at 7PM!) on a quiet street in 1989 at the height of the crack epidemic – and it is an experience that I won’t forget. I’ve been lucky and haven’t had any incidents since then.

    • Oh, I am so sorry you had such an awful experience. You are doing well to be out-and-about as much as you are, after that. No matter how long ago.

      The early morning light is my favourite, too, and I miss having those extra hours where I like them!

  8. Holly

    Today was 6:35 sunrise to 4:35 sunset, exactly 10 hours, so a little more than you. Being on the far eastern edge of a time zone we get the early, early sunset. Come December 20 we will be just under 9 hours of daylight, with sunset at 4:19. That’s a very early start to the evening! What I love about this is that the very next day sunset is at 4:20, and we have exactly 9 hours of daylight, and begin the climb toward lightness. For some reason this always give me hope, even when the temperatures continue to plunge downward.

    I don’t mind the darkness but I like to add lights into the mix. I hang holiday lights in front of my house as well as out back. I can see the ones in the back from my armchair perch in the evenings. In fact, I have garden lights out there in the summer as well. I like to build a fire outdoors as weather permits too. All in the name of light piercing the darkness. I like the feeling of warmth provided by the lights, but I don’t mind the darkness.

    The cold though? I will not romanticize the cold!

    • I always like the first day of winter, too, knowing the days get longer, even if 3 minutes each!

      I love your idea of garden and back yard lights. I don’t have a spot to build a fire, but that is something I miss from when I was a kid!

      • Holly

        I have a movable small outdoor fireplace/pit I just use on my cement patio. It’s easy and safe, but it’s still a fire. The backyard lights are my treat to myself. One year I realized I was decorating more for passersby than for my own enjoyment. Now I spread the light around so I can enjoy it too. I might post pictures next month, on my theoretical blog, haha.

  9. I would not enjoy walks with the possibility of dogs that want to chase or nip me! I can’t even imagine!

    We’re at about 10 hours between sunrise and sunset here as well. The dark doesn’t necessarily bother me – just makes me lazy. I find myself drawn to the couch after dinner when it’s dark early rather than throwing in a load of laundry or taking a walk. I do wonder what it would be like to experience life somewhere at the Equator with a consistent amount of time between sunrise and sunset.

  10. I honestly don’t mind it that much. It’s just a bit jarring during the first few weeks but I get used to it. I equally feel odd in the summer when the sun doesn’t go down til well after 8:30pm.

  11. I don’t like light. I rarely turn on my lights unless I’m cooking or cleaning. I buy dimmer light bulbs as well. I don’t know why everyone likes bright sunny days, it just bothers my eyes.

  12. Love the paragraphs on your child hood darkness.

    I can’t walk too much at night here. Not because of evil-dwellers or unfound fear of the dark. But there are so many branches and uneven footpaths make it unsafe.

    But then dark is relative. I’ve always been a suburban dweller – with lots of light at night. Went outback this year. And the dark!!! So black. Could not see anything, even my hand! I slept with a light on ! It was too dark. What if I needed to get up in the night. I wouldn’t be able to find the light switch. It was a strange room! My country relatives find it hard to sleep when they are in the ‘burbs. Not dark enough!

    I do like hibernating in winter! Though having just walked home in the light from a neighbourhood restaurant, the extended light was nice too.

    • I was always surrounded by darkness and shadows and sounds of trees and water when I was a kid trying to sleep. The first time I stayed overnight at a friend’s house near the highway, I couldn’t sleep with the swoosh of (occasional) traffic going by, and headlights sweeping across the ceiling!

      In the city, I wouldn’t go for walks in the woods or even in parks in the dark, just along the street (sidewalks).

      You must be enjoying the long days now.

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