Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Slipping Into Darkness

 
“Hello darkness, my old friend.”  – Simon and Garfunkel

Daylight Savings Time is upon us once again. This coming Sunday, November 6th at 2am, we have been instructed by the powers-that-be to turn our timekeeping devices back one hour. Our phones and computers do it automatically, essentially taking away our choice in the matter, at least for those technological gadgets. Those still living in the analog world, can have the pleasure of moving the big hand and little hand until you’ve traveled back one hour in time. Now you can finish watching that movie, instead of going to bed.

Ben Franklin once wrote an essay for the Journal of Paris called “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” in which he jokingly suggested to the French that they could save on candle costs by getting out of bed earlier in the morning, making use of the natural morning light instead. Cheeky bastard, wasn’t he? Here in the U.S., “Fast time,” as it was then called, was signed into law by Woodrow Wilson in 1918, to support the war effort. (Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.) It was repealed only seven months later, but in 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt made it a year-round annoyance, and if you didn’t like it, you had to lump it in some fashion. Preferably off the clock.

This year the winter solstice falls on December 21st. That day will be seven hours and thirty-four minutes shorter than the longest day on summer solstice. That’s practically a full day at work! On those midwinter days, it’s dark when you arrive at work, and it’s dark when you leave. Thankfully, we have plenty of windows in the bookstore, so that I can actually witness darkness falling. Then I slip into it, when I begin my walk home, like a silk letter, being slid into a black velvet envelope.

The winters here in Seattle are by far the darkest I have experienced. It’s not Alaska dark, but it’s much darker than I was used to in Massachusetts, where winter snowfall helps to brighten the landscape. Cloudy days = dark days. Over a decade ago, I purchased a full spectrum lamp in an effort to help alleviate any seasonal sadness, but I have found that what works for me best is to write myself out of the darkness. Slipping into darkness and then writing my way out is therapeutic. I don’t want to end up like Patty Hearst, kept in the dark until Stockholm syndrome sets in.

I feel like I’m practicing literary dark arts, dredging up memories from my past. These memories are not repressed though. They want to be found! Through my writing, I journey into the heart of darkness until I uncover the horror, the horror of my sorrows and bring them out into the light. That’s when I should use my candlelight app, rather than curse the darkness. Shining a light on the subject does not mean self-criticism. It’s a light radiating love and forgiveness. Like a Hallmark card, but not as cloying.

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.” – Carl Jung


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