“One of the supreme ironies of civilized society is that the lights we
switch on to allow sight in the dark blind us to seeing our place in
I got this from my friend Teri, who got it from her friend Stephen, who says he got it from the world.
If you are going to live at latitude 62, it helps to have an appreciation for darkness. You don’t have to be happy to see the days getting shorter, nobody does that! But if you can’t at least come to friendly terms with darkness, you might need to head south.
Lucky for me I have always had at least some fondness for the dark. Years ago my wife and I bought a house and moved in, in October. It had a yard light, a big mercury streetlight on a metal pole. To my disbelief I discovered that there was no switch for that light, only a photo sensor. Whenever it got the least bit dark, the light was on. After all, you wouldn’t ever want to experience darkness-god forbid- or look at the stars, the aurora, or even see what the dogs were barking at out in the woods beyond that blinding circle of electric light. I tied a rope to the pole and the back of my truck and tore it down.
I find automated lights not convenient but annoying, especially if there is no manual override. Just because I open the door of my truck doesn’t mean I want the dome light on. Maybe I’m trying to keep my night vision, maybe I want privacy.
As I write this, I am sitting in my cabin by the orange glow of the wood stove. The teapot is heating over the blue flame of the gas burner. Outside the last of the sunset is fading in a pale yellow swath behind the birches. It’s getting dark. The wind is blowing in the woods. It’s all kind of melancholy and bittersweet. And real.
Would I want it dark all the time? Of course not. I’m not at all sure I could live in Barrow or Kotzebue. Bit I am sure we lose something important if we try to banish darkness from our sight, and from our selves.