Wednesday, November 10, 2010
11.10 Acquainted with the Twilight
A day passes, then another. I’m still staring out the window (well, with breaks).
The western sky turns gold at four-eighteen today. There’s hardly been any sun all week, but this evening there’s just enough to smear a partly clear sky with a golden and pink haze of November sunsets.
All months have great sunsets, but in no month are they more important than in November, when we are re-acquainted with The Dark. I am one, Frost tells us, who is acquainted with the night. But really, Robby, we’re all pretty familiar with those dark nights of both soul and body. And in the northern latitudes those nights come very soon in November.
November is the shock month for sun-worshippers – or dark-cringers (for whom declining sunlight gives a case of the SAD) – because of our quaint, civilized habit of screwing around with the clock. Since we run our lives by the clock – it’s pretty much the most important tool we have (after language, maybe), for millions of us the clock says when to go to work and when we can leave – lurching back an hour precisely at the time of year when sunlight is dribbling out of our daily quotient at a rate which made primitive folks “light beseeching fires” and which still worries our inner savage with the dim possibility that we may be running out of it altogether is something of a shock. It’s a wake-up, so to speak, when what we want to do is go to sleep.
People who make a practice of staring at the western sky at the end of the day do so this month at an abruptly earlier time of “day” – to use the word loosely – because we’re used to thinking that our labors run from “sun to sun.”
At the moment, however, now 4:37, the crimson tides of the heavens have taken over half the visible firmament above our heads, a virtuoso display by the Early Evening Painters of November Skies. As if to prove something.
I think it’s proven. I am astonished, shaken to my roots. Cosmic influences really do run the show. Light and darkness tell us what to do. And when we mess with the rhythm, our psyches scurry like un-hilled ants.
Admittedly, we’ve loused up the original signals by the invention of artificial light. And our profit for it, to paraphrase Caliban, is we know how to work. Long days in the office, at the computer, minding the shop, caring for kids, continue regardless of nature’s signals. (One thing, though, aside from scraping away at some leaves there’s not much to do in the garden.)
Peasant farmers knew what to do in the winter. They rested up. They took it for granted that by mid-summer day they’d be working sixteen hour days once again and feeling rather good about the prospect of having a crop. But in winter it was time for the farmer to drink up his cider, as one of those childhood rhymes had it. Time to climb under a forgiving haystack and sleep away dull hours. Increasingly there will be less to do (and less to eat) as the cold months deepen, then wear away at the edges.
We’re supposed to go with the flow, but these days we have to go against it. Not so hard to do in brilliant October, the Disney season of psychedelic nature, but suddenly we’ve been short-weighted in a bargain we didn’t know we made.
Nevertheless, sunset’s earlier arrivals, its importuning twilights, make us pay attention to the big picture by the simple device of arriving so much earlier.
Sunset’s pink-lavender extravagance (at four forty-four) has been rolled up by a sudden accession of cloud bank, except for a deepening glow-field banding the horizon and putting a dark pink background behind the black silhouettes of bare trees.
Now look at it, a few minutes later, suddenly a stunning violet-dark, everything Flemish tinted, a Rembrandt in every window. It’s almost worth that extra hour.