The Seduction of Night

So, I am 19.2 million miles into the 584 million miles traveled by the Earth on its yearly journey round the sun. What a wonder twelve days can create!

And here in Maine the days are already lengthening. The winter sun no longer heaves a golden sigh into the coming dark.

It’s a long journey into night at this time of the year. There’s a primal instincts to shut oneself away and wait out the long white nights. I want to resist the temptations of night, grab hold of the active, more busier me, making me imagine my quiet house in the country deep in the crucible of night surrounded by city lights, lit up and electrified and buzzing.

But night has a stronger pull with its slowness and silence and tug of the inner, creative life. I find myself reading more, writing more, sleeping more, relaxing more, thinking more with both the dark and light sides of the brain.

The darkling world of night is about slowing down, unwinding from the fastidious, the daily chores, the life without a dreaming space. It’s about feeling the slowness of the stars in their slow, seasonal rhythm. It’s about sharing the intimacy of the dark with another, too. It could be just sitting on the couch, the lights dimmed, the cat purring on a pillow, a hot cup of chamomile steaming in your hands. Not talking but communicating with touch, a hand on the curves and contours of a foot, massaging the tiny toes, warm like hibernating animals, and the night seemingly pulsating at the darkened window, pressing itself against it with a cold suddenness, as if it, too, feels the need to be noticed.

There’s even a thick, heaviness to the daytime in winter. As if my mind’s also bundled up, relying more on its intuitive, dreaming self than on its reasoning, calculating one. Like the mind wants to sit in its skull and feel soporific. But not lazy or unresponsive. More like I’ve devoured lotus petals and I am between cognition and dreams, existing on the liminal and experiencing more thoughts.

But we can’t neglect the body. And I don’t necessarily mean going to the gym to open the pores and race our mind away from winter. I mean taking care of the body with good food, varying it each day and not being dependant on the repetitive meals, but challenging our palates by adding spices, more parsley and basil, having smaller helpings, any thing to give the body something more to do than just plod through another meal.

And there are the pleasures of winter and its cold, too. That tingle of cold when you undress before bed. The shiver in the morning as you dress in the sharp light. A night walk with your breath like a ghost, hearing the slow slosh of the ocean, a dark mass under a darker mass, the distant lights of a town shimmering, and no sound save for the crunch of snow and ice, and if you are lucky the far-off call of an owl or the fleeting glimpse of a fox padding across the pitch black road, something soft and warm snug in its jaws.

And what would winter be without fire? That necessary warmth that is so more visceral and organic than the forced air and the unseen sludge of the oil in the tank. There’s no interaction with a thermostat, no giving or yourself to the task, it’s all just the easy satisfaction of turning up the dial. Not with a fire. You have to participate, you have to work to feel that warmth, you along with the fire must rise to the occasion. It’s a gradual warmth, too, it’s never instant. You have to feed the fire, be attentive to its every flame. And so you become more attentive, more focused, sense and feel, understand give and take, night and day. The distance between opposites becomes less, and a slow understanding sinks in with each snap of wood, each curl of orange flame, each shovel of ash that is cleaned away and says that all things come to an end and so be conscious of the impermanence, be mindful of change, and reflect on these moments of life. See the dark of winter as not something to escape, but something to embrace.

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