Lighting up time

Even on these deep black mornings, there is light.  A luminous moon and burning Venus side by side  as blackbirds trill in the dark.  Evenings, and streetlights cast cones of swirling silver on the sky.  Puddles become silver pools.  Falling rain is glitter flickering on the road.   Iron benches are splashed with liquid gold.  It is rare that I experience true darkness in this town that I call home.

I have seen true darkness, when the sky is crowded with stars and soaring meteors; when fish light up the water with the luminescence of their passage.  I have walked on the edge of the forest while the nightjar sang and only glow worms lighted the paths.  But that is not here.  Here the sky is obscured by reflected light, streetlights puddle in sickly orange or cold white.  Still, there is a velvet to these mornings and evenings, when shadows bloom into darkness.  Still, I can revel in the fertile dark.

I have a print on my wall by Peter Brook called ‘Lighting up time’.  It shows a man and his dog on a snowy hill with the fire of a street lamp punctuating the monochrome.  One of the delights of winter is when the lamps wink on and bring comfort to the dark.  When light spills from houses and we wonder what might be going on within.  When the streets are wreathed with lights and there is a Christmas tree in almost every window.  This is the lighting up time of the year, when we ward off the darkness with a barrage of illumination.

The river is a blur of luminous colour: amber behind glass, cold white of floodlights, green and red warning beacons, the flash of the lighthouses.  Lights that waver in the water like coloured streamers.  I walk there in the dark on the morning after the solstice.  I am here to celebrate the sun’s birthday on the dawn after the shortest day.  From now on, though it doesn’t seem like it, it will only get lighter, the days will only get longer.

And at first it seems the birth will be muted: a brush of red below indigo clouds.  It is low tide and the sea is just a whisper.  Gulls congregate on the sandbanks and the air is all gull cry.  But the birth of the sun does not disappoint.  The sky blushes with colour.  The river becomes stripes of lilac, the sea left behind on the sands is a lake of pink and orange and blue.  Soon the dawn is molten colour.  Just before sunrise I hear a loud creaking and an arrow of geese soars against orange wisps of cloud.  I watch as they fly south, out of sight.

And then the sun is born, blazing orange.  I feel its heat light me up, burnishing my face and warming my core. The beach behind is washed in gold and my shadow lengthens. The sun is now too bright to look at.  Then, the Amsterdam ferry sails past, blocking out the sun.  For a moment the day is revealed for what it is – grey and wintry.  Afterwards, the day never quite regains the light of the sunrise.  It seems darker than the dawn.  But I felt the fire of the sun as it was born and that is enough to light up the winter to come.


Myrtle's Game Book CoverI’m thrilled to share that Myrtle the Purple Turtle has a new adventure.  Written by the talented Cynthia Reyes and her daughter Lauren Reyes-Grange, Myrtle’s Game continues the theme of difference and belonging begun by the first book.  It is about other’s perceptions of what we can do just because of the way we look or who they think we are. It is about not being defined by those prejudices and about being who you are and excelling at it. This is a great book to read with a child to prepare them for their first visit to nursery school or their first group situation where they are trying to find their place.  This story is about friendship, supporting one another and showing that we should never let what others’ think stop us from doing what we love. A lovely story that will really appeal to children and would make a great gift, both the print and e-book versions are now available on Amazon.

108 thoughts on “Lighting up time

  1. Here I am, drinking in every gorgeous image that your words painted, luxuriating in the light you conjure, and thinking”when I grow up, I will try to write THIS well”, when suddenly I come upon the cover of Myrtle. Lauren and I are deeply honoured and we thank you. May the light you shine on others cast a lovely glow upon your days and nights.

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  2. The photos are magical, the description equal. Entrancing. But I almost stumbled on the opening lines. Were you describing the events of this past solstice? If so, did Venus appear beside the moon?
    The Solstice night was overcast, no change to see the moon. But there she was rising above the houses that separate me from the sea. So I fetched the camera. But, oops, it ran out of memory after only one photo. I fetched my phone. But that’s not a good camera. Still, I took 3 photos. Then, thought, my compact Ixus. I hadn’t used it in an age, I didn’t know if the battery was charged. It was.. And then I downloaded my photos. And stared. And stared. There on the first four photos taken was a blue orb. But looking at the moon, I’d see no such thing. Was that venus? If it wasn’t, I captured something rather strange.

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    • Thank you! The opening lines weren’t about the solstice but about the mornings I’ve experienced earlier this month – I believe Venus is still in the morning sky but becomes less bright after early December and there was no moon up on the morning after the solstice. I think perhaps you captured something strange 🙂

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      • I took the photo in the early evening, the moon as 20 degrees (ish) above the horizon. I’ve looked on various sites; I thought it could have been a satelitte. Guess I’ll settle for the top star of Orion rising. As you might guess, I’m not an astronomer. And if it wasn’t that …. ? But what puzzles me is I didn’t see it. And it’s not something on the lens since it appears on photos taken by two different camers. Oh well. A puzzle to haunt me for life. 😦

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  3. What a beautiful start to the day, Andrea. I have to reset my inner clock to get to bed earlier so I can get up earlier (months of working late, wreaked havoc).

    Happy Christmas to you and yours, Andrea!

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  4. Gorgeous words and photos. This was a treat to read. To be present at sunrise and to hear the orchestra of birds is one of the great things about being alive. All the best for this holiday season and the year ahead.

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  5. What a sublimely beautiful post Andrea. I agree with Cynthia and hope to one day write with such a gift for painting with words. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words and perceptions on light and the season. Happy Holidays and wishes for a year of love and beauty.

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  6. This is beautifully written, Andrea.
    I love dawn, though in NYC it is rarely as subtle-to-stunning as it is at the seaside or the mountains. The lights in the City That Never Sleeps indeed never quite turn off till well into when the sun is already up. But, the magic of the hour remains, and whenever I am at the seaside, I breathe with the dawn.
    Happy Season Of Light to you and yours! Na’ama

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  7. I’m just dancing in all those colours, Andrea! So beautifully described, especially the Christmas silvers and golds. Myrtle sounds wonderful – all books should have such a theme, and not just for children.
    Have a wonderful Christmas ❤️💚

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  8. I often feel sadness when looking up at the night sky these days due to the light pollution. I always have the impression there’s so much more to see, which of course there is. But your prose makes me realize there is always so much to see, if one looks for it.

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  9. It is so wonderful to witness a birth of the sun, especially at this time of the year. Thank you for the beautiful images and words, Andrea. A new journey begins as the days grow longer again.
    Wishing you a peaceful Christmas!

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  10. Thank you for the winter trip to SS, Andrea….its been 8 years since I was last there (have been thinking lately about a re-trip) and I’ve never seen it at this dark end of the year though my dad used to describe it, the fogs coming in, the biting cold wafting into the streets of houses (but how he always missed it, like it was in his very bones). I wonder how much it would have seemed changed to him…he left in the mid 1930s. A very happy christmas to you!

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  11. True darkness is rare in the city I call home, too. I grew up in a tiny town in the mountains of West Virginia where there are no artificial night lights. To look up at the sky there as a child was magical. Your photos are gorgeous. I think adults could do well to read Myrtle’s Game, too:) May light, peace, and joy be yours. x

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  12. Andrea, you write this post with such beauty that no painter could do it more justice. Your words become lyrical and rich and your photos are great companionship to the words.
    I have to quote your last lines ” But I felt the fire of the sun as it was born and that is enough to light up the winter to come. ” .
    So beautiful.

    Miriam

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  13. One of the things I love about winter is the turning on of living room lights in the evening. We spend all day in other parts of the house, being productive, then, at dusk, I wander into the living room and light the fire and systematically turn on lights. I love the warmth and the glow of that time of day, as well as the coming light of morning. Beautiful post, Andrea, and such a generous review of Cynthia’s book!

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  14. Andrea I often wonder what the world was once like without artificial light and sound. Night time outside the home must have been total then. I’m sure you’d describe it more lyrically than I. Happy Holidays.

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  15. I have waited for two days to settle myself with your post. It’s a sensuous piece of writing that has captured the darkness in its marmoreal blackness and chill, and its interplay with light in the latter’s myriad hues and luminescence. You have added a tactile layer with the remnants of rain as if it were the third hue in the interplay of elements.

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  16. Reading this lyrical post I immediately thought of Wordsworth’s ‘Lines Composed on Westminster Bridge 1803’.Thank you Andrea for giving us such a moving poet’s-eye-view of you own town and river in the beautiful first light of dawn. I think Wordsworth would have loved this post. Our world is full of beauty in the everyday waiting to be re-discovered. But we need a poet’s eye to see, feel and really appreciate it. Your posts do just that and we are grateful for them.

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  17. Lights twinkling on and light pouring out from the windows of darkened houses, especially at Christmas, is always so magical, as is your beautiful sunrise. Thank you for taking us there with the richness of your words and images. I loved seeing it all.
    Happy Christmas and New Year to you all and a kiss, please, for Winston’s forehead. 🙂

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  18. Lighting up time, indeed. May it be so, Yule and New Year’s and throughout 2019. Lovely lyrical words and perfect photos, Andrea you’ve given us another gift. Congrats to Cynthia on the new book. Hugs all around! And Happy New Year.

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  19. Andrea, the light! I am looking for light outside, but it’s so dreary right now. It looks almost like Alaska, but it’s Arizona! But the light in these photos satisfies me for today!

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  20. As always, beautiful writing. I am forever in awe at all that you see in the place that you live in, with the change in seasons. I like looking at Christmas trees lit up, through the windows, on my early morning walks, as you described. Wish I could see in some Mumbai sunshine to warm up the English winters. Happy New Year to you Andrea!

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