This is the way it will be now: walking in the darkness before dawn. The world rain-washed, figures no more than shadows. This is the way it will be: darkness falling before I leave work, walking home in the dark. Summer officially ended with the winding back of the clock and that extra hour gave darkness a space to seep in.
Three times recently I have woken from an unsettling dream and into a panic attack. The darkness has seemed too thick, too close. The dawn has seemed much too far away. I have had to get up and turn on every light, go out into the yard to breathe in thinner air. I have had to open my curtains wide so the glow of the streetlamp settles me back to sleep.
I have always appreciated the power of the dark and the things that are revealed there. Darkness is fertile ground, a place for dreaming. But this season I have dreaded it. I have dreaded that long spread of days when the only daylight is diffused through my office window. And yet in dreading it, I have embraced it. At the year’s turn, I stood in darkness and welcomed it and it hasn’t been something to fear after all.
There is loss in the darkness. Something wrong in the park in the gloom of early November. A disjointedness. A commotion of songbirds fluttering aimlessly. On the edge of the park where we walk every day there is a bungalow. It is surrounded by a long privet hedge, at least fifteen years old, maybe a metre deep and taller than I am. You can see it in the photo above, a backdrop to the cherry tree. It is thronged by birds all year round and buzzing with insects in summer. And it is gone. Chopped down and ripped out. Over the coming days the garden is paved over and a wooden fence erected where the privet once lived.
The privet belonged to the owners of the bungalow, and yet it didn’t. It became part of the park and belonged to all the creatures that used it for food and shelter. I’m finding it hard to get over its loss. Without it, the landscape is wrong. The whitebeam sapling that was planted in the spring and has lasted all through the summer has also been lost in the last few weeks – broken off at the trunk. The whitebeam was an infant compared to the privet, but I still feel its ending. I wonder if the landscape feels these wounds the way I do. Does it recognise that some key part of itself is missing? There is loss in the darkness. Perhaps that is the price of the dreaming.
But there are gifts too. Autumn has been kind to those organisms that live in the dark, waiting for their moment. Fungi have revelled in the rain and released bloom after strange bloom. I have revelled in hammering rain and bellowing wind. The air births a rainbow against a glowering denim sky. A skein of geese squawks overhead and a puppy pounces joyfully on a leaf. The crow guardians in the park swoop a greeting as I arrive with a handful of peanuts. These are the lights in the season’s darkness. I breathe in as many as I can for the days when the darkness is too much.
And I have a talisman for the season. Owls have been shadowing me since I came across an owlet in the forest in midsummer. Now I have a little friend to take me into the darkness. Frivolous, fun, but with eyes to drown in all the same. She was blessed and charged at the year’s turn and now she will travel with me, helping me to remember the light in the year’s dark.
Blogger book of the month: William Holland – Shadows Kill
Bill Holland is passionate about life and passionate about writing. He shares observations and questions about both on his blog Artistry with Words. Bill is also a prolific writer. Shadows Kill is the first in a series of (so far) four unusual thrillers. It is a gritty, intelligent and fast-paced book that will have you hooked until the final chapter. The author has a knack of making you care about the characters very quickly, which means that you’re both rooting for them to win through and fearful about what might befall them. The book starts from an unusual viewpoint, not that of a straightforwardly ‘good’ cop or investigator, but of a character who is a vigilante of sorts and therefore poses questions about morality. But despite this, I came to care for Eli very quickly and couldn’t wait to turn the page to find out how it ended. A well-written exciting read and a great introduction to a series. You can buy Bill’s books on Amazon and you can find his blog here.