The lengthening nights are a casket of wonders, if one only makes an effort to observe themby Cal Flyn / October 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
After our long, sultry summer it’s been hard not to view autumn and now the encroaching winter as the end of something; the closing of a chapter. And we’re never more aware of it than at the closing of each day: the nights are drawing in.
As I write, I can see the sky in its nightly transformation: at first a watery blue edged with primrose, narrow fingerlike clouds in violet lining up over the hills of Fife, while higher up the firmament is strung with palest pink.
Minutes pass, the visage darkens, the cirri fade from view while the lower strati are amplified, rippling away in an ever diminishing array, uplit, edges softening, blending, bleeding into one another. Dark indigo and midnight blue seep in from out of shot: window pane as paint palette, skyscape as the most glorious television.
And yet, there is no cut off, no clear turning point at which day becomes night. Is it at the moment the sun’s face slips behind the hill? The moment its upper edge disappears behind the unseen horizon beyond, with the vaults still gilded and ablaze? Or is it this murky gloaming? Is night when I must use a light to read, or does it wait until I need a torch to find my way outside?
A casket of wonders
Through the summer months night has been pale and fleeting, gone almost as soon as it’s arrived; but in the winter it takes on a wholly different character: thick, weighty, all-encompassing. When I lived in the far north of Finland, I learned the true multiplicity of what we call night. The sun set in early December and didn’t rise again until midway through January, and it’s this, when I describe it, that prompts others to tell me that they would hate such a place. They say: how depressing. Or: I couldn’t take it.
But for me, that time was marked with ethereal beauty. At noon on the very darkest days, the red sun still cast its rays into the very lowest reaches of the sky, washing it in blood and burgundy. In the twilit hours on either side, the snow shone blue and brighter than the sky, and the bare and stunted pines, candied with hoar frost, stood out black…