Monday, January 19, 2015

The Coming Of Night Is Not Always To Be Trusted

For as long as I can remember, the time of day when the sun is leaving the sky and darkness begins to creep in has been hard for me.

It may have started back when I was still a very small child and it would be time for my father to come home from work and he so often did not. Sometimes he didn't come home for days and even weeks and I can remember quite clearly, crying my eyes out, wailing with the wanting of him to come home, to make us a family again and how did I even know what a family should be, never really having experienced that particular sweetness except on the most limited of occasions? I have no idea, but somehow, even in those pre-Leave It To Beaver/Father Knows Best days, I did.

And then as I grew older there were the weeks in summer my mother left us with our grandparents to go to Gainesville to work on her Masters Degree and for some reason, the daytimes were okay and were filled with river and woods and friends and my grandparents did an adequate job of taking care of my brother and me but as night drew near, the realization that my mother would not be there to tuck us in would descend upon me with great heaviness and it was hard. I started sleep-walking those summers. I would wake up on the couch, or my grandfather would find me pacing the house.
There is little doubt what I was looking for.

My mother remarried and the early evening because the time when my stepfather DID come home. Ah- the opposite problem. Because he was angry and insane and a horror to us all and none of us in the house could let out an easy breath when he was home and I feared his presence in my room behind my door that only locked from the outside and I could see the light of the TV he watched from the configuration of my room to the Florida room and he watched late into the night or probably, slept there, that light like a threat in and of itself and unlike some people who cannot sleep without a light on, I do not feel safe unless I am in total darkness.

When I was married at a young age, my husband frequently was not home at sunset. He was a musician, he played in bars many nights and I would face the twilight without him in our little cracker shack that I did love so much way deep in the woods about ten miles from here where I am now. I was already a mother then and had my babies to tend but every bit of loneliness in the entire world seemed to distill itself and insert itself into my very soul as the sun fell below the trees and they became only black shadows in the darkness. I was not afraid of anything particularly, except my own madness which I could feel creep in every night and I would tamp it down as best I could and make our little supper and crochet and watch TV after baths or sew dresses or shirts or quilts or blankets,  and read of course, far into the night and then finally lay down to lie in wakefulness until the hour long after bars had closed, waiting to hear those car wheels on the clay road which led to the house.

And after we divorced and I moved to town with my children, those hours would still be the hardest. The day of classes and getting children to school and back were done and I was faced with an evening of study and aloneness and every time in my life I've gone through a major depression, sunset has been the worst time of all. A sort of hell of anxiety and sadness. A frantic and helpless feeling of almost unbearably painful ache.

It is not so bad any more and I have counted sunsets beside the water, whether Gulf or Caribbean or river as some of the best moments of my life, mostly with my beloved beside me to observe the magic of water and sky fire, of soft drift into darkness, of water lap or wave hiss, of bird call and flight.

But sometimes it creeps in again. That panicky melancholy of coming-dark.
Tonight I have felt it. Even as I sit here in this place I love as if I were born to be here, even as the chickens whom I love make their scratching way into the hen house to take their sleep, even as the ducks get their last gulps of water, taken in their shovel mouths and their last dip in the little puddling tub. Even as I know that my husband will be here soon and I will heat up last night's soup and cut more avocado and chop more cilantro and make a salad with greens I just picked an hour ago. Even as my hallway is lit with gentle light and the camellias I fresh picked today sit in their pink vase. I feel it and I despair of it and yet- what can I do?

It is a part of my wiring, I guess. In one of Yoko Ono's songs she speaks of "the faint, faint sound of the childhood bell, ringing in my soul."
That phrase has always rung true in my soul. I understand it.

I know it will not kill me. It never has yet, at least, and I doubt it ever will.

"She died of twilight sorrow."

Has that ever once been written on a gravestone? I doubt it.
But perhaps it should have been, one time or another. I am quite certain I am not the only person on this planet who has been sickened unto death by it. Not unlike having cancer and yet eventually and ultimately falling to pneumonia.

Yoko's husband, John, wrote a song which he sang with primal loneliness and fear and in it he screamed, "Mama don't go. Daddy come home!"
He screamed it over and over and over again until his voice must have been raw and bleeding with it.

That too, I understand.

Stay alive. Sunrise will come again.

If there is any lesson to be taken, it is that, I suppose.

Let us all sleep well and wake to newness, and may the shadows of night's sorrows be polished away by the morning light and may we rise to dwell in that light once more.

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. You are not alone. I feel it almost every day during the darkness until daylight savings time returns. I think of it as the high lonesome place rung from my own childhood bells. See you in the morning sunlight! Anon Suz

  2. I have no reason to feel melancholy when the sun disappears, but still I do. I absolutely love sunsets, whether they be home in Illinois as I overlook our wheat field, or on Siesta Key as I hope for the bright green flash. But that moment when the sun disappears, I feel a kind of heaviness in my heart. I hope your darkness disappears long before the sunrise!

  3. I think sometimes we might be the same person, even though our geography and our experiences are so different. Twilight is hard for me too; I cannot draw an easy breath until the curtain of night falls completely. It is much, much harder when I am indoors at twilight. Often at that hour, I leave the house to sit on a bench outside so as to be under the sky instead of a roof pressing down on my head. You are definitely not alone, dear friend. We will survive the twilight. Our record of doing so is one hundred percent so far. Not a bad record. Here's my hand.

  4. You have another sister here. I lived with my Dad after my parents divorced and he worked nights. I did not sleep until I heard his car pull in near 6 am. I still have feelings come up sometimes as it starts to get dark. It is not madness. It is so deep. You are not alone. We are all here for you. Sweet Jo

  5. Whereas, I'm the opposite. Day is good, but I always feel like the darkness contains so much possibility.

  6. Nighttime is hard. Especially in the wintertime. It's so long and slow. I long for the long daylight of the summer. It's the anxiety that does me in this time of year. Not every night, but some nights. At about 4:30 pm, the day just looks sad. Like it's profoundly disappointed. Big hug to you Mary. I wish the nights were easier for you. I remember when I was about 8, I read the Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And I remember this line more than once.. that the darkest hour is just before dawn. When I had a breakdown back in 2005, and before my anti-depressants started working, (it takes a few weeks after one starts on them,) that's exactly how it was. The nights were just so long...

  7. I wonder if there's not a natural, evolutionary response that makes us more cautious and apprehensive as darkness falls. That's when the predators come out, after all -- and I mean that in a zoological sense but I suppose it's true of all predators, as you pointed out. It makes sense that maybe we're wired to be more aware and unsettled at that time of day. (Though I confess evening doesn't usually bother me. In fact I kind of like it.)

  8. I agree with Steve. I feel relief, almost, when nighttime comes. Like I successfully survived the day. I'm a true night owl though, and would set my rhythms that way if I could.

  9. This is so beautiful and so haunting.

  10. I am with Hank and that is why working nights worked so well for me. Mornings are terrible for me. I feel the only safe place for me is my bed.

  11. Steve said what I was thinking, that it may have always been this way for mankind, as night falls and it's harder to ensure safety.

    And isn't there an actual behavior associated with Alzheimer's patients called sun-downing? A restlessness and pacing and wanting to "go home". It seems to me that it must be very deeply within us.

    I do not get this feeling so much at twilight as I do on a clear summer day when I hear a jet far overhead in the quiet. I don't know why, but it is the loneliest sound on earth for me.

    Your writing is beautiful, as always.

  12. Anon Suz- I thank you for that beautiful comment.

    Catrina- I made it fine. I did. But boy, did it descend with heaviness yesterday.

    Angella- After I read your comment I pondered and pondered it. Yes, maybe we are the same person, somehow, in some way. Or at least, connected/related? And I swear- I know what your hand would feel like in mine and it would feel good.

    Sweet Jo- Oh, that is so sad. Yes, you certainly are another sister and I am here for you, too.

    That Hank- Well, at least my twilight sorrow did not infect you. You've always been a night owl, my darling.

    Mary- I understand. I really truly do. Nights can be intolerable when the anxiety and depression are upon us.

    Steve Reed- I believe you speak truth here. Yes. Absolutely. The predators DO come out.

    SJ- It is too bad that you cannot set your rhythms that way. Hank almost has.

    Ms. Vesuvius- I am glad you think so.

    ditchingthedog- It always takes me awhile to get my mind out of the gutter of existential angst in the mornings but I do fine after that until sunset. And my favorite time of day is bedtime.

    jenny_o- That is a haunting sound. I wonder why it affects you so?
    Yes, sun-downing is a real true thing. My mother suffered it after she broke some ribs. It was horrible. A true nightmare. And there doesn't seem to be much they can do about it.

  13. Do you know the musical act The White Buffalo? I only somewhat recently discovered him/them. Anyway, in one song (Don't You Want It) the chorus includes the lines "here comes the morning sun, put its arms around everyone."

    I just love that. Nighttime is hard for me. An odd cocktail of anxiety and sadness.

  14. Oh, I love that time of day depicted in your photo above...I always refer to it as the gloaming. The light at this time is just so beautiful & perfect to me. I'm sorry you & others have such sadness & melancholy associated with it. I too am a true night owl, I think they refer to it as delayed sleep phase syndrome now. I feel excitement with the oncoming of night... my mind, my creativity, my energy all come alive. Of course I am married to a man who is the exact opposite, but somehow we have made it work. It has taken years for me to come to accept this is just the way I am and not beat myself up about it.

  15. Stephanie- Have not heard that. But it feels right.
    I am sorry you suffer too. I really am.

    Angie D- I truly believe that you night owls among us are the ones who keep watch after darkness falls. I am grateful for you night-watchers.

  16. Yes. Evening dread. And Sunday late afternoon dread because that meant school the next day. Now it means work. Actually, a Sunday afternoon without the threat of Monday obligations is sweet. Very sweet. I am looking forward to retirement. Someday.

  17. Twilight is the magic hour. It draws in the soft night in waves. We glow because we're made of stars. I hope sometime you can see it. Love, Glimmer.

  18. LBags- Ah! The luxury of having your day to plan as you want! Retirement will make you very, very happy.

    Glimmer- Oh, thank you. I do see it. Mostly. Sometimes the light is very, very dim though.

  19. Darkness coming on used to bother me a lot, especially after someone I loved had died. Now I look forward to kicking back at night and relaxing. I have relaxed my soul in a good way. So far, it is a good year here.


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