Sunday, February 06, 2011

Starry Starry Night

When I was a child I had a fascination with the sky at night.    I would stare out at the blackness from my window and wonder who else at that moment in time was also looking and counting the stars they could see.     The more stars there were the less I wanted to sleep.    I always felt I’d be missing something, something that would happen if I closed my eyes.     I had a strong sense that things were already happening at night but that these things weren’t visible to human eyes, darkness was the perfect camouflage.    The next morning I would wake and the thoughts and feelings I had had the night before would no longer seem real as though evaporated in the light of day.      To me it always seemed that there were two worlds that went on side by side; day and night.     Many years later I read a short story called "Night and Night's Travellers” by Banana Yoshimoto and it captured my fascination with the night once more.     As with so many of Yoshimoto’s stories an atmosphere is created that floats around long after the book has been read and shelved.    This particular story was no exception, it instilled in me the impulse to leave my house in the middle of the night and go for long walks when everyone else would be sleeping.     
I imagine that if I had given in to these curious urges and came across a fellow night walker I would want to talk to them and tell them things, tell them my thoughts and feelings because the night creates an intimacy and a willingness to share.     I think we talk more when it’s dark outside, I think there are conversations that only take place when it’s dark outside.     The darkness of the night encourages an anonymity that perhaps allows us to feel safe and more trusting.     Maybe because we can’t see the world as clearly and the world cannot see us so then we are less afraid to show ourselves.     How much braver we are at night over the telephone where we say what we want and not lose face since there is no face to our words.      During the day our words are endlessly interrupted, our sentences cut short (by ourselves as well as others) and time is always working against us hurrying us along to say whatever it is we need to and move on.      But some things can not be said quickly, they need time to formulate and reveal themselves.     The night provides a peculiar backdrop to intimate conversations, it almost nurtures them and we are granted a freer rein to express ourselves with less constraints and structures to consider, so often the case in daytime living.     I would imagine that the majority of secrets are divulged at night.   

But the other side of night is also all too visceral; the dark side.    Fear of the dark is something none of us I think ever truly grow out of.     Yet the fear is not the same for children as it is for adults.     When we are kids the fear lies in the unknown-ness of what cannot be seen.     In time the unknown-ness becomes more of a friend that we willingly opt for and it is the dark which brings to light a clarity where perhaps too much can be seen.    Do we not think our darkest thoughts in the dark?      The darkness lends itself to our fears and seems to exaggerate them all the more.    It is therefore a common consolation that things always feel a little better in the morning and though there is some truth in this I think, perhaps how we feel at night may serve us better if we didn't wish it away so fast.     Perhaps that is why our dreams take centre stage and show us, vividly at times, what we're not thinking about during the day.                     

I think my blog posts in the day but I write them at night as I am doing now.    At night I write with a voice that I can’t quite find in daytime.     The darkness brings things to light.   It is quiet and still outside my window, the only sound I can hear is the wind thrashing against the trees.     I find this quite soothing and it helps to settle my thoughts.     The stars are out and I don’t feel much like sleeping, perhaps tonight I’ll give in to my urges and finally take that walk.     

"The night glittered brilliantly then.
The night seemed to be infinitely long.   And I could see something stretching way off into the distance behind Yoshihiro, whose eyes sparkled with the same mischievous light as always.    I caught sight of a vast landscape.
Something like a panorama.
I kind of wonder if that wasn't The Future, as my childish heart saw it.
Back then my brother was something that definitely wouldn't die, he was both night and something that travelled through night - something like that".       (1)


(1)  Yoshimoto, B.   2000.   Night and Night's Travellers in "Asleep".    Great Britain: Faber and Faber Limited