I love autumn, as I’ve mentioned before, but must admit I do dislike the earlier and longer nights.
I like lighter evenings. They make it easier to spot my black collie, Lady, for one thing. At the moment we have to put one of the click on lights on her collar from early evening so she lights up the world like a little fairy light! She isn’t impressed by this but it does make her easier to spot. Walking around Hiltingbury at this time of year, you get to spot a few of these lights and the full on illuminated coloured collars. There are some well lit up dogs around here!
I never had to to this with my previous dogs, Gracie and Mabel. Gracie was a bearded/border collie cross and though the grey of her coat “faded” into the dusk, the white bits stood out, especially the tip on her tail. It acted like a beacon on a dark night. Mabel was the classic black and white border collie and the white bits stood out wonderfully.
Lack of Light
Changing the clocks every autumn and spring just seems to fool me for about a week after the change. I feel more tired. Given I’ve not flown, I think this is the nearest I’ve got to date to jet lag!
On a more serious note, the lack of light at this time of year and over the winter months is known to contribute to depressive illnesses. Seasonal Affective Disorder is now recognised as a condition and there are a surprising number of different “sunshine lamps” to help compensate for the lack of natural light at this time of year.
Having a look at the link, I was intrigued by the fact “blue light” and “white light” products are recommended, and I am glad there are more things available now to help those who need it. Depression doesn’t always have an obvious reason for its existence, but a trigger being the lack of light is, to my mind, totally understandable if only because total darkness is so oppressive. Nobody would want that all of the time.
On the plus side, in many ways it is easier to sit down and write at this time of year and over the winter, because frankly I don’t want to be outdoors in the cold and wet! But I do miss the natural light. It is somewhat mood lowering having to put on artificial lights on at 4 pm or earlier on a typical murky November day.
Light and Photography
Light is a fantastic thing and and the ability to see it and process it even more so. The colours of the rainbow – the light spectrum – are amazing. The way the human eye works is equally fantastic and perhaps too easy to take for granted. I love looking at photos and one of the joys of writing these posts is choosing suitable images to go with them. But a successful photo is all down to how light is portrayed when all is said and done.
Some of my favourite photos have been where light has been shown to its best advantage.
The one picture I wish I had taken was from a holiday taken a couple of years ago. It was in the far North of Scotland and where we were staying there was a hill behind the cottage. On one clear night at 11 pm, we could see on one side of the hill the sun going down, finally deciding it had had enough for one day, and on the other side we could see the moon rising. It was an incredible sight. (Oh and I didn’t have to put on an electric light to read by until this point incidentally).
Light in terms of Fiction
We also think about light in terms of mood, appropriately, and I divide my fiction into light and darker reading. Light reading includes the humorous works of P.G. Wodehouse, the irony of Jane Austen, and the wonderful books of Terry Pratchett. All of these lighten my mood though the craft and hard work that has gone into producing “easy to read” works should never be underestimated. It took a great deal of editing to get to that stage, trust me! I learned a long time ago if someone makes writing look easy, that same someone has inevitably worked for years to get to that point, and they’re not afraid of the red editing pen either.
Darkness in terms of Fiction
My darker reading includes crime novels (nearly always murder ones! Crime is one of the most popular genres in fiction. Many of us have a taste for murder it would seem but this is not a new thing. I recently read Lucy Worsley’s book A Very English Murder and it looks at how the history of crime fiction developed. It’s a fascinating read and enlightening about what we are like as humans too. Let’s just say there is nothing new in not letting the facts get in the way of a good story or several!).
I like to read some thrillers and a little horror (though to be honest, you don’t need monsters for horrific fiction. You just need human beings and an average week in the newspapers to find enough examples of horror in real life. This is probably why I don’t want to read it much in fiction, though I do admire Mary Shelley for daring to ask the leading question, “just who is the monster?” in her Frankenstein. A very pertinent question and I think it will always be so.
Light and darkness are the two opposites we handle (well or otherwise) then on a daily basis. You’d think the natural preference would be for the light but I must admit I enjoy looking up at the stars on a clear night and you do need the darkness to “set them off”, like diamonds against a velvet cloth. It was nice seeing Mars again recently on a late walk I took with my better half and the dog. The slightly red tinge DID come from the planet and not my dog’s collar light, honestly!
Terry Pratchett remarked once you have to have “tragic relief” and meant that even in humorous work like his, the story can’t be a laugh a line. There has to be a proper story. Story is about conflict, some of which can be funny but not all of it is and certainly not all of the time. The author has to get the balance right here. Light needs darkness to shine against. All darkness is just too depressing for words.
Light and Fairytales
I’m looking forward to seeing A Christmas Carol by the MDG Players soon and plan to review this in due course. What I love about one of my favourite stories is the way Dickens portrays Scrooge who is one of fiction’s darker creations to begin with at least. There is no light in Ebenezer until we are well through the story.
But is it positive light can come even to the darkest, most miserly heart? Yes, of course. Does that make it a fairytale? Yes but I’ve never seen the problem with that. Fairytales are often underrated. Many contain a lot of truth in them (check out the story of The Little Match Girl by Hans Christen Andersen. The lack of compassion and understanding for a fellow human being’s suffering sadly is not new and is well reflected here).
What does annoy me is when people think fairytales are “twee”. They are anything but twee when they’re told properly! The original stories can be very grim. To a certain extent Disney has had to lighten them for their audience. They could never have filmed The Little Mermaid exactly as it was written by Hans Christen Andersen as it would have needed at least a 15 certificate I would have thought (for the throat cutting scene only, yes really), and the traditional ending is not exactly happy.
So dark and light then – we need them both. We need them in proportion too.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.