Tag Archives: October

The Creeping Dark

Don’t look now, but – it’s October.

Booo! Image: nationalharbor.com

Image: nationalharbor.com

In a matter of weeks, we’ll be dressing up as ghouls and nasties in order to frighten away the real ghouls and nasties, and everywhere you look you’ll see happy, sugar-crazed children drifting about in giggling packs. We’re already in training for waking up, and coming back home, in darkness, and wardrobes are being raided for their stashes of waterproof coats and woolly scarves and funny bobbly hats knitted by someone’s granny. The world is yawning and stretching and plumping up its pillows, preparing for its long sleep.

As for me? Well. This is my time of year.

I love the changing seasons, and the blustery weather, and the cool air. I’m not crazy about the dark mornings, to be truthful, but they’re a small price to pay for all the other joys that the closing of the year brings. I love the feeling of turning, of transformation, that fills the air at this time of year. It reminds me that things are constantly in flux and that there’s a rhythm to everything; there’s a time for everything, and for everyone. It makes me feel like no matter how chaotic or frightening things might seem, that there is a natural progression in place. It makes me feel small – but I mean that in a good way. It makes me feel like I’m a very small part of a larger whole, one which will carry on with or without me, and that something a lot smarter than I am has everything under control.

Today, I’m feeling a little less frazzled about my work. Yesterday, I battled through and gamely worked away at my editing for as long as I possibly could; I found myself hitting a wall about six hours in, though, and instead of smashing my way through it and pushing on, I decided I was going to allow myself some downtime. I went for a short walk, and I did some baking (which, for some reason, was a disaster, but at least it was fun), and I read several chapters of one of the many books I have on the go. As a result, I am tired today but not completely exhausted, and I am looking forward to picking up where I left off yesterday. I think I’ll have to imagine my mental life as having its own rhythm, too, even on a micro, day-to-day level; mornings are like springtime, and when evening comes it’s fine to slow down and allow the darkness to start creeping in. The year needs its blanket of restful night, so why would I be any different?

Whatever season it is in Ireland, you can be sure you'll need your umbrella... Image: seasonsofireland.com

Whatever season it is in Ireland, you can be sure you’ll need your umbrella…
Image: seasonsofireland.com

Having said this, I don’t always feel so positively inclined toward darkness and its inexorable creeping. Like most people I am, sometimes, afraid of the dark, and I don’t like being left alone in it. As a child in my parents’ house I used to get a fizzing thrill of terror when the hall light was turned out as we made our way up to bed. As I raced up the stairs, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that something terrible was on my heels, making a scaly, taloned grab for my fleeing feet, preparing to suck me down into some horrible subterranean lair unless I reached a particular step by a particular time. Perhaps I was afraid not of the dark itself but of what the dark was concealing; it was fear of what was in the darkness, what the darkness meant. Fear of the dark is a fear of not being able to see, or of not understanding what you’re seeing, or of dealing with the unknown. It’s a fear that comes straight out of the core of my brain and being, and it’s one that haunted my early ancestors too, I’m sure.

Nestled beside this ancient fear is an appreciation of the darkness, though, and the peace and rest it can bring. Sometimes I like to think of the autumn as a blanket being pulled over the world, a comforting eiderdown settling us all into the slower months. Maybe it’s helpful to think of darkness as an opportunity – a chance to take a breath and check the relentless forwardness we are driven toward when the days are long. Modern life, of course, doesn’t always allow us to live in harmony with the rhythm of the seasons, but it helps me, a little, to remind myself that these rhythms exist, and that they have a use and a purpose.

Maybe the only unknowable thing in the darkness is ourselves, and our own minds; perhaps that is the monster we’re scared of, the one we fear will suck us down into the deeps if we let it catch us. It might be time to embrace the darkness, then, and search through it for the fearful thing we’ve spent so long running away from. We might be surprised by what we find. It might turn out that what we fear, and what we’ve shrouded in darkness, is the one thing we’ve been looking for all along.

And hey. Maybe it’ll just be a monster. I reckon it’s worth taking the chance, though.

Image: dailymail.co.uk

Image: dailymail.co.uk


Foggy Monday, Foggy Brain

So, this morning when I woke up, I looked out the window and couldn’t see across the green to my neighbours’ house – in fact, I couldn’t even really see the end of our driveway.  It was foggy – just the kind of morning to make you want to curl right back up again and go back to sleep! My husband had the worst of it, of course, as he had to pack himself up into the car and get to work, but I remember well all the mornings I had to trek my long commute into Dublin, no matter what the weather, and I don’t miss having to do that.  The fog is starting to lift a little now – I can see the end of the garden, which is nice! – and hopefully my brain will start to de-mist soon too.

What is it about foggy weather that makes you feel like the world has somehow slid into a different plane of being?  Nothing makes your surroundings look weirder than a heavy shroud of fog.  It makes my mind lean at a sharp angle, like I’m looking at a film or watching myself from the outside, not knowing what’s going to happen or what’s outside the window.  It’s no surprise that this time of year is the one traditionally associated with ghouls and the spirit-world, I suppose.

Fog’s traditional association with the idea of being ‘lost’ has not escaped me this morning, either.  I’m fighting my desire to work on the WiP (I promised my husband I wouldn’t, so I won’t!) because I know that trying to revise it now, so soon after finishing Draft 1, will not help matters with regard to my knowledge that there is so much about it that needs to be fixed.  I’ve been feeling ‘at sea’ in relation to my work all weekend, trying to keep my sense of failure and panic under control, and so I don’t wish to make myself feel even more lost and confused.  I know that it’s a useful first step to get ‘the bones’ of the story written, but it didn’t go down on paper as smoothly or as attractively as I’d hoped for, and I feel the plot is becoming hopelessly tangled – but, with any luck, a few days’ break from it should give me the perspective I need to work through all the knots.  It’s almost poetically appropriate that I’ve managed to be at this stage in the WiP at this time of year, when the weather is matching my mood so expertly.  I hope the fog in my brain will lift and clear as easily, and inevitably, as the fog in my garden.

I dreamed last night, again – a dream I’ve had, in one way or another, for years.  I’m in a bedroom, a very well-appointed and lovely room, perhaps in a hotel or a big country house.  Certainly, the room is not in my home, or in any place with which I’m familiar.  The only strange thing about it is there are far too many beds in it – maybe four or five, when one would have been fine.  I turn around to undress and prepare for bed, and when I turn back, the room has grown much bigger and there are now hundreds of beds.  Each bed now has an occupant, sleeping soundly.  Usually the occupants are children or young people, sometimes girls, but more often than not I can’t make out the gender of the sleepers.  I have to stumble, as quietly as possible, between these tightly-packed and illogically arranged beds, trying to find a place to rest.  It’s a strange dream, and maybe I feel so muddle-headed and disoriented this morning because the dream-feeling is working in conjunction with the weather, both conspiring to muddle me.

The dream makes me feel clumsy, large and cumbersome, as well as afraid that I’ll never find an unoccupied bed in which to sleep, so it’s interesting that I should dream it again now.  The dream usually doesn’t end with me finding a peaceful place to rest – whatever significance that might have – so I hope it’s my brain telling me to keep on going, despite all obstacles (as opposed to ‘you’re on a wild goose chase, give up now’)!

Here’s hoping I’m the only one labouring under fog-brain today.  I hope your thought processes are clear, sharp and keen, and that you’re ready for another week’s challenges and opportunities.