Don’t look now, but – it’s October.
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?
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.