Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On Darkness, and on being in it.

One of a series of collaborative additive char drawings created by Central Hudson and
Mother Nature, documented by me. 

One note of domestic discord that persists in our home revolves around the light switch.  If you ask one of us, she'll say that the other has an annoying habit of turning off the light every time she turns around.  If you ask the other, he'll say that he doesn't see the point of running a light if no one is in the room.  Besides, we've been granted the power over light through the use of switches.  Why not use them to the fullest extent?
Another pet peeve of my lovely is that from time to time I'll walk around with no lights on at all.  This usually happens as I go to bed - turning out the lights in the living room and navigating my way through one of our two studios through a connecting space and into the bedroom to disrobe and get into bed all without a light.  there have been occasions when I stub a toe or run into a door or wall and she's said something like "See?  Why don't you put on a light?"  I have no real answer.  Kicking something or running into something seems like a natural side effect of walking in the dark to me and I'm not bothered by such things.
This is not how it always has been for me.  When I was in third or fourth grade and I would be at home alone, preparing for bed, I would turn on every light in the house, then make my way to bed, turning off lights as I went until I reached the last switch in my bedroom, at which point I would start running to the bed as soon as hit the switch.  Immediately in bed I would review my performance, usually certain that I had gone airborne in my final leap to the bed before the bulb had been extinguished.
It was fear, a creepy fear of the dark when you're in it doing things you shouldn't be doing - in the dark - which amounted to anything other than sleeping or at the very least being prone.
That goblin of fear appeared again as I descended the stairs to our very creepy basement with only a candle  scented of fresh cut roses, courtesy of our upstairs neighbors.  It was one of those moments when that one part of your mind is trying to psyche out the rest of you - and receiving a thrill from that feeling of fear.

The reason that I was using that candle was our lack of electricity.
For once, the warning of the coming of a major storm finally came had some veracity. 
I was outside on the night of the snowstorm to do a little shoveling around my truck.  Fortunately, I got distracted and when the transformer at the end of the driveway blew, I was out of the way, clearing snow from trees in the yard.  Even with the substantial distance between me and the transformer when it blew, I was doing a Holy Shit/WTF dance in knee deep snow, wondering if I could be electrocuted from sixty feet away, and if anyone was capturing video of me.  This electrical incident created an arc that ended up blowing a hole through the breaker panel in our apartment - twice.
In the following five days without electricity, I found myself flipping switches when entering and exiting rooms - old habits...

The unbounded development in technology that affects our lives in this society serves us in almost immeasureable ways. I don't think we reflect on it much, beyond asking "What did we do before advent of ...(fill in the blank).  With greater frequency, we assume our digital prostheses and adapt to our "enhanced" way of life.  Whatever primary task our phones, screens, players are created to tackle, the one universal thing these devices do is make light; they push back the dark dark night, and they allay boredom, two things that immediately flood in during a power outage.  I'm not talking about the symbolic, knowledge as light/ ignorance as darkness kind of way, but rather, darkness in a "Man, It's dark in here and I can't see" kind of way. These things a really tricked out glowing flashlights.  Flashlights that make phone calls and take pictures and videos.  The fire department report on our power surge incident was written up under the ambience(s) of two cell phone screens.
Granted, human ingenuity and technology have assumed position within the march of evolution for our species, but one must realize that in an environment where our seventh and eighth senses are being carried via cables in the air, amidst aging and threatening tree branches, at any moment, we can be back on our own. 
There's an "aligned" quiet in walking around in a darkened environment.  I won't say it's primal, but it is sensory...or sensorial? It's moving through the tangible volume of a space.  The components of the darkened air have a felt volume.  It's like moving back to a point of history when ether still existed and all that was, sloshed through it.
When I was even younger than in the previously mentioned bedtime story, I would wake up in the morning and I'd consider every flick of a switch, every engaged appliance to be part of the slow revving of a machine that, as the world around me was also awakening, would gain in power and make the day happen.  This was even more the case in the winter when the production of heat added to the envisioned effect.  It, as my memory serves, gave me the desire to be awake and be part of that mechanism.  Or maybe I didn't want to be part of it, I just wanted to observe it.  It didn't actually make me want to go to school in any greater degree - and that was a kind of light and heat my mom had to contend with.

A snowstorm like this one we experienced is like walking in the dark; you have both limited vision of and control over your surroundings.   You can only control you own actions and reactions in very short order to what is presented.  In an average day, the technical accessories give us the impression otherwise. But how nice is it to roll with the rhythms of the day free of these illusions?  I advocate an energy holiday for at least one week a year for everyone.  Like camping at home.

Definition for the day:
Glowting [glo - teeng] orig. Late Ren., Beacon, 2010 - The envy inducing illumination of a lam or fixture when seen by an individual whose own abode is without such extravagance as electricity.


The glowting parking lot of Spire Studios flirted teasingly though my darkened windows and downed tree limbs.

No comments: