I cannot get the beginning lyrics to Ben E. King’s song Stand By Me out of my head. The part that goes:
When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid, no I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
Because not only did I miss out on that lovely extra hour of sleep that most people get to enjoy at the change over to standard time, but I battle against a nightly panic when I step outside after work to head to my car and find that it’s pitch black out.
I should be used to this by now, considering it happens every year. But I am not. Every evening, now that it’s dark before 6:00, I feel very suddenly and extremely rushed. I feel a need to hurry home, to be home ALREADY, to draw the blinds, lock the doors, and batten down against the night.
It doesn’t make sense, really. If I look at a clock I can easily see that it’s 6:00 p.m. and all is well. We’ll eat dinner when I get home, around 6:30, like we have all summer and early fall, like we did when it was still light out. But this sense of urgency, of the day being OVER, of it being too close to bedtime, of me not having had enough daylight to spend with my son, I can’t shake it. It will repeat itself nightly until some time in the Spring, when the clocks jump forward once again and the sun still lights the sky when I climb into my car to drive home after work. But right now, as soon as the sun sets, I feel like the day, the ENTIRE day, not just the work part, is over. Finis. And like I missed it.
The feeling evokes anxiety of the kind I feel on Sundays, my least favorite day of the week. Even on Sunday morning, with a whole day ahead of me, I feel that the weekend is over, that I’m only preparing for Monday. I feel like I must hurry, that I cannot relax.
Once I am home in the evenings, where it’s warm and bright inside, but dark and cold outside, the idea of a world full of lights and activity just down the road from me seems impossible. And yet it’s not.
I’m nearly always surprised, on the occasions that I venture out of the house after dark in the winter, to find that others are out and about. It’s as if the jolt of an electric shock runs through me and wakes me up when I see that the parking lots and shopping centers are well lit, the roads are buzzing with cars, the restaurants are serving dinner and the stores are full of bustling shoppers. Life, I suddenly realize anew, does go on after dark. Obviously not everyone feels the need to bunker down when the sun sets.
And then there are people who prefer the darkness. I call them vampires. Or former co-workers… I used to, many years ago, work for an environmental firm. It was a place that, among other things, was fond of trying to conserve energy. Some of the offices had been fitted with lights that were set motion detectors. The lights would come on as you entered the room. But they’d shut off if they didn’t detect nearly constant movement. Unless you were a very fidgety kind of typist, you’d be sitting in the dark after a few keystrokes. Then you’d have to stand up and wildly wave your arms around trying to trigger the sensors into turning the lights back on.
In other areas of the building they didn’t bother to install motion sensors. They simply turned the lights out. During the day. While everyone was working. The bosses felt that the sunlight filtering in through the windows was light enough, so they’d turn out hallway lights and half of the ceiling lights over the maze of cubicles. Even on the sunniest of days it made the place feel dim. On cloudy days it was like working in the deep dank recesses of a cave. In the winter, by late afternoon, the place was full of long suffocating shadows – filing cabinets and bookcases looming out of proportion. The last person to leave the office was supposed to turn off all the lights. Since that was often me, my husband gave me a flashlight to light my way lest I trip over an errant file folder on my way to the front door. It was unnerving, working all day in a dimly lit building then being the last to leave and needing a flashlight to do so.
I don’t know how much energy, if any, was saved this way, but I know “that deal with the lights” as I came to call it, nearly drove me insane.
Now the night has come, and the land is dark, but it’s okay. I am home. I am bunkered down against the cold, against the night. And the moon is NOT the only light I see. I’ve got the lights turned on all over this place.