I’m writing this at night, and thinking about all the different feelings that nighttime can hold. How some nights can feel free and some stay stuffy and stifling.
Often from my bedroom I can hear a motorbike engine roaring somewhere in the distance, slicing through the silence, and I like to imagine riding down empty roads with orange streetlights and sleeping buildings. There is some irony in the fact that I am scared of the dark, but I do love night. I imagine moving so fast that I don’t notice the dark.
When it was hot last month and the nights were cloudless, I noticed some of my neighbours having a last-chance end-of-summer barbecue. It was a small bubble of activity while the rest of the neighbourhood remained still. I decided to have my own little celebration of the strange weather and lie on the dank ground under the stars. My body felt tetchy, on edge because of so much blackness, but lying on the ground it’s like you can feel the curve of the earth, and it’s easy to forget yourself, to feel like a tiny speck in the universe. When I put myself in perspective this way, human emotions aren’t so overwhelming, even though it feels like they could sometimes fill a galaxy.
Sometimes I get insomnia, and then the nights are everlasting. Music is too stimulating on nights like this, so I always resort to talk radio. In the early hours of the morning BBC World Service takes over and I drift in and out of a light doze, imagining there are other people awake and listening, potentially anywhere on earth. A bit later on there is the shipping forecast. Someone out there must be on a boat jotting down notes to remember, hearing and seeing something completely different from me. I imagine this careful fisherman, and the night doesn’t feel so lonely.
Tonight is one of those rare nights when the moonlight is so bright that I can open my window and see traces of clouds and branches and the wide lawn of my garden. In the deep winter I can open my window and see my breath and make my mark upon the nighttime. Just open a window and you are a witness.
I love the glow of lights at night—flickering in windows, illuminating leaves. Shadows. Places to hide. When all the lights are finally off and the night is at its darkest, that’s the easiest time to feel alone. I find this kind of solitude liberating. I am alone with whatever, or whomever, I want to be alone with.
Usually it’s my thoughts. On the cusp between awake and asleep, reality and dreaming, I think about the vastness of time, or stare at my ceiling and pray. Dawn and dusk, the bookends of night, remind me that there is change. When the night has been full of worry and dreams anxiety-ridden, there is nothing like that blue transition to assure me that there’s always a new day, that the fog has lifted. Sometimes it’s good to lie on your bed when the sun starts to go down and not turn on any light until it’s pitch-black outside. A clear dusk has a rainbow of colours and it’s like nature’s own mood lighting.
In the last week I realised it’s much better to happy about what you have got than sad about what you haven’t got. For me, this kind of self-realisation only happens at night.
I feel like this song is relevant: