By Rick Mansfield
It does not really fall. It rises from the east, as blackness coming over the Ozark hills that surround our little valley. For me, it heralds a time of rest. A time to relax and regroup; both mentally and physically. Night is my repose.
I love to gaze at the stars on clear nights; enjoy the transition of the sky as it runs through an array of color. Dark reds melding with purple hues; all transitioning into eventual blackness. The occasional streaks of yellow and orange disrupting the conversion.
It is after the sun has fully set, I find time to write. Cyril of Jerusalem asked two millennia ago “What is more favorable to wisdom than the night?” Thoughts come more freely. Inspiration invades the fog of sleep just as stars begin to brighten as one’s eyes grow accustomed to the dark firmament above.
As I sometimes sit outside, clarity comes from what before have been only uncertain mists of thought. A Scottish proverb observes “The days have eyes; the night has ears.” Perhaps it is the change in the focus of senses that provides this newborn catalyst of reflection. The calls of cicada and whippoorwill, the rustle of dove and finch as they settle for the night in a nearby canebrake.
As writer William Least Heat-Moon warned, “Beware thoughts that come in the night. They aren’t turned properly; they come in askew, free of sense and restrictions, deriving from the most remote of sources.” Hemingway observed “The things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist.” Even Thoreau believed “What a man does abroad by night requires and implies more deliberate energy….”
Sometimes it as I recline indoors that pen more readily puts thoughts to paper. That what “…dares not stir by day must walk by night” as the Bard of Avalon opined. That story lines take shape and what were peripheral characters embrace more memorable qualities and interesting quirks.
Nearly four centuries ago, John Milton asked “What hath night to do with sleep?” My most productive evenings find the dawn breaking through the panes of glass that enclose what passes for my study. A few thousand words are now entrenched on blue lines dissecting the yellow pages of my notepad. That is a good night.
A more restless night finds me tossing and turning as bits of myths and fables wrestle with reminders of work undone and chores weeks behind. Of challenges to a country I love and am having more difficulty each day recognizing as the one founded and defended by men and women for more than two centuries. Of opportunities lost by a tiredness that at times seems embedded in my bones.
Historically, night has been when foul deeds were performed. All the way from the honest occupation of “nightwork”—the term for those men of past centuries that cleaned the cesspools of the wealthy; to the shady profession of “streetwalkers” and outright larceny of burglars and thieves. It has been under the cover of darkness that crimes were typically committed.
Night has also been when many great works of literature were formed; when oil and chalk occasionally were placed on canvas to create masterpieces. When cures were found for both body and soul. Vision used to better the future of mankind.
Maybe the difference is perspective. If we see night as rising, rather than falling. If we start the evening watching the darkness ascend over tree-lined hills and calming waters. Even smell the fragrance of moon-flowers. Thanks for joining us!