Dying Of The Light

It's hard to not think of nighttime as the end of the day when the line between light and dark is called the "terminator".

It’s hard to not think of nighttime as the end of the day when the line between light and dark is called the “terminator”.

“The dying of the light.”

It’s a portion of a line of a poem by Dylan Thomas, although I couldn’t have told you that without looking it up. In my mind, the phrase was “the dying of the day”: not a perfect quote of the poem, but then again my memory is rarely very accurate with words. Accurate or not, it was the phrase that was on my mind as I went running today. I typically try to run just as the sun is setting, but today I was too eager to get out the door and the sun was still quite high as I made my way around the block.

Because diagrams.

Because diagrams.

I calculated that I would be home before “golden hour” even started; golden hour being the twenty minutes or so before sunset and “blue hour” (or “magic hour” in filmmaker terminology) being the twenty minutes after sunset before darkness falls. It has always felt like a powerful time of the day to me. Maybe this is because the quality of light is so fleeting, or maybe it is because it is a period of transition from a state of lightness to a state of darkness: a dying of the light. I wondered whether sunsets were beautiful because they were the last light of the day and that nature somehow knew this and put out all it’s effort to squeeze the last ray of beauty into a day before it ended.

Following this logic, I found myself wondering: Was sunset compelling because it was a beautiful natural phenomena or was it compelling because it reminded me of my own mortality? Was I seeing the transition of day to night or was I seeing a daily reminder of the progression of time and the transition of light into darkness as a corollary for life into death. Was the emphasis on the “dying” or on the “light”?

Following this logic further, I found myself wondering: how did nature know the day was ending? Did nature know that the approach of nighttime looked like the approach of death to the human eye? Did nature consider sunset to be the end of the day or was that just a human construct, as arbitrary as midnight? Who was to say that midnight meant one day was different from the next except someone looking at a clock? Who was to say that sunset wasn’t the beginning of the day and that day begins in darkness? Who was to say that “days” are discrete units at all instead of a continual, repeating transition from light to darkness to light?

Time suddenly seemed very arbitrary: it is arbitrary, after all. There was something… reassuring in the idea that the ribbon of days stretches out unbroken into the future and into the past, divided into units only by the idea of time.

And then, I ran into a large cloud of gnats and was much less philosophical on the rest of my run home.


~ by Gwydhar Gebien on April 26, 2015.

One Response to “Dying Of The Light”

  1. Amanda – you are a delight. What a lovely thought process you have and an equal way of expressing/sharing of it. Look forward to reading your posts.

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