Sunday, December 17, 2006

Lighting the Sky

Tonight, while Hodmandod Senior was visiting his mother, I wandered around the streets of the village delivering Christmas cards to people I know.

The world is warming. I barely needed a coat. The only icicles I saw were artificial ones clinging to eaves

sometimes pulsating in different sequences, sometimes outlining every apex in a cool bright glory.

Hodmandod Senior grumbles. He likes to look at the stars. It is a treat to him to go to some remote spot unpolluted by light so he can properly see the constellations. Sometimes we sit on the wooden bench outside our back door waiting for meteors - brief sparks in the sky that disappear so quickly I wonder if I have really seen them at all. Once we saw the moon encircled by an iridescent halo and for several nights we saw a comet hovering above us - seemingly still but obviously moving - its tail stretched out behind it and we congratulated ourselves on our luck.

But tonight there was just this: man's homage to mid-winter. No energy-saving light-bulbs here. For a twelfth of the year the planet is ablaze with the highest wattage available. From the first of December when they are switched on until the evening of the 6th January when they are switched off and no doubt lovingly returned to their box.

I believe that some houses are in competition. Their lights blare at each other across the street, one loud decorative addition following another, year upon year until all sides of the house are covered.

Some confine themselves to windows and the purity of fire

while others swathe everything in colour.

For some it seems to be a declaration of happiness and defiance. In this house a daughter was lost in her prime, and blindness threatens - but every year their lights become brighter. Christmas will be merry, they seem to be saying between gritted teeth. Despite everything.

When, at last, I arrived back at our house everything as usual was in darkness (although the light in the upstairs window was mine)

which meant that above it I could see the sky. There were no comets, no halos, no shooting stars. There was just the indigo sky and the unsophisticated pale blue of clouds - each one lit by the light of a sun that had recently disappeared beyond the curve of horizon. For a while I just stood and thought about the sun still shining from somewhere I couldn't see and yet still managing to pick out these clouds above my head - and it seemed so extraordinary and beautiful that for a few moments it was all that seemed to matter.


Blogger Kay Cooke said...

This is beautiful Clare - from start to finish.
We are beginning to get more and more decorated houses over here too - it's crept in from somewhere ... America? And there are competitions now as well. ABM and I will have to go for a walk and have a look at some around where we live. But we have to wait such a long time for it to get truly dark, it makes it quite a late walk.
Like you, I think that really I prefer the night sky's show.

Mon Dec 18, 06:32:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed that little outing and the Clare-reflections. A few nights ago I saw a falling star--just one burning tear.

Mon Dec 18, 07:21:00 am  
Blogger Tammy Brierly said...

I enjoyed this post Clare. The lights are getting out of hand and I have to tell hubby "that's plenty" every year. LOL

Tue Dec 19, 11:17:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks CB: of course - in NZ there will be very little darkness this time of year - everything is so different.

Marly: ah, a burning tear - that's lovely - exactly what it's like.

Tammy: Ha, very funny - I shall be checking your blog for pics...

Tue Dec 19, 11:24:00 pm  
Blogger Jeremy said...

I can't help wondering just how much global warming Christmas lights are responsible for.

Fri Dec 22, 08:13:00 am  

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