Thursday, May 1, 2008

Things happen at night.

It was almost ten years ago and I had come here to the city for the Halifax Pop Explosion. Or rather, my best friend and roommate, Squirrely, had. I just came along with him. We were up around the North End, I'd say near Agricola St., for those of you who know the city. I certainly didn't at the time. Squirrely, knowing that I was a country boy at the time, was giving me some advice. "If I say run, just run." Certainly plenty to make a small town lad nervous, but somehow it didn't. Instead a strong sensation of unreality settled over me as we entered a quaint little side street. The dark orange hue of the streetlights combined with the hush of late night/early morning and somehow simplified the surroundings. It seemed as though I wasn't on a real street at all, but instead had somehow found myself on a miniaturized set, like you'd use for Claymation. Ludicrous though it may sound, the illusion was incredibly convincing. Everything about it, the perspectives, sense of scale, depth of focus, it was all scaled down, and then back up again. The whole thing passed as we passed on through, and then it was done. We never got jumped, either. Just a brief little magical experience.

Somewhat less magical, but fairly similar, was the time a couple of months earlier, when I noticed a car parked in front of our college residence. One of the doors had been replaced, and didn't match the rest of the vehicle's exterior. This made me think of Lego, the way you'd be almost finished building something but had run out of red. So, you throw in that one yellow brick. Does the job. And there it is, that acrid glow of the streetlight made my thoughts seem like reality, and I could swear that the car really was just Lego after all. Why, I could probably just walk on over and lift it right up! Now, I don't want to say I honestly believed this. I really didn't. But still, I did have to check. And the illusion vanished immediately. Cars are incredibly heavy. Even with two hands.

It's those streetlights, the ones that blend so well with fog to create a thick atmosphere (which, I suppose, is exactly what fog is) of drama and play saxophone solos in your head. I'm sure torchlight does something similar, and did so often back in the olden times. It's something you only see at night, and night is a time for imagination. Here, try this one: Stare at this screen and picture something in your mind. Now close your eyes and try again. See? Same basic principle.

Somewhere else around ten years gone was the night the full moon came closer to Earth than it had in a long, long time, and closer than it would for a similarly long time. I was at my folks' place out in the countryside, and decided to take advantage of the location. You don't have to walk long out there to be away from all artificial light, and within five minutes I was surrounded only by moonlight (and, I suppose, a little starshine). It's a perfect opposite to your standard streetlight. Blue, not orange, and it in no way makes your surroundings seem artificial. Instead they become, well, truer. It's almost alarming how much you can see. The ground was ever so lightly frosted, and I could see all the tiny glints as though a large diamond had exploded nearby. You may have missed this particular cosmic event, but a standard full moon on a clear night should do it. I highly recommend the experience.

They call it the wee hours of the morning, that time when you might as well have had a few drinks because you feel like you did anyhow. There are conversations had at this time of night that do not happen in the light of day. This was brought to my attention recently during a telephone conversation, late at night. People open up more and honesty flows like spring water. You'll talk about the most important things there are, and you'll do it better than ever. These conversations are more precious than gold or jewels, and if they ever make it to sunrise they will fade away soon after. We no longer need to huddle around our campfire.

We have our AMs and PMs, evenings, mornings, and whatnot. But way back at the beginning there was just day and night. Sun or no. Light and dark. And the night was both terrifying and freeing.

From time to time, it still is.

No comments: