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Pewter twilight on the 47th

January 13, 2009

The pewter-sky twilight encompassing my sector of the 47th parallel can endure for months. This dull light, capable of greying the greenest greens, consorts with damp chill and a sense of augmented gravity.

Western Washington is extravagantly mossy and abundantly arboreous, but the winter green is grey. A scant 1,311 miles south of the Arctic Circle, we have the northcountry dreariness, but stars don’t shine in our noon sky. They don’t shine in our cloudy night sky, either.

Man has for a long time sought to make daylight out of night. When I was in college, I used to sit sometimes in the evening on a rock atop a mountain pass. I could see more city lights than stars, and I wondered why this was so. Doing stupid things like this made it kind of a crunch to get homework done, but almost all college students undergo a transitory mountaintop philosopher phase. It’s like a late-onset mutation, and most of us outgrow it.

The ancient Greeks answered such questions in myths. Prometheus the Titan stole fire from Zeus, chief of the new Olympian order of gods, and gave it to man. The Word of God says nothing about how man obtained fire, but at least we can know that it was not by the larcenous insurgence of an old-order god against an upstart god. It’s so confusing when there is a changing of the gods, but at least man scored fire in the Promethean scenario.

In any case, by the gracious providence of God, man has acquired the means to light his nights for purposeful work and recreation until he becomes tired. Living in a place where cloudy days outnumber sunny ones 2.6 to 1, I appreciate light in any form I can get it.

I don’t have SAD (seasonal affect disorder); I don’t become particularly depressed in winter. I don’t become particularly energized, either. I do keep most of the lights in my house on at all times because our house is oriented to be dark. We are all somewhat light-cued creatures, and environmental and financial concerns about kilowattage expended need to flex to the realities of nature.

Even though the dim light doesn’t specifically suppress my spirits, I checked in with my aging therapist, Dr. John Owen. He’s actually aging awfully well, considering he died in 1683. See what Dr. Owen says about the light of morning and evening:

“There is no visible difference, as unto light, between the light of the morning and the light of the evening; yea, this latter sometimes, from gleams of the setting sun, seems to be more glorious than the other [he lived in England]. But herein they differ: the first goes on gradually unto more light, until it comes to perfection; the other gradually gives place unto darkness, until it comes to be midnight. So is it as unto the light of the just and of the hypocrite, and so is it as unto their paths. At first setting out they may seem alike and equal; yea, convictions and spiritual gifts acted with corrupt ends in some hypocrites, may for a time give a greater lustre of profession than the grace of others sincerely converted unto God may attain unto. But herein they discover their different natures: the one increases and goeth on constantly, though it may be sometimes but faintly; the other decays, grows dim, gives place to darkness and crooked walking.

“This, then, is the nature of the path of the just; and where it is otherwise with us in our walk before God, we can have no evidence that we are in that path, or that we have a living, growing principle of spiritual life in us.” (Banner of Truth, The Works of John Owen, 1:438)

So indeed, it seems there is never a dearth of things to do and things to examine, in the light of day and the light of night.


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