Thursday, March 19, 2015

Nyctophilia

Nyctophilia is the love of nighttime or darkness and I am a big nyctophiliac. It’s nighttime now and I sit in a dim living room, lit only by the pinkish glow of two Himalayan salt lamps and, of course, my laptop screen. Although I prefer rooms that are bright with natural light during the day, I dislike turning on lights after sunset. I believe that if the sun is down, then it’s time for us to mostly be in darkness, with our focus turned towards bedtime. When I was married, my husband learned that if he entered a room I was in and had to turn on a light so he could see, he should turn that light back off when he left. At first he felt like that was rudely leaving me in the dark, but he eventually learned that it was considerately returning the room to the level of light I preferred.

I love bedtime. Falling asleep is one of my favorite things to do.

It might be logical to associate nyctophilia with the quality of being a night owl, but I’m not one of those. I like going to bed by 10:30 p.m. and waking up at dawn. I’m a morning person who doesn’t need caffeine to feel alert and focused well before 9:00 a.m. It just happens that I’m a morning person who prefers when the world turns down the harsh glare of daytime and softens the appearance of things with shadow.

My nyctophilia is why I like cloudy days. Rain, snow, humidity and temperature aren’t as important to me as having dim skies. My eyes are extremely sensitive to sunlight, so I have to wear protective glasses, and often a hat, when I go out on bright days. As others soak up the sun, I try to walk on the shaded side of the street or at least with the sun’s rays at my back. Yes, I admit to having this in common with classic vampires: when the sun is out, we want to just stay inside.

Chicago has had some very sunny weather this month. Too many days in a row of brightness wears on me, so I’m relieved to see that we’re due to get some rain next week.

My love of darkness is why I’ve started participating in Earth Hour on the last Saturday of March each year. To do that, you turn out all your lights between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. local time, wherever you are. This year it falls on Saturday 28 March. Earth Hour is an annual international event that draws attention to the need to conserve resources or save the planet or some such rhetoric. Whatever. I don’t care about any of that. I just like sitting in the dark.

This is the second year that I’m having an Earth Hour party. That means I invite a bunch of people over for one of my get-togethers and everything goes along as usual except that we turn out the electric lights between 8:30 and 9:30 and use candles instead. I’m a big hostess and love having potlucks, game nights, birthday parties and holiday celebrations all year long. But this is becoming one of my favorite social events: a party where I have an ideal excuse to shut off the glare, switch to soft candlelight and let everyone enjoy the semi-darkness I cherish. Last year we played cards during Earth Hour, being able to see well enough to do that. Spontaneous acapella singing broke out, inspired by “Hello, darkness, my old friend.” The dimness created intimacy, the loss of which I found painful when it was time to turn the electric lights back on at 9:30.

I wish Earth Hour happened more than once a year or lasted more than one hour. Wait, who’s to say I can’t stretch this hour? It’s my party. Maybe I’ll have an Earth Hour party with only candles all night. Oh, yeah. Nyctophiliacs, we have found our annual global event!


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