Inspired by the darkness

In the darkness of the early winter evening, there was light at a window, a movement of a curtain as a child pulled back one corner. Just tall enough to set its chin on the window sill, the child stared out into the December gloom. What thoughts passed through the child’s mind? What was being sought as the child stood intently gazing out into the night?

Perhaps one of those numerous Christmas films had been screened on the television, and the child hoped for a glimpse of Santa, early though it might have been. Or perhaps it was one of those American stories where the return of a loved one is awaited by a child, despite the adults having given up hope of seeing the person again, and the child behind the glass of the window hoped someone might appear at the front door. Or perhaps there was just a childlike fascination with the early evening darkness.

Darkness had an odd attraction during childhood years. Daylight was preferable for outdoor activities, it allowed for games of football in the meadow across the road and racing bicycles up and down the road, but darkness allowed space for the imagination.

If mists lay across the surrounding moorland, it was easy to imagine the hill on which we lived as an island in a mysterious sea. The Mendip Hills, with the 1,000 foot high BBC transmitter, became a distant shore. The village became altogether different when imagined as somewhere truly insular.

As welcome as the daylight always was, it told the prosaic truth about life in a tiny rural community, there was no reality that might be avoided, no mystery in the stuff of daily existence.

When darkness fell, it was possible to stand at the bedroom window, with the electric light turned off to avoid any reflection, and to stare out into a landscape that became filled with possibilities. Long periods might be spent weaving stories and imagining scenes. The lights of vehicles travelling  the road that climbed the gentle hill towards the village became not the cars of neighbours, or tractors heading home to farms, but the conveyances of strange and fascinating people. Shapes visible in the landscape became not houses or barns or farmyard buildings, but places occupied by by spies, or fugitives from foreign powers, or important people gathered for covert meetings.

There was no possibility that the darkness could have excluded, anything might be when nothing says it cannot be. The child standing, chin resting upon the window sill, might have been composing an entire adventure.

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