Culture & Conversation

It’s Dark Out There

Riders of the Montreal metro have reason to cringe when they hear the chimes presaging the announcement of unwelcome news, such as service interruptions. “Un incident nous oblige d’interrompre le service sur la ligne orange …,” a typical message may begin.

The soothing female voice is of little comfort to anyone who needs to be somewhere soon, and the nature of the incident is never specified. But it is safe to assume, in at least some instances, that it involves someone jumping in front of a train to end a less than happy existence.

’Tis the season to be jolly, we are told in all sorts of ways. The darkness of the season makes this a more arduous task. December is the darkest month of the year anywhere north of the tropics, and Christmas falls just after the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year.

No amount of enforced jollity can overcome the icy sidewalks and the desperate sense of isolation felt by many who lack family and friends, leaving them excluded from the endless rounds of partying that bring so many others together.

Colourful seasonal decorations may help create a sense of cheer, but they can hardly disguise the fact that it’s dark out there. Darkness, unlike the damp winter cold that seems to penetrate the bones, instead attacks the mind and the spirit.

As I grow older, I find I am less vulnerable to cold weather, perhaps because I choose now to dress more warmly. On the other hand, I feel increasingly susceptible to light deprivation. The paucity of natural daylight truly affects me, despite recent advances in full-spectrum indoor lighting. Alterations in sleeping hours that are so effective at giving me additional time to enjoy the spring and summer daylight serve little purpose in December.

The winter solstice coincided this year with the start of a new cycle in the Mayan calendar. At the same time as the old cycle ends, the days stop getting shorter. This happens every year. Dreary months of winter still lie ahead, but let us take our pleasures where we can find them.

“D’autres messages suivront.”

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