My apartment is poorly lit. And even more so after the living room light got killed. The problem intensified with my laptop crashing - thus taking away the moth-like lifestyle of gathering around the screen at night. Therefore it was no surprise that I particularly welcomed the candle lighting during the holiday of Chanukah. The ritual daily candle lighting have stuck with us in this dark cave. And now every night I light candles around that time - scented candles, tea lights - whatever I can get my hands on - and me and my daughter sit and play games together by the fireplace.
Yet if you think of it, darkness is a precious thing in this day and age. It is nearly impossible to find natural darkness nowadays. As civilization we've defied the natural cycle of night and day. Cities pride themselves for being "nonstop cities". And our brains never shut down - which opens a whole other can of worms, as this situation has a profound effect on our health.
Like quiet, or being unplugged, darkness has become a luxury people are willing to spend large sums of money on to experience, in the form of "darkness retreat".
The value of darkness is also a design concept, in mediums such as architecture, cinema and photography. What would be the equivalent of that in the world of scent? A scentless world? Such a thing does not exist. And too few people know it. While I don't mind at all the fact that most object, animate and inanimate, have a unique odour - our world is cluttered with artificial scents. And that clutter threatens to take away the pleasure of perfume, be it a luxury or a commodity or an art form. With sensory overload in all areas - sound, scent and light - it's surprising that we haven't left the room screaming so to speak. Or have we?
But what I really wanted to get at with this post, was in fact the heightened sensory awareness, both tactile, auditory, olfactory and kinaesthetic, when immersed in darkness. As I walked my daughter back from the "Bright Nights" miniature train in Stanley Park a couple of weeks ago, we made a detour home through a portion of the forest. It was the very end of the moon cycle. There was so little light that you could almost feel the darkness with your fingers. It took a few minutes getting used to and being able to see the paths (especially after the brightness of the festive lights). It was not the first time I walked in the forest in the dark, and I know the paths like the back of my hands (so no risk of getting lost). The feeling of walking in complete darkness, when you don't have any fear or paranoia of the situation, and especially in the well-organized paths of Stanley Park, where tripping is very unlikely - is nothing short of magic.
I remember the first time we did it (which was actually at the end of the summer, or sometime earlier in the fall, when it was still rather warm at night). The air was immersed with scent. My only awareness when walking was the smell and temperature in the air. You could recognize the trees as you walk under them - here is a Douglas fir... Now it's a cedar... now it's a bit cooler, and I smell wet wood and the mushroomy scent of the forest... and then there is that dry, warmish smell of tree bark and dry needless. The scent hit you like a familiar recognition of an old friend. You should try it sometime, if you can.