I often lament the light pollution in my neighborhood. My yard and house at night are lit, not brightly, but steadily, by the town’s and neighbors’ light. The street light on the corner gives a gentle flood to the street that seeps into my front yard and rooms; the neighbor across the street shines a bright spot light onto his yard and into mine; the neighbor to the south has a pole light which illuminates her back yard and parts of my front, side, and back yards, and rooms. I was glad to see in the “New Arrivals” section of the bookstore Paul Bogard’s The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light, 2013.
Bogard discusses various topics about night. We visit the most lighted places in the world, such a Las Vegas and London, as well as the least light places, like Mont-Megantic National Park in Quebec and Death Valley National Park. There are interesting interviews with people like Francois Jousse, lighting designer for monuments, bridges, and buildings in Paris. We visit sites of writers who have written about night, like Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond and Henry Beston at Cape Cod Shore. There are thoughts on topics such as insomnia and other sleep disorders; effects of artificial light on night shift workers; relationship of light to breast and prostate cancers; moths; bats; negative effects of artificial light on the natural world, including the disruption of migratory bird patterns. We learn about the International Dark Sky Organization and its recommendations to end light pollution, including lunar-resonant streetlight that automatically balance their light with the natural light of night. Bogart, through his excellent descriptions, causes us realize the wonder and beauty of the night, which we don’t know because we cannot witness them.
After reading the book, I ordered room-darkening shades to use in conjunction with my blinds. The three rooms I spend the most time in during the night will be dark.
This week the days have been remarkably cooler, though they remained wet. It has been as if we advanced two months and founds ourselves in early fall. The cooler weather gave me energy to finish projects: completing my Sixth Book of Days (quotations from readings), selecting and buying new carpet, ordering a new bed, having major service for Red Car, and weeding.
Weeds pulled easily. I was pleased to find under the mature weeds a light carpet of moss. While I was weeding, I came upon a perfectly camouflaged toad next to the house. I was pleased when it did not move away, even after I moved my hand toward it. It noticed me, as I did it, but I sensed that it did not fear me. Its not moving did not seem to me as if it were paralyzed with fear; it seemed calm and accepting.
Tomato soup is neither comforting nor soothing. It transmits the energy, the productivity of summer. I did not temper it with milk, cream, or basil. It is a soup for breakfast or lunch. It impels activity.
I am finding lectio divina an excellent form of meditation. I learned about it in Give Us This Day: Daily Prayer for Today’s Catholic, August, 2013. As explained by Fr. Luke Dysinger, a Benedictine monk in Valyermo, CA, lectio divina gives us a three-part meditative process. In the scriptural passage given for morning or evening prayer, practitioners first read the text “. . . slowly, gently.” We “[S]avor each portion of the reading.” Then, he writes, we focus on “. . . a word or phrase that somehow says, ‘I am for you today.'” Then, he says, “Take the word or phrase unto yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas. . . . Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.” The third part of the meditation is prayer. “Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. Give to God what you have found within your heart.”” Fr. Luke explains, “Lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.”
Five of the phrases I have considered this week are “Each one must examine his own work (from Galatians 6: 1-5); “Who has not sinned with his tongue” (Sirach 19: 13-17); “Pay . . . honor to whom honor is due.” (Romans 13:3-4, 6-7); “Regard those who have hoped in you.” (Sirach 36, 13, 17, 21-23), and “Rid yourselves of all . . . insincerity.” (I Peter 2: 1-5).
Before returning to Steinbeck, I decided to read Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories (1957) by Isaac Bashevis Singer, a collection of twelve short stories. Here are memorable characters, my favorites being Gimpel the Fool, Zlateh the Bitch, and Shirfa Zirel the Servant. We meet characters in abject poverty, ostentatious wealth, and in economic conditions in between, characters who exhibit the foibles and delights and pains of being alive. Three of the stories are narrated by demons who successfully seduce characters by promises of wealth or sex and lead them to damnation. My three favorite stories are “By the Light of Memorial Candles,” conversations of itinerate beggars on a winter night; “The Little Shoemakers,” redemption and salvation by heritage, family love, and work; “Joy,” the magnificence of being alive. The stories are moralistic, and each has been translated from the Yiddish language.
Tonight is the night of the Full Moon. The Full Moon of August is the Sturgeon Moon. A friend will visit, and we will walk downtown for a light supper at a small Italian restaurant, where I am a regular. I usually go alone, and one night one of the waiters asked, “Why don’t you bring a beautiful woman with you some time?” Tonight will be one of the nights that I do.
Thank you for reading. I hope you will have a good week.