Friday, 22 December 2017

Darkness is not to be feared - Day 23

Day 23 (Saturday 23rd December 2017)
23 December is the busiest day for travel over the festive period and is often the busiest day
for the whole year, with queues at airports and ports, overcrowded trains and heavy congestion
on roads. In the UK alone there will be over 12 million drivers travelling at least 20 miles (source the AA)
We had a wonderful family meal last night, but today I need to brave the seasonal traffic and get back to London to sort out Christmas for my immediate family at home. I have a lot of things to prepare and wrap.  

Today's post is by my good friend Michael Carty. Michael is a popular voice in HR circles and on social media. He has acted as a focal point for a wide global community for many years 
(his handle is @MJCarty, and you can read his excellent blog on Tumblr). He is a delightful man, consistently respectful and polite - mindful of the views and feelings of others. Michael works as an editor for XpertHR and is a benchmarking specialist. When not analysing data and making complex matters simple for us lesser mortals, Michael shares his impressions of the world and is a gifted artist who appreciates what he finds around him. He is very well read (from comics to biographies), loves film (especially Star Wars) and is a music aficionado. He is also a loving husband and a loyal, entertaining and much-valued friend.


Black and white, yin and yang, dark and dawn. An intertwining as old as time, as old as life, as old as human lives and hearts.
The miracle of written communication would not exist without this beautiful contrast of dark and light. Pen glides across paper, typewriter hammer leaves its impression, keystroke begets pixel, each enabling the words in our mind to be seen, understood and felt by others.

I believe I have seen every dawn this year. My body clock hates me. The older I get, the worse my ability to remain asleep past the laughably early hours becomes. These are the times of day most people only imagine. My brain has decided, with age, to be wide awake in these unimaginable times. John Updike wrote in his autobiography Self-Consciousness that he loved to sleep late, to let the world get started without him. You have no idea how much I envy him this.
I have had to learn to love both the darkness of the end of the night and the light of dawn. I have had to make the most of this enforced wakefulness. I truly love these times now. I would not trade them for anything.

Weekend early mornings are perhaps my favourite times. The dark and light of strong coffee in a white cup. Immersive, hypnotic music playing (perhaps aptly for the theme our endlessly generous hostess Kate has chosen, the Dawn of Midi’s album Dysnomia is on this minute

The unfolding black and white of letters as I stumble to form words for my blog (or, in this case, for Kate’s). My mind feels peace and wakefulness, the week’s pent-up conscious and unconscious musings allowed free as night’s darkness slowly gives way to dawn.
Filtered by the smog
I have had two horrible, worrying bouts of illness this year. The second bout of illness knocked me out for most of last month. Shingles, I learned, is no joke, despite what its innocuous, almost friendly name might suggest. "It will make you feel pretty grotty," said the doctor who diagnosed my ailment. He was onto something. A lot of feeling rotten and a lot of rest was in order.
At times like these, the words you need to hear will find you. My recovery was aided by the most wonderful book, The Rise, The Fall and The Rise by Brix Smart Smith. The extraordinary story of an extraordinary life, told in the most extraordinarily vivid language. Good times, bad times, Brix has had her share. "Nothing is better than something that's bad," her biological father told her. We can and should learn the lessons of our darkest times, so that we can fully appreciate the light when it returns.
I blogged recently about this wonderful book (to read it follow this link), so I will not repeat myself here. I am stunned and humbled that Brix actually read my blog post, and tweeted some kind words about it.
I drew a picture of Brix to accompany the post.

Halfway through drawing this picture, I realised the subconsciously apt colour choices I had made, given that one of many highpoints of Brix’s time with The Fall was the collaboration with dancer Michael Clark (I imagine his name will be known to Kate) which resulted in the album I Am Kurious Oranj. I was subsequently amazed to read that Brix found the picture evocative of dawn and early morning in the California of her youth:
"Quite kurious..... it looks like the colour of the hazy early morning sunshine light of my 1960s L.A. upbringing. Dappled through the sycamore trees and filtered by the smog."
A different view of darkness
My first bout of illness this year, back in the Spring, gave me a different view of darkness. I had a very allergic reaction to an insect or spider bite (the precise cause remains undiagnosed) on my left hand. The toxin started to track rapidly up the veins of my left forearm, plotting a worrisome trajectory towards my heart. The poison’s progress was obvious, the vein and the area around it becoming inflamed. A visit to A&E resulted in a prescription of very strong antibiotics.

The effect of the first dose of antibiotics was overpowering. Back home from A&E, I lay in bed feeling a profound, all-encompassing darkness engulfing my vision and my mind from the edges. At first my mind tried to fight against it, to remain alert and awake. But I realised there was no messing with this medication. I had no choice but to surrender to the darkness, to trust that it wanted to heal me. The alert reader who spots that I am alive to write these words will perhaps already have twigged that, thankfully, the antibiotics did their trick. As much as I wanted to resist this enveloping darkness, it was not to be feared.

The best decision of my life
I got married in June this year. Just as my lovely friend Laurie Ruettimann said it would be, this was the best decision of my life. My happiest moment this year was during the ceremony, the ancient power of the words of the wedding vows producing a joy that overwhelmed me (yet somehow I didn’t blub - at least not there and then in the registry office). The wedding day fell during a heatwave. The whole week was sweltering, sultry, dreamlike.
The day after the wedding was the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. I woke to see the first rays of sun of the longest day, the air around me scented by roses.

Softest night loosened its grip over the world.
Darkness is not to be feared.
As transporting as that dawn was, the most beautiful dawn is always tomorrow’s.


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