Blue Nights and the Gloaming Time of the Election

gloaming

Why I’ll wake up to the bright light of hope on November 9th.


The Scotch-Irish had a word they adopted and made their own called “the gloaming.” The word is derived from the Old English glomung, translated as dusk or twilight. But true to their nature, my ancestors got good economy from the word and assigned to it two meanings. For them, the gloaming is that time just before the last light of day fades or the last darkness of night gives way to dawn.

For our purposes, then, the gloaming means the between-times. Lest you grow bored while reading, listen to the Pilgrim’s Song from the album, you guessed it, The Gloaming.

In her autobiographical work, Blue Nights, novelist Joan Didion writes about her cycle of gloaming times that began in 1968. First, she suffered a nervous breakdown and then was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Though plagued by all the complications that MS brings, she wrote in the bright light of literary success for nearly two decades before another gloaming time descended.  Just after Christmas of 2003, Didion’s daughter contracted pneumonia which led first to septic shock and then coma. While her daughter, Quintana, silently fought for her life, the writer’s husband suffered a fatal heart attack.  Quintana recovered only to die in 2005 due to acute pancreatitis. Following the death of her daughter,  she wrote:

The French called this time of day “l’heure bleue.” To the English it was “the gloaming.” The very word “gloaming” reverberates, echoes—the gloaming, the glimmer, the glitter, the glisten, the glamour—carrying in its consonants the images of houses shuttering, gardens darkening, grass-lined rivers slipping through the shadows. During the blue nights you think the end of day will never come. As the blue nights draw to a close (and they will, and they do) you experience an actual chill, an apprehension of illness, at the moment you first notice: the blue light is going, the days are already shortening, the summer is gone.

In her work, Didion sees the gloaming as having a sliver of hope but in a more ancient writing it is seen only as a time of foreboding and doom. In the Old English epic poem Beowulf,  when the dragon discovers that one of his treasures has been stolen, he is furious but has to wait until nightfall to take revenge. One translation of the epic tale pictures the dragon: “the guardian of the mound, the hoard-watcher, waited for the gloaming with fierce impatience.” To the ancient writer of Beowulf, the gloaming means nothing more than a wringing of the hands as the certain deadliness of night approached.

So what does that have to do with November 9th, 2016? Depending on who you listen to, their candidate is either a demon of destruction or an angel of redemption. If the opponent of their choice wins, we have passed from the gloaming of dusk to the blackness of night. Conversely, if their choice wins, morning has broken.

The writer of Beowulf saw the gloaming as a gateway to hopelessness. Didion sees it as containing perhaps a sliver of hope. The choirmaster of Psalm 46, however, found hope in the bright light of God’s presence regardless of what was happening around him. As a believer in and follower of Christ, each gloaming offers the promise that God is still on His throne no matter what the morning news has to offer.

There is an old Norwegian tale about a fisherman who, with his two sons, went out on a daily fishing run. The catch was good; but by mid-afternoon a sudden storm blotted out the shoreline, leaving the men groping for the direction home. Meanwhile, a fire broke out in the kitchen of their rustic cottage. Before it could be extinguished, the fire had destroyed the family’s earthly possessions. Finally, the father and sons were able to row their boat ashore. The man’s wife was waiting to tell him the tragic news of the fire. “Karl, fire has destroyed everything,” she said tearfully. “We have nothing left.” But Karl was unmoved by the news. “Didn’t you hear me?” she asked. “The house is gone!” “Yes, I hear you,” replied Karl. “But a few hours ago were lost at sea. For hours I thought we would perish. Then something happened: I saw a yellow dim glow in the distance. It grew larger and larger. We turned our boat toward the light. The same blaze which destroyed our home was the light that saved our lives”

So will November 9th’s gloaming time offer hope or despair for you? I guess that depends on what source of light you are hoping in.

 

t.e. (Tim) George has seen and lived many stories in his life. As a freelance commercial writer, he helps clients tell the story of what they do. As a ghost writer, he helps people tell the story that matter most to them. But it is as a novelist that he writes stories for who matter most – you, the reader. Tim’s latest novella, Only Time, is available now at Amazon.com.
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