Diane Ackerman in Orion Magazine:
AT DAWN, the world rises out of darkness, slowly, sense-grain by grain, as if from sleep. Life becomes visible once again. “When it is dark, it seems to me as if I were dying, and I can’t think anymore,” Claude Monet once lamented. “More light!” Goethe begged from his deathbed. Dawn is the wellspring of more light, the origin of our first to last days as we roll in space, over 6.684 billion of us in one global petri dish, shot through with sunlight, in our cells, in our minds, in our myriad metaphors of rebirth, in all the extensions to our senses that we create to enlighten our days and navigate our nights.
Thanks to electricity, night doesn’t last as long now, nor is it as dark as it used to be, so it’s hard to imagine the terror of our ancestors waiting for daybreak. On starless nights, one can feel like a loose array of limbs and purpose, and seem smaller, limited to what one can touch. In the dark, it’s hard to tell friend from foe. Night-roaming predators may stalk us. Reminded of all our delectable frailties, we become vulnerable as prey. What courage it must have taken our ancestors to lie down in darkness and become helpless, invisible, and delusional for eight hours. Graceful animals stole through the forest shadows by night, but few people were awake to see them burst forth, in twilight or moonlight, forbidding, distorted, maybe even ghoulish or magical. Small wonder we personalized the night with demons. Eventually, people were willing to sacrifice anything—wealth, power, even children—to ransom the sun, immense with life, a one-eyed god who fed their crops, led their travels, chased the demons from their dark, rekindled their lives.