It is St Lucy’s day, which used to fall on the shortest day of the year before they started messing around with the calendars. John Donne wrote a poem about that. Even today, with a week yet to go until the solstice, it was fairly gloomy, with a great grey raincloud settling down over London and only dispersing half an hour or so before sunset.
But ‘Lucy’ is from ‘lux’: light.
This year, light has come most obviously from the little box on my desk: a grid of bright white LEDs shining up into my eyes. I started switching this on in August. Every day it measures out ninety minutes of light for me.
It’s made a huge difference. I’ve remained cheerful and functional all the way through into December. Oh, I’ve occasionally had to retreat under my headphones, or make a strategic cup of tea, or whatever, but this autumn I have not had to hide in the stairwell and cry. I really am impressed by how well it’s worked.
But I have found light elsewhere, too. All along the waterfront in Ghent (that’s where the blue birds in the picture are). Slanting across the floor of a huge, quiet, Spanish cathedral. Glinting off the river three minutes’ walk from my front door. Through office windows and church windows and on bright seas. After rainstorms. At the end of tunnels. It’s the contrast that does it.
I didn’t realise until this year how much better things could be when I get enough light.